Absolution Gap Paperback – Dec 11 2008
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With Absolution Gap, Alastair Reynolds completes the star-spanning Inhibitors trilogy in which the previous books were Revelation Space and Redemption Ark. The Inhibitors are a mechanical plague, mindlessly but very resourcefully wiping out space-going civilisations that come to their notice. Their latest target is humanity, which lost a round in Redemption Ark. One small human faction now has stealth weapons and technologies that can almost fight Inhibitor assault to a standstill, but running away still seems the only long-term option.
From the same cryptic source as that supertechnology, filtered through a young girl's mind, comes the urgent message to make an interstellar trek to Hela, barren moon of the gas-giant Haldora. Hela is home to an obsessive religion fuelled partly by mind viruses and partly by the miracle of Haldora. This unpredictable, unbelievable event happens in an eyeblink, but more and more often. For the devout this increasing frequency is a signal of the End Times, which is why a group of vast mobile cathedrals lumbers forever around Hela--to keep Haldora at the zenith for best observation of its marvels. And on this last circuit, with a madman in command, the greatest cathedral of all plans an impossible short cut over the mysterious, delicate bridge spanning an immense rift in Hela's surface: Absolution Gap.
There's a lot of action with both familiar and enjoyably exotic weapons; there's suffering, deceit, loss and triumph; there's a hideous revenge straight out of Jacobean tragedy, a series of awesome revelations and the last voyage of the lightship Nostalgia for Infinity that was so strangely transformed in Revelation Space. Ultimately, behind the enigma of Haldora, a dreadful choice awaits: whether or not to bargain with powers that may be the answer to the Inhibitors--but may be something worse. Alastair Reynolds makes his huge story compellingly readable, with characters we care about, and gives impressive descriptions of beauty and cataclysm. This is very superior space opera. --David Langford --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
The final volume in British author Reynolds's SF trilogy that began with Revelation Space (2001) fulfills all the staggering promise of the earlier books, and then some. The world Hela, an airless moon of the gas giant Haldora, is remarkable for two things: relics of the extinct alien race called the scuttlers, and the Quaicheist faith, whose observers (aided by infection with a virus that induces religious fervor) watch Haldora in the hope of viewing one of its mysterious, split-second disappearances. Church records show the disappearances are slowly increasing in frequency and duration. Rumors abound, and arriving pilgrims confirm that Haldora's changing behavior is a sign of the end times. When his indoctrinating virus weakens on occasion, however, Quaicheist founder Horris Quaiche has other ideas—as does young iconoclast Rashmika Els, self-taught scuttler archeologist. Meanwhile, unhappy war veteran Nevil Clavain leaves self-imposed exile on the planet Ararat to help his friend, human-pig hybrid Scorpio, and rejoin the battle against the implacable Inhibitors, "wolf" machines that seek out and destroy star-faring civilizations. From a slow start, Reynolds's plot rapidly builds momentum, hurtling to a stunning conclusion. Cinematic imagery and strong characters ably carry this juggernaut of a story, with Big Ideas strewn about like pebbles on a beach. It's not the best book to introduce Reynolds to those who've never read him, but it's without a doubt a fitting finale to the series, a landmark in hard SF space opera.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I also found the ending most unsatisfactory, what should have been a thrilling culmination of the struggle against the Inhibitors was reduced to a very brief epilogue of, I assume, Aura's reminiscences. In fact, I read the last chapter, the prologue and the epilogue a couple more times to see if I could glean any more from the paltry whimper of a finale. How could a race as important as the Nestbuilders be relegated to a few meagre references? If there had to be an epilogue, perhaps it should have been set millennia after the events of the book describing the impact of humanities apparent escape from the Inhibitor threat - were the Inhibitors not designed to suppress emergent space faring civilisations thus averting some cataclysmic event in the far future? [Small spoiler warning] - I did, however, like the idea that the stalemate between humanity and the Inhibitors upset the galactic balance thus allowing another malevolent force to rise to power; very Zen.
Despite my criticisms, I still really enjoyed this book; by any other author it would have been a masterpiece, but Reynolds set the bar so high in his other books that I've read to date that I was just a little disappointed.
It poses deeper questions about the nature of mankind and our place in the Universe. It asks whether we are alone. Reynolds peers into the future and presents many vistas that are compelling albeit in an imperfect form.Read more ›
On the moon Hela, exists the strange Quaichist cult with their enormous movable Cathedrals. The cult with their movable cathedrals follows the track of the gas giant Haldora that the satelite orbits. Clavain and his exiles arrive at Haldora where they will either save humanity from the Inhibitors or enable the enemy to complete the final solution.
The final tale of the Revelation Space trilogy is an entertaining science fiction tale that will please readers who prefer a cerebral tale with limited military action. The story line contains several brilliantly developed concepts that will send many readers comparing the fate of the protagonists with that of our earth-bound mankind's providence. Action seekers will find the pace slow and the battle warriors will wonder why there are such short abrupt skirmishes. Still ABSOLUTION GAP is an intriguing look at religion, war, societies, and economics in outer space, just more passively highbrow than active exploits.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
But what do we have here? Toss the major connecting thread between the books... the Inhibitors explained away in less than four pages. Magical "out-of-nowhere" saviors who are hinted at only twice in the entire story, and done in a way that they seem nothing more than a callous afterthought.
Imagine this...you've worked your way through the first two (three, including Chasm City) books, slowly grown used to and then developed an affinity for Mr. Reynolds' wonderfully unique style. You're happy with the subtle hints at 700 years of human history, having been given enough of the details to fill in the dark, gothic story with your own imagination. But five hundred pages to go, you start thinking, "Now we'll see the culmination of it all!" Two-hundred fifty pages, and you're thinking, "Ok, anytime now..." One hundred pages, and there's a sinking feeling..." Fifty pages, with the ending to the central theme of the series nowhere in sight, you finally realize the awful truth: this whole storyline was *never* about the Inhibitors. It was *all* a mechanism to force us to fill in the blanks of the future history of humanity, with the Inhibitor battle only a convenient way to move things along.
Until, that is, Mr. Reynolds couldn't write about it anymore. So, with nothing more than a rubber stamp called "Epilogue", the story ends. No mysteries solved. Mademoiselle? Nope. Conjoiners? Nope. Plague? Nope. Inhibitors? "Poof!" they are gone with the aid of magical fairies, only to be replaced by newer, badder bad guys. But none of this was what this story was about. As a literary mechanism, I applaud Mr. Reynolds' achievement. If you read books to be entertained along the way, this whole series is wonderful and I highly recommend it - I enjoyed 3/4 of it immensely. But if you like a story with a good ending, it is supremely disappointing... I, for one, feel cheated. It's actually worse than Hamilton and the Night's Dawn ending. Mr. Reynolds' style is to leave much to our imagination, and for most of this series he does so brilliantly. But, where he carefully takes thousands of pages to weave us a story of the past 700 years, he give us the future in a mere four.
Oh well. I suppose it was worth it.
I think what nobody has mentioned here, and bears mentioning, is that Reynolds left his job as a scientist to pursue writing full time to write this book. It seems that perhaps he got a little cocky.
Where the previous two books (I disagree that this is a four book series) were cold, realistic, hard science fiction (with the notable, but forgivable exception of Skade's FTL escapades and the cache weapons), his resolve to write concise books simply disappears with the third. Bizarre weapons ("hypometric" weapons, "bladder mines", "cryo math", and so on) and forces peek out and begin to play very large parts in this book.
Additionally, characters are spun through very strange trajectories not expected from the previous books. Scorpio is nearly a different character entirely. Brannigan is, well, a person again. Khouri is almost maternal, and rather boring. Clavain is near useless, and certainly uninteresting, and Skade is implausible(er) and not nearly as formidable.
What happened? I don't think anyone but Reynolds can really answer this. As somebody who went to amazon.co.uk to get copies of his books which were unavailable here in the US, I am definitely somebody who is a fan of his. After reading this, however, I'm not sure I'd read another of his books. My hope is that he will realize from the vast majority of reviews of his recent book, that he has taken a turn that was unexpected, and that perhaps he should reconsider.
At any rate, I would also suggest buying as a paperback. Or borrowing. This isn't worth the cost of admission, and it really wasn't worth the time I spent reading it. The suspense at the end of the book (a paltry 60-80 pages) is roughly the same quality as the middle to end of the second book, but is completely blunted by a weak, anticlimactic ending. This series needed a solid ending, regardless of whether it was a lead in to another book. What we have here is loose ends gummed up, rather than sewn up.
Suggested for hardcore fans who have to know, recommend against it for anyone else.
The entire question of shrouder/mademoiselle penetration of the conjoiners vanishes. Presumably if the Night Council WAS mademoiselle, it still existed somewhere.
The protagonist AND antagonist from Redemption Ark are removed from the story early in a clearly contrived fashion whose only impact besides clearing the slate for new characters is to give scorpio periodic memories.
The Nestbuilders are only presented in an allusive fashion, but play a large role in the plot. Invisible Hand material (when the story goes to far to be recovered by characters in their enviroment, a new element will be used to resolve the conflict in the plot) in my opinion. The Shadow entities on the other hand at least were built up in the story some.
Greenfly seem to be thrown in after the fact as a way to not have a totally happy ending, particularly if he is planning on writing in this universe more, possibly about Sky Haussmann, assuming he is the person described in the evacuees from Yellowstone.
I would wait for paperback on this one if I had to do it again.
Overall, I was very disappointed. I'd almost recommend not bothering to read it and never knowing how the series turns out. I definitely wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wasn't already hooked on the first two (three) books.