Revelation Space (2000) – Alastair Reynolds

Growing up I loved science fiction movies and television (still do) but as far as reading went I stuck to Star Wars and Star Trek novels before finally letting Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001, and Frank Herbert’s Dune open my mind up a little more.

Still, I wouldn’t delve much deeper than that for a number of decades, until I read The Expanse series, and I realized that I could totally get into and enjoy science fiction stories on the page. I’d dabbled with other authors, but hadn’t read anything by Alastair Reynolds. I few Google searches and some review reading later, I figured I was ready to jump into his novel Revelation Space (and perhaps the subsequent novels set in the same universe should I enjoy it).

There is mystery, alien archeology, ancient history, artificial intelligence, action beats, betrayals and revelations. In fact, I would not be the first (and probably not the last) to refer to Reynolds’ creation as space opera (a solid compliment as far as I am concerned).

Set over a couple of decades, due to relativistic time and rate of travel between inhabited systems, the tale follows the brilliant, and arrogant Dan Sylveste who is on the verge of a momentous discovery concerning a long dead alien race and the Event that caused their demise.

revelation reynolds

Systems away someone wants Sylveste dead and arranges for an ex-soldier turned assassin, Khouri to end up on the Nostalgia for Infinity a lighthugger that will take her to her destination. But there are secrets aboard the Nostalgia, and a plan of their own for Sylveste.

Three storylines race to intertwine before plunging us towards the cold heart of a mystery that could threaten all of humanity.

The novel takes its time, building its characters, its worlds, though in terms of both, it only reveals so much – maybe just enough to know what is going on and get a glimpse of a bigger (and emptier) universe beyond the edges of the story. It fired my imagination, and the deeper I got into the story the more I enjoyed it. There are moments of horror, of exploration, of stunning betrayal and discovery, all of it culminating in a climax that rode right to the edge of the abyss.

There’s a lot going on in this book, and the galaxy Reynolds has created for his characters to inhabit, and I loved how engaging I found it. There were hints of things that lend a menace and ominousness to characters and situations, and I became truly invested in all of it.

I will be hunting down the other stories set in this realm. I knew this novel was good the moment I started it, featuring an alien dig site, and I could see all of it in my head immediately – when a book or writer can do that from the off, you’ve got me hooked, and Reynolds did that. I can’t wait to dig into the next story.

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