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Monday, February 28, 2011

Mini Review: Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

Revelation Space – Alastair Reynolds (Published 2000)
Genre: Science Fiction
Sub-genre: Hard Space Opera
Completed: November 14 2010

Revelation Space can best be described using one of its key figures as a simile. Like ‘The Nostalgia For Infinity,’ the starship at the centre of events, Revelation Space is a mysterious, sprawling and complicated monstrosity. It is the first entry in the saga of the same name.

Upon reading I was quickly struck by the depth of world-building Reynolds has completed. I didn’t expect Epic Fantasy depth from Space Opera. But what do I know? His setting is compelling but the sheer scope can overwhelm the narrative and characters. Similarly the time lag of space flight gives the story a non-linear structure that might be confusing for casual readers of Science Fiction (i.e. me).

Without a doubt I found Revelation Space intriguing, but by that token I enjoyed it on the same level as I might enjoy reading history, rather than fiction. It felt more like an intellectual exercise than an emotional one. This can partly be attributed to the frequent occurrence of heavy exposition and hard science explanations that pulled me out of the story (which I imagine are a staple of a genre with which I am unfamiliar). As a result the plot twists and developments were interesting as information, not because of their impact on characters.

My persistence in reading on and absorbing all of this information was rewarded in the tremendous climax. All of the plot threads came together and it became apparent that none of the exposition was extraneous. Reynolds leaves some mystery, but it isn’t a cheap cliffhanger that annoyingly demands an immediate sequel.

I’m glad this is a mini review, because attempting a plot summary might make my brain explode. The level of detail is so impressive. I give Revelation Space 3.5 stars.

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