Absolution Gap (2003) Mini-Review

As humanity struggles to fight the Inhibitors, a moving cathedral circumnavigates the remote world of Hela in an effort to always keep the gas giant Haldora at its zenith at all times. The celestial body and it’s mysterious behavior has caused entire religions to emerge on the planet below.

As a ragtag band of survivors on board the lighthugger Nostalgia for Infinity travels to Hela in a desperate search for a weapon against the Inhibitors, a special girl from the badlands of Hela, Rashmika, seeks out to find her long lost brother — a journey that takes her to the largest of the moving cathedrals — as it prepares to cross the Absolution Gap.

Absolution Gap oozes cool. It’s brilliant, hard sci-fi on every level that matters and Alastair Reynolds grasp of the subject is masterful. Absolution Gap is, perhaps, even more cool than my previous favourite in the Revelation Space series — Chasm City (Absolution Gap is the chronological last book in the series).

Alright, it was a bit slow in places — these books are long — but this level of cool deserves no less than five hearts.

Redemption Ark (2002) Mini-Review

Nevil Clavain has lived for four hundred years and he has seen his share of war. As the depth of a new threat awakened decades ago — The Inhibitors — becomes clear, Clavain is forced to reconsider his allegiances. Meanwhile, the mysterious Ilya Volyova has plans for her cache of self-aware doomsday weapons.

Redemption Ark is a superb sequel book. It’s littered with cameos and direct storyline continuations set up in both Revelation Space and Chasm City (and even some of Reynolds’ short stories such as Galactic North). Yet it is also a great story in its own right and you could, if you wanted to, read it without having read any of the other books.

It’s hard sci-fi and clearly the work of a working scientist; the result is super-modern space opera sci-fi, the kind which probably isn’t disproved until centuries from now. It features mindboggling ideas and bunches of BDOs i.e. all you could ever want from the genre. Redemption Ark is a bit on the long side, but it’s still a pleasure to read.

The chronology of these books is a bit confusing. While Revelation Space (2000) was the first “in-universe” book Reynolds wrote, it’s storyline was set after both The Prefect (2007) and Chasm City (2001) (both standalone novels). As such, Redemption Ark is the first direct sequel to Revelation Space. It is followed (story-chronology-wise) by Absolution Gap (2003).

Chasm City (2001) Mini-Review

Tanner Mirabel is a security specialist bent on revenge. In the chase of his prey, his travels take him to the plague-ridden Chasm City where things are no longer as they used to be. As his journey winds down, flashes of memories begin to haunt him.

Chasm City is nothing less than steam-punk sci-fi. That is, while set in a high tech future, Chasm City has reverted to using steam-driven machines and archaic tools to power their various devices. That is a feat, and part of why this is a very readable book. Add to that some very modern and “up-to-date” sci-fi and some delicious twists and turns and you have a very good book.

Chasm City is a pseudo-sequel to Revelation Space and Absolution Gap — set in the same universe but with different main characters.

Revelation Space (2000) Mini-Review

Revelation Space tells the story of Dan Sylveste, an archaeologist in the far future who uncovers a startling find on a desolate planet called Resurgam. The find points way back in the past and warns of dangerous world-changing events that happened, and might happen again.

Being the first book in a series of 5, Alastair Reynolds sets up his universe of the same name. It’s a ‘verse populated by intricate characters who lead very long lives; be it through medicines, nanotechnology or machine consciousness. Super-high technology and multiple identities permeates the entire series, of which I’ve also read Chasm City—book 2. While other authors, both Arthur C. Clarke, Greg Bear and Larry Niven have explored these areas of science fiction, Reynolds details it in a depth I haven’t seen before. Which works really well.

Revelation Space is an alright book. It’s fairly easily digestible, and the cover of the book has a space-ship on it. It’s the kind of book that you’d buy prior to a long flight or train ride. That earns it 3 hearts. For the potential this holds for subsequent books (a potential I sneakingly know will be fulfilled already in book 2), it’s very much worth reading, more so than the three hearts suggest.