I was highly pleased when I finished reading 'Revelation Space' - not blown away, but very happy I took the time to read through this.
Many reviewers pointed out flat characters and a messy storyline. Maybe I've read more than my share of bad SF, but I found it was the case on neither account. The characters of Sylveste, Pascale, Khouri and Volyova can never truly be assigned a stereotype, and they sometimes acted in irrational ways that I found perfectly consistent with their backgrounds. The story does take time to evolve, but when it does, it poses a clever and interesting enigma that is satisfactorly unravelled at the end.
Storytelling-wise, this is not an earth-shattering novel; but it's a fine yarn. It reminded me of Clark's 'Rendezvous with Rama', in that much of the suspense and interest of the story lies in a mysterious alien artifact. This artifact generates a genuine sense of wonder and satisfaction at the originality of the concept.
Throughout the novel, Reynolds has sewn incredible concepts of far-future technology. These are too numerous to recount, but the descriptions of the strange life aboard the ship Nostalgia for Infinity was very satisfying in a 'Golden Age of SF' sense. Also of great interest are the (rare) aliens that populate Reynolds' universe: their evolution, motives and forms are quite refreshing and truly alien.
It might be a mistake to pick up this book hoping for a strong character-driven story. The characters are stronger than most SF novels, but they DO act in ways that further the plot instead of making absolute sense. But if you're interested in a genuinely original take on the future of mankind, as well as a thought-provoking reflection on life in the Universe, you could do much worse than pick up this book.