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REVELATION SPACE (GOLLANCZ S.F.) [Paperback]

ALASTAIR REYNOLDS
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very uneven, though entertaining Aug. 26 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I am conflicted by this book. On the one hand, Reynolds brilliantly imagines far-future human societies (like the genetically modified space-faring Ultras), giant, intelligent spaceships (like the miles-long Nostalgia For Infinity, partially taken over by a virus that feeds on computers), ancient alien races, and all the necessary technology to make these believable. In the hands of a better writer, the components - the content - of this book would be downright incredible.
However, Reynolds is not a good writer. His characters exist merely to move the story forward. I don't think any of the main three could seriously be called "heroes". It doesn't matter to me that they're all working against each other at certain times, but none of them ever seems real enough. Sylveste is a slightly egomaniacal scientist obsessed with uncovering the mystery of the disappearance of a race of aliens thousands of years ago. Ana Khouri is a mercenary hired by a mysterious stranger to kill Sylveste. Volyova is the commander (sort of) of a giant starship (mentioned above) that is also searching for Sylveste, because she needs his help. Beyond that, they are interchangeable. Only their motivations differ - they speak in the exact same voice, and their actions are hardly distinctive. You wouldn't recognize these characters if you happened to meet them anywhere else; they're just plot devices, and that is incredibly irritating.
The book takes about 200 pages too much in getting its plot worked out. It's very long, and I'm not sure how much of that length is really essential to the whole. Reynolds spends a lot of time with flashbacks - not important ones, just brief ones to tell you what a character was doing ten minutes before he/she was doing something else. Utterly superfluous.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent concepts, enjoyable story June 13 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Started very well, but lost momentum Dec 26 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The first three hundred pages of this book are excellent and feature some brilliant narrative descriptions. Reynolds captures the feel of a dark, gothic future-world with ease, creating the sort of atmosphere reminiscent of 'Blade Runner' - that is, steam coming up from the vents, big advertisements featuring Asian geishas, and giant street based markets.
Reynolds' focuses on three characters - Khouri, a mercenary; Sylveste, a scientist; and Volyova, a mystery woman on board an enormous ship of devastating power. The characters are dealt with separately, and it is only until they come together that the book starts to lose its hold on the reader. The action thereafter becomes stationary and the narrative momentum really slows down, especially so in pages 300-400, and the climax is slightly underwhelming given the extensive build up towards it.
It's a well written book from a guy who obviously knows his stuff and knows it well. He writes like a scientist who's swallowed a dictionary. If you have either a) a limited vocabulary or b) no knowledge of science, chemistry or physics, this might be a bit of a hard nut to crack for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
After more-or-less neglecting mainstream science fiction for a couple of years, I picked up REVELATION SPACE both because I'd enjoyed Alastair Reynolds' short fiction and because, based on what I'd heard about it, the novel was a spiritual heir to the plot-heavy, widescreen, and irrepressibly fun space-operatic epics of Dan Simmons (HYPERION) and Vernor Vinge (A FIRE UPON THE DEEP).
And it almost is - but not quite. The plot itself is fine, as far as it goes - an obsessed scientist who rules (badly) a feeble backwater colony is first deposed by his subjects and then abducted by a starship crew who need his technological expertise to cure their Captain of a strange nanotechnological disease; in return, he demands that they transport him to a strange moon that seems to hold the secret to the mysterious demise of an ancient alien civilization.
This summary is hardly more than a thumbnail sketch. The motion of the plot is, at times, as dense as the neutron star that figures prominently in the novel; and the scope is as widescreen as one could wish, careering anarchically between worlds and centuries. But the fun, the spontaneity, is absent. It feels like Reynolds is going through the motions, like he's reduced the modern baroque space opera to its component bits and is merely dutifully and rather joylessly reassembling them.
At first it's hard to pin down exactly where REVELATION SPACE falters, because so much of it works quite well. While Reynolds, a practicing astronomer, lacks the focused, laserlike literary brilliance of a Gene Wolfe or a Michael Swanwick, neither is his prose colorless and oatmeal-bland (as happens all too often to scientists-turned-writers).
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
The start of a very long science fiction trilogy , with hard core science fiction fans in mind.
Published 23 days ago by Spencer21
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic and deep
The depth of the science part of this fiction just keeps getting deeper and deeper, to dizzying heights. Great read.
Published 1 month ago by Jonathan McKinnell
5.0 out of 5 stars Appetizer and dessert
This was one of the first sci-fi books I ever read a number of years ago. I thoruougly enjoyed it and most (admittedly, not all) of the other books he wrote afterward. Read more
Published on July 17 2012 by Blazed Linen
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex but interesting
A complex set of sub-plots add up to a generally enjoyable "read". As others have pointed out, character development is a bit spotty, but that doesn't relly detract in any... Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2010 by Malcolm
5.0 out of 5 stars Are the other reviewers on drugs?
Alastair Reynolds work is not for the illiterate or impatient Star Wars/Star Trek serial reading types. His work stands head and hands above the mundane SF pulp that's out there. Read more
Published on Jan. 13 2009 by eater of books
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!
I had never read Alastair Reynolds before. This book is a true wonder of science fiction, but it also stands very well on its own simply as a novel. Read more
Published on Jan. 2 2006 by Aldo Ferrante
1.0 out of 5 stars For Bulwer-Lytton fans only
This is appallingly written. Some gems:
"Fire burned in their minds too, but this was the unquenchable fire of being."
"'Assassination tools! Read more
Published on July 18 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing and absorbing
I take issue with those who say that Reynolds can't write or is unimaginative. It's amazing writing, and one of the most creative books I've read in some time. Read more
Published on May 1 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars disappointingly uncreative and poorly written
I really, really wanted to like it. I love hard sci fi, and Reynolds is a PhD. And I love time-spanning past/future space yarns. Read more
Published on March 20 2004 by Scott Moss
5.0 out of 5 stars Wheels within wheels within wheels...
This story is great, detailed, complex and a wonderful first book by ANY standards. The author's novel reminds me of works from such greats, such as Frank Herbert, Steven Brust... Read more
Published on March 15 2004 by Michael Valdivielso
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