This book defeated me, I am ashamed to say. I do most of my audio listening whilst driving, but this requires you too pay too much attention, and thus, while driving you lose important plot points, for two reasons:
1) There is a lot of tech within the book, and diluted time due to near-light speed travel on ships, and there is a lot of scene-shifting within chapters, which leads me to...
2) Other reviewers have alluded to it already, but it was a bad move not to have some sort of pause or audio-cue when scene-shifting between chapters. What happens is that John Lee (whose other stuff is ok, in my opinion), moves between scenes without taking a breath and you completely lose where you are whilst driving.
Shame I have to give it up, it's supposed to be a classic series. But them's the breaks.
A great read. As another reviewer said, this is very much in the style of Peter F. Hamilton's books. Epic and complex. I started getting frustrated at the beginning since things don't seem to make sense, but if you stick with it then everything falls into place.
I wish a knew what some of the tougher scientific concepts mean because there's some stuff here that is beyond my understanding but in a way that made it even more interesting.
I love John Lee's narration and characterization in the book, although I do agree that the cuts between scenes are so short that you get confused when things end and start. Other than that I look forward to the next book which I'm downloading as I write this.
Revelation Space has three main characters one of Russian decent, one of French and one Indian, with many Japanese characters figuring prominently, and the narrator portrays each one with the appropriate accent. The perspective of the novel shifts between these characters liberally within each chapter. Further, future tech flies fast and furious with explanations dispersed (sometimes) over several chapters. Taken together these factors make for a challenging read, but the fast-paced intricate and mind-bending ride is incredibly rewarding. The Revelation Space universe is proof that Reynolds' space operas are equal to the likes of M. John Harrison's or Iain M. Banks'.
The book so far is very good. However, the combination of the narrating and one particular editing decision has turned me off of the audio version. So far I have only been unable to finish one audiobook I've purchased from Audible.com (out of about 150) and I may now have to change that number to two.
The Narrator: John Lee has never been my favorite, but I've had him read four other books in my collection, and he did fine. On this one, the voices for the characters are goofy even more often than in the narration of Peter F Hamilton's "Pandora's Star" and "Judas Unchained". In many scenes, there's just not enough vocal differentiation between characters to follow the scene clearly.
The biggest problem: Some "genius" editor decided that there would be NO pause, NONE at all, when the book changes scenes. Since there are multiple plot threads and not quite enough vocal variety between some characters, and the scene changes rather frequently, this editing decision is really disruptive to the listening experience. I was so confused about which characters were where and doing what that I had to start over after getting about five hours in, and it was only the second time through that I began to recognize that there were even scene changes!! There's less of a pause between scene changes than pauses between the end of one sentence and the beginning of another. Nerd that I am I timed it! If the aforementioned genius editor hadn't decided to cut 5 minutes from the total length of the book in this manner, I might have bought the other four books from Audible. No chance now, unless some reviewer of the other books can tell me whether there are pauses at scene changes.
This book is about one person's quest to find what disaster befell an ancient civilization and how it is relevant to the human race. The story describes this future world quite well, with some imaginative technologies and situations. It all seems very possible that such a future could come about - some of it at least. The reader, as usual, is very good.
The problem I had with this book is that there is not a clear protagonist. The main character is not such a likeable guy and you don't get to know him well enough to understand his motivations for this life long search, hence it seems a little contrived. The other characters are ambiguous as well. It is not that I want all the characters to be one dimensionally good or bad, but you do want to identify yourself with them and that did not happen for me.
Then a lot of the explanations of why/what happened are given near the end of the book. One person or another just fills in the blanks by recounting some of the salient facts. This never works well in a book of fiction. It is much more interesting to let a character experience something, instead of a documentary style of offering up just facts. I found myself scrambling to put it all together; too many facts all at once (of course an audio book does not help here, since it is hard to re-read a sentence or passage).
The end was a little disappointing too.
All in all though, it is still a story worth listening too; but it could have been made a lot better with some good editing and sharper characterizations.
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
I have two pieces of advice for anyone considering this audio book:
1. Don't start Alistair Reynolds with Revelation Space. My first Reynolds was House of Suns and I think that's a great one to start with although I haven't yet read all of his work. If I had started with Revelation Space, I don't think I would have finished this book much less read any of his other work and THAT would be a shame.
2. Find a good plot summary before you start listening to this book. This is one that would be tough to follow in print and even tougher on audio. A good plot summary helps tremendously. I would write one, but fortunately, Jefferson has included a good one in his review so I'd point you there. (Thanks, Jefferson.) There are some others on the internet if you are looking for more.
Revelation Space was my third Alistair Reynolds novel and it was challenging! However, having read Pushing Ice and House of Suns, I knew I wanted to read most if not all of Reynolds work because I really like his writing. And, Revelation Space is the introduction to Reynolds "signature" universe so I knew I needed the introduction even if it was hard.
Listening to this book felt a lot like trying to put together a 10,000 piece jigsaw with no picture or border pieces to work with. The first two thirds of the book are totally DENSE with descriptions and concepts and it doesn't seem to quite fit together. The pieces of the plot I could understand were intriguing, but it felt like much of it was just going past me. And, it doesn't help that these are not the best Reynolds characters. All the characters are interesting in a way that unusual things are interesting, but not sympathetic because you can't quite understand their motivations or their goals. They aren't really good or evil - most of them just seem rather duplicitous (lots of hidden agendas here) and amoral so there is really no one to root for/against through most of the book. I will admit that by the end, I was really rooting for Volyova; she is clever, thinks on her feet, and by her standards she's loyal. One of the things I've come to appreciate about Reynolds is that he writes some very good female characters. Although John Lee provides distinct character voices with the narration, it is not as much help as it might be because he uses so many thick accents that it is actually hard to understand some of the dialog.
If you feel like you are wading through a swamp in dense fog through much of this book, you wouldn't be alone, but it is worth the effort to stick with it. In the final third of the book, it's like Reynolds finally steps in and takes control; he hands you the border pieces and gives you the completed picture to work from and suddenly all the pretty, but meaningless pieces start to snap together in this amazing puzzle and it's quite a stunning picture. You really don't understand much of the plot or the characters or the universe until the final third of the book, but when it culminates, it makes for a grand conclusion.
Not the best Reynolds novel, but worthwhile if you are up to the slog through the initial fog.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
In the year 2551 as Revelation Space (2000) begins, Dan Sylveste, the 215-year-old, famous science family scion, colony leader, and archeologist, is pushing his team to excavate an obelisk made by the extinct Amarantin, despite the approach of a terrible "razorstorm," because he wants to learn why "the Event" (apparently a stellar flare) suddenly ended the alien civilization some 900,000 years earlier on the planet Resurgam. Meanwhile (in 2543), the small "Ultranaut" crew of Nostalgia for Infinity, a city-sized, ancient and decaying "lighthugger" starship, including Ilia Volyova, the only crew member currently awake, is on its way to Sylveste to make him cure their captain of the Melding Plague (which merges human cells and machine nanotechnology into cancerous hybrid shapes). Meanwhile again (in 2524), Ana Khouri is a successful assassin hired by the idol rich of Chasm City on planet Yellowstone to relieve them from ennui, when the mysterious Mademoiselle has her infiltrate the crew of Nostalgia for Infinity as their new Gunnery Officer to communicate with the starship's apocalyptic weapons) so that she may hitch a ride to Resurgam and assassinate Sylveste.
Reynolds interweaves the three story lines as he brings Sylveste, Volyova, and Khouri ever closer together in time and space. The three point of view characters might at first seem to be unsympathetic: an arrogant and obsessive scientist, a shanghaiing and loner starship weapons expert, and a coolly efficient assassin. Yet Reynolds forces us to care for them in their various difficult situations by gradually revealing the humanity lurking inside them.
With its varied humans (conjoiners, ultranauts, chimerics, hermetics, etc.) modified in various ways (longevity techniques, prosthetics, implants, neural transformations, software simulations, etc.) and its enigmatic aliens (Shrouders, Jugglers, Inhibitors, etc.), Revelation Space pushes the boundaries of the human (physically, culturally, mentally), revels in the sublime wonders of the universe (space, time, stars), and unfolds an exciting story.
Reynolds' imagination is impressive: he conjures up numerous scientific developments, technological devices, alien species, galactic histories, and cultural extrapolations, ranging from the cool to the sublime. And he's good at evoking creepy and fascinating phenomena, like the malevolent Sun Stealer, the vast starship Nostalgia for Infinity, the fate of the alien Amarantin, and the "world" Cerberus orbiting a "neutron star."
John Lee does his usual efficient job reading the novel. Although his handling of Reynolds' dialogue may rub some listeners the wrong way (like his snide intonations in French, Russian, or Japanese accents), I mostly enjoyed his style and base narration and feeling for the story and characters, and was horripilated by his channeling of the creepy Sun stealer.
There are occasional corny lines in the novel like this exchange: Khouri: "I'm not sure I like this." Volyova: "Join the club." And sometimes I suspect that Reynolds could have told his story with less dialogue. And I'm still trying to decide whether the climax and resolution of the novel are satisfyingly transcendent or disappointingly explanatory. And I think his House of Suns is a better book. But there are plenty of neat descriptions in this book, like, "Volyova was silent until they reached the human nebula that was the Captain. Glittering and uncomfortably muscoid, he less resembled a human being than an angel which had dropped from the sky onto a hard, splattering surface." And plenty of memorably sublime or horrible scenes that make Revelation Space worth listening to for fans of the dark and sublime space opera of the likes of Iain Banks.
This book exceeded my expectations. When I picked this audiobook, I was looking for a science fiction novel leaning more towards hard science fiction and less Star Trek (though I do like Star Trek). I thought it might be somewhat dry with details but it wasn't. I want more... :)
For someone looking for a science fiction novel that combines a good amount of detail scientific (lots of detail in some areas) with futuristic fantasy and suspense, this is a good audiobook to get. The audience of this book should be mature as the book is graphic and dark in some areas but nothing too extreme, would make a good R rated movie as it has lots of oportunity for great space scenes and CGI.
The author does a good job of revealing just enough details and forshadowing to keep up the suspense without being predictable, puts you on the edge of your seat. The story is very emmersive and I look forward to continuing on in the world with Revelation Ark.
If you've ever listened to any other John Lee recordings, you'll know he's one of the best narrators in the business. He does an excellent job with this book.
As to the story itself, this is good sci-fi... I am really not sure where a lot of these other reviewers are coming from, maybe they were looking for the huge space battles from Star Wars. This book is more about the mystery of discovery and the politics and dangers that go along with it. Enjoyed it very much!
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
As hard SF goes, Revelation Space is definitely on the “harder” end of the spectrum. It's a got a complex, ambitious plot, with all sorts of far future tech casually treated as normal fixtures of reality. The novel's vision of dark, mysterious alien powers, which are behind the disappearance of civilizations whose ruins are found throughout the galaxy, is intriguing. The protagonists are the "gritty, complex" sort, driven by their own personal agendas, and not unwilling to manipulate or even betray the others. Reynolds does a good job of writing clearly, conveying a sense of the underlying science without over-examining it. He also deserves credit for writing some convincingly tough female characters, without making a big deal about it. The plot wasn’t uninteresting.
On the minus side, Revelation Space suffers (in my opinion) from a flaw common to other hard sci-fi, namingly that its intricate plot machinations and cerebral focus don't leave much breathing space for the emotional aspects of the story. Though the main characters are credible enough, it’s hard to care about them, and I found myself wishing that Reynolds would slow down on the intrigues, shipboard politics, and space battles, and offer a little more of the awe and wonder that I read science fiction for in the first place. For example, there's a scene towards the end of the book in which a character penetrates a vast alien artifact, but Reynolds barely gives any attention to what it looks like, or the character's reactions. Talk about a wasted moment. Though it’s been years since I’ve read Dan Simmon’s Hyperion, *he* made such scenes into page-turner material.
Unfortunately, the audiobook experience adds another flaw: the reader doesn’t leave any space between scene switches! This led to numerous rewinds on my part, whenever I wasn't paying close attention. The character backstories get a little confusing.
In sum, your opinion of this book will probably depend heavily on whether or not your tastes already include a lot of hard SF (Vernor Vinge, Peter Hamilton). If so, there’s plenty of smart stuff in Revelation Space. However, for other readers, the lack of much emotional resonance might override the other selling points.