Chasm City (2001) – Alastair Reynolds

Alastair Reynolds next science fiction novel, Chasm City, takes place in the same universe as Revelation Space but is not a sequel, instead we are given a future noir tale of revenge, and the human ability to commit good and horrible acts, redemption, and discovery.

We visit a couple of planets that were mentioned in the previous book, and learn a lot more about the war and history of one of them, Sky’s Edge, even as we explore the plague corrupted Chasm City on Yellowstone.

Like Revelation Space, there is more than one timeline to follow in this novel, and like the previous tale, it joins up in a unique way to change everything that has gone before it in both parts of the story.

Tanner Mirabel is out for revenge. He is seeking Argent Reivich to avenge himself upon the man who killed the woman he may have loved. We travel across space and the years from Sky’s Edge (learning that planet’s history as we go) to Yellowstone, and the dark secret that lies at Chasm City’s heart.

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Filled with action beats, Reynolds is happy to dole out his tale in comfortable paces, never rushing, and letting the reader enjoy the world he’s created. If you read Revelation Space this helps layer out worlds we’re already familiar with, if you haven’t it makes for a wild, dark introduction to man’s future, where we will go, and perhaps some of the fantastic, and horrible things we’ll do to ourselves, and others.

Twists, misadventures and reveals along the way lead us to an almost inescapable conclusion, and Reynolds guides us there with sure ease.

I have to say, despite how dark and unwelcoming a lot of the places are in the Revelation universe Reynolds has created, I still dig exploring it, and find the people, the creatures, and the history of that universe fascinating. It’s not what I expected when I started the first book in the series, when it was hailed as space opera, but it is addictive and engaging reading that shows that the universe isn’t all bright exploring and strange new worlds. It can be monstrous. Some of that is humanity, some of it isn’t, but for now, in Reynolds’ stories they are always recognizable, even buried in the tech and oddness of these other worlds we travel to.

We also learn where this story fits on the timeline in relation to Revelation Space, and again, all of it just layers out the universe that little bit more, seeing how things grow, change and become.

I love that I have become open to other forms of written science fiction, sure I had read Dune back in ’84, as well as 2001, 2010 and 2063, but I had never gotten much further than Trek and Wars. And now because I have waited, there are so many strange new worlds to explore, and read about the human condition set against the stars, and the abyss.

I can’t wait to dive into the next book set in that universe. Have you read them yet? This and The Expanse series may be my favorite science fiction novels.

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