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The Prefect [Paperback]

4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Thalia Ng felt her weight increasing as the elevator sped down the spoke from the habitat's docking hub. Read the first page
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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, Hard-Boiled Space Opera Feb. 22 2013
By John M. Ford TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Panoply keeps the peace between the ten thousand independent habitats orbiting the planet Yellowstone. Its prefects can only enforce rules governing relationships between habitats and ensure that all citizens are allowed to vote on cross-habitat issues. Sometimes prefects see things they would prefer not to see, but they cannot interfere.

Field Prefect Tom Dreyfus comes across as a 20th century private detective. He is smart, weary, cynical, and doesn't make diplomacy his first priority. He and his two deputies enforce Panoply's mandates. Thalia Ng is inexperienced, grateful to work with Dreyfus, and eager to prove herself. The other deputy is a hyperpig. (This is science fiction, remember.) Sparver is tough, loyal, and grimly tolerant of verbal abuse from people who don't like pigs. Dreyfus and his team investigate the explosive destruction of the Ruskin-Sartorious habitat and loss of nearly a thousand lives. As the investigation proceeds they encounter betrayal, more mass murder, and a fascinating menagerie of characters with competing agendas.

The book follows a familiar crime-story plot line, enhanced by science fiction settings, people and technology. The "Glitter Band" civilization and the various habitat subcultures are inventive and spring some interesting surprises. Characters include artificial intelligences ranging from low-fidelity "beta-level" copies of humans to powerful, incomprehensible entities like the Clockmaker. Humans have technological enhancements as well as cultural and individual quirks. The most interesting tech tidbit is the prefect's "whiphound" weapon. Picture a lightsabre which exudes, instead of a truncated laser beam, a long metallic tendril.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written. Aug. 8 2014
Format:Paperback
Written for hard core science fiction fans. The best book I have ever read by Alastair Reynolds.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Reynolds yet? Sept. 26 2010
Format:Paperback
Not as epic as the previous volumes in the Revelation Space series, more of a police thriller really, but Reynolds is at his best, drawing us in. My favorite of his yet?
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good story, awesome universe but a few frustrations April 24 2011
Format:Paperback
Well, as far as the revelation space universe is concerned, Alastair Reynolds could probably write a thousand stories about it without getting boring.

I found this book a little frustrating though. The story seemed to be dragging on for no real reason. Also there were technical issues that I see with the story line: if Aurora can manage to create thousands or millions of weapons using less than a dozen factories, why couldn't the other habitats in the glitter band not manage to produce a similar number of counter measures?

I also found the fact that the "bad guy" was able to escape so easily from Panoply. There always seems to be a convenient fact missing from the story line.

So, if I compare this to other of Alastair Reynolds work, like Century Rain or House of Suns (both are 5's in my mind), this one is a 3.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  83 reviews
58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Tasty Tale Dec 18 2007
By David H. Carmer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I've been a fan of Alastair Reynolds' "Revelation Space" novels since I read the first, so my expectations for this book were high; so high I ordered it from Amazon.UK before it was available here in the US. I was not disappointed.

For anyone that has read and enjoyed any of the Revelation Space novels, this is a must read item. For anyone that has not read anything by Alastair Reynolds, this is an excellent choice to introduce you to his style and vision.

Set in the Glitter Band before the Melding Plague, this story really sheds a lot of light on what life could be like if humanity ever manages to get out colonize space as we follow a developing crisis as seen through the eyes of two main characters. It also fills in some explanations around Chasm City and the Rust Belt for those who have read the other Revelation Space books. The story is essentially a police detective story and the author throws the reader into the deep end immediately, creating and maintaining tension throughout.

I've always thought that Mr. Reynolds weaves an interesting tale, but this one surpasses the others by some margin in its inventiveness and interconnectedness of plot lines. I honestly could not put this down, and devoured it on a single business trip; breaking it open on the way out and having finished it before landing on my way home.

I highly recommend this, fan of Alastair Reynolds or not. This is great hard science fiction in the Space Opera genre.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great SF/detective/war story May 9 2007
By T. D. Welsh - Published on Amazon.com
Despite having published a string of heavyweight SF novels totalling thousands of pages, Alastair Reynolds is still experimenting. The tetralogy that made his name - Revelation Space, Chasm City, Redemption Ark, and Absolution Gap - are huge, sprawling riots of technology populated by dozens of characters who are not always clearly delineated. They open a window on a masterfully depicted future universe whose sheer weight of high-tech detail leaves scant room for character development - in other words, classic hard SF of a kind to delight lovers of Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Herbert, Niven and the like. Then, in a departure that pleased some readers and infuriated others, Reynolds swerved into an original blend of hard SF and alternate-universe film noir with Century Rain, before returning to the world of spaceships, nanotechnology, AI, and aliens with Pushing Ice and Galactic North.

In "The Prefect", he modulates perceptibly towards the detective genre, while bowing in the direction of the Tom Clancy school of war novelists and dropping in a little quiet horror that Stephen King would be proud of. The result is a much pacier, focused book with a clear and straightforward plot - although Reynolds still gives us a plentiful dose of technological thrills on the side.

"The Prefect" is set in the Yellowstone system, shortly after the events described in "Revelation Space". The system contains three contrasting human societies, which trade with each other at arm's length: Chasm City, the only major human outpost on the planet Yellowstone; the Parking Swarm, where the spacegoing Ultras dock their vast lighthugger starships; and the Glitter band, a variegated "asteroid belt" of 10,000 human habitats. Each habitat is self-contained and self-governed, with powers of life and death over its citizens. That leaves the Prefects, based on their orbiting citadel Panoply, with little to do except regulate the automated voting system through which all Glitter Band citizens continually express their will. Unless authorized by a vote, for instance, the Prefects are not even allowed heavy weaponry - although the "whiphounds" they carry are not to be trifled with.

Tom Dreyfus, the prefect of the title, is an experienced field operative nearing retirement age. Years ago, he was involved in the disastrous episode of the Clockmaker, a malign artificial intelligence that had to be destroyed after it suddenly began killing people in hideously creative ways, but whose evil legacy still persists. Starting with an apparently routine investigation into voting fraud, Dreyfus and his team find themselves confronted by a rapidly escalating series of threats. No matter what they do, they always seem to be a step behind their unseen adversaries, who might be anyone from scheming habitat owners to Ultra crews, the alien-seeming Conjoiner "spiders" with their group mentality, or even a mysterious software entity hiding somewhere in the Glitter band's network. As the story develops, it seems that no one can be trusted.

Compared to most of Reynolds' previous novels, "The Prefect" rates higher for unputdownability and dramatic tension. On the other hand, it is rather less panoramic and introduces fewer technical innovations - if only because most of them have already appeared in other books. There is some inconsistency in the handling of technology - perhaps the worst example being when a senior Ultra requests blood dialysis because "My ship's having trouble purging my fatigue poisons. I think the filters need changing..." That's 20th century technology in an era when computers can hold conscious representations of human beings in storage, and nanotech "medichines" swarm through bodies, fixing or rebuilding them from inside.

Small flaws like this notwithstanding, I think "The Prefect" is Reynolds' best book so far in terms of focused excitement. Purists may dislike the compromises this entails, but it should reach a wider audience than his previous work.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A return to the Revelation Space universe May 14 2007
By Matt Hausig - Published on Amazon.com
The Prefect is a detective story set in the Revelation Space universe. Readers unfamiliar with the setting are well advised to read the earlier novels first as familiarity with Mr. Reynolds past work is presumed. That said, the story involves entirely new characters and the events of the earlier novels don't have much bearing on the plot.

The Prefect is set in the Glitter Band, home of 10,000 self contained communities. The prefects are ostensibly the police force of the Glitter band but are more appropriately protecct and maintain the voting apparatus that serves as the collective government. When one of the communities is destroyed, apparently in retaliation for spurning a deal proferred by an Ultra ship, the investigation leads to conspiracies involving fellow prefects and shadowy artificial intelligences.

The Prefect is an entertaining and fast paced detective story. Where it falls flat is in giving away too many of the secrets early on. While I enjoyed the book, many parts seemed rushed and the characters were not given enough opportunity to develop.

Overall, fans of the prior Revelation Space books should enjoy this, while new readers should start with the earlier books.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One of the weakest books from Reynolds Oct. 2 2009
By BlackVoid - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I am a big fan of Alastair Reynolds, he is one of the greatest SF writers of our time. Unfortunately, he drops the ball big time with The Prefect.

What I really like in most of AR's work, that the stories are believable, there are no contrived plot elements just to increase the tension. Everything is logical and makes sense. Well, in this book this is not the case at all.

Characters do not do the sensible and obvious things in the book. Not just once, but major plot elements feel totally unrealistic. In the book there is nano-technology enabling people to conjure up furniture at will. There is also a system-wide computer network connecting everyone. Yet, investigators do not have recording equipment, interrogations are performed without recording and witnesses, prisoners are not under constant surveillance (in one case not even guarded), spaceships do not have tracking devices and can just get lost. There are also obvious solutions to some problems that are not even considered in the book.

IT DOES NOT MAKE ANY SENSE.

I only read the book because it reveals some interesting things about events that are present in the other book of the series.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gripping but utlimately disappointing June 29 2009
By Art Vanderleigh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Three out of five stars means I liked this book more than I disliked it, but I would hesitate to recommend it to others because it has a few serious flaws:

- Characters making irrational and sometimes downright stupid decisions just to advance the plot
- Technology that oscillates between numinous and downright disappointing (Reynolds can't decide on any one level of technological sophistication, often with even a single item, like the whiphound that can be alternately devastating or utterly useless, again merely to advance the plot)
- Plot is revealed through expositional dialogue that is, to put it simply, a real stretch. People jump from one crazy assumption to another and treat each conjecture as the truth. This grated on me because these plot points were often contrived and seemed to slot together in that neat way that defies common sense but is obviously essential to the plot.

This book is less rigorous than what I'd expect from an accomplished sci-fi writer. With someone like Iain Banks, you get a cohesiveness that leaves you feeling whole and fulfilled long after you put the book down.

I enjoyed reading The Prefect, but afterwards it felt cheap, like an airplane novel. I've still ordered Revelation Space because reviews say it's qualitatively different from his later books.

EDIT: After reading Revelation Space, Reynolds has progressed as a writer with the Prefect: Revelation Space is terribly written. Just awful. It feels like the manuscript never saw the hands of an editor and was instead sent straight to the presses replete with bloated prose, jarring structure and typos so bad they make you do a double-take.
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