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.
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.
If you like really broad, complex space-opera (meant in the very best way) this series is worth the investment of the time and attention it demands. It is on my list of the best SF ever. (Along with: Simmons' 4 Hyperion books, Peter F. Hamilton's Pandora's Star/Void Series and some other really long stuff.)
This is one book in a complex and dark series (see below) -- a good place to start. Revelation Space starts off with three seemingly unrelated narrative strands that eventually meet—and merge—as the novel progresses. This plot device is characteristic of many of Reynolds' works. The subsequent books go further and further.
Here is a thought that I totally agree with: Thomas M. Wagner of SF Reviews wrote that "images and bits and pieces of the novel simply would not get out of my head. This is saying something, since, with the volume of SF and fantasy I read, I do not exactly retain an eidetic memory of everything I've read that I can call up in a second or two unless the book literally bowled me over. But in the case of Revelation Space, two and three years later I still could remember the opening scene. . .with remarkable clarity. The. . .corridors of the vast starship Nostalgia for Infinity still brought haunting images to mind."
That's it -- it just ticks with you just like the Hyperion and Pandora's Star/Void books do.
As I said in another review, I once got hooked on the biography of Alexander Hamilton which led to biographies on all of the Founding Fathers and then the history of the Civil War. . .this was the same thing. You can get so far into it that by the time you end, at least a seaon has passed. Darkly Hypnotic.
The Revelation Space series includes five novels, two novellas, and eight short stories set over a span of several centuries, spanning approximately 2200 to 40 000, although the novels are all set in a 300 year period spanning from 2427 to 2727. In this universe, extraterrestrial sentience exists but is elusive, and interstellar travel is primarily undertaken by a class of vessel called a lighthugger which only approaches the speed of light (faster than light travel is possible, but it is so dangerous that no race uses it). The trilogy consists of Revelation Space, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap.
Fun in a challenging and broad way.
indie music addict
I did not enjoy this book, though I finished it at least. The characters were the issue, poorly developed with not a redeeming quality between them. The story would sway from tedious slogging detail about the most mundane topics, and then blow through interesting bits in a paragraph or two.
I'm a huge fan of Peter F. Hamilton's "universe" and have devoured them all. I guess I was hoping for something of that quality with this series. Alas, no.
If you like hard science fiction this is probably worth a listen. An expansive, harsh universe is revealed through multiple points of view in the book. Perhaps the most interesting ideas in this book are related to examining inevitable outcomes of multiple species evolving to the point of interstellar expansion... and, of course, conflict.
Three things that were distracting in the book for me:
1) The narrarator's conucopia of dialect: you can play spot the accent with French, Japanese, Russian, and (I kid you not) rastafari.
2) The insertion by the author of almost trite names for important players in the book like "sun stealer" and "nostalgia for infinity." Imagine if Frank Herbert had called Arrakis "the big sandy orb."
3) All the grand and mysterious buildup seems to end rather abruptly.. left me wondering if the author was writing to beat a deadline.
Those issues were not enough to prevent enjoying the book.. great concepts, interesting ideas.
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OK so it goes without saying that if you read this book you have to read the other 2 (Redemption Ark, and Absolution Gap) as well as these ones (The Perfect[which is a prequil to all the all], and Chasm City[which is a prequil to RS])
do you like Peter F. Hamilton? - they you should like these books
Revelation Space starts off with three seemingly unrelated narrative strands that eventually meet and merge as the novel progresses. This plot device is characteristic of many of Reynolds' works.
Its the year 2524 on Resurgam, a planet considered a backwater on the edge of colonized human space. Dan Sylveste, an archaeologist, leader of the colony, and wealthy scion of a prominent scientific family, leads a team excavating the remains of the Amarantin, a long-dead, 900,000-year-old civilization that once existed on Resurgam. As a violent dust storm threatens to temporarily shut down the excavation, Sylveste discovers new evidence that the entire Amarantin race was wiped out in a single mysterious cataclysm, which happens to coincide with the Amarantin's advancement to a starfaring culture.
As Sylveste and the crew of the Nostalgia for Infinity approach Cerberus, Sylveste realizes the massive celestial body isn't a planet at all but rather, a massive technological beacon, aimed at alerting machine sentience to the appearance of new star-faring cultures. It is this beacon, Sylveste belatedly realizes, that alerted a machine intelligence known as the Inhibitors to the presence of the Amarantin, and ultimately caused the demise of that race.
I'm a big sci-fi fan, and was hoping I would love this series (of which this is the first book), and could look forward to a lot of good listening ahead. Unfortunately I was very disappointed and couldn't finish this. It's hard for me to judge the book itself, because the narrator is so bad.
1. He gives very little distinctiveness to each character's voice, making it very hard to follow who's talking.
2. There is no pause or any other signal of a change in setting/time/place/etc. This book jumps between very different settings and the reader just reads the text without pause. Combined with the lack of distinction in the voice characterizations, this means that often I will have been listening for 15 min. or more before suddenly realizing that the some major transition took place several paragraphs ago and my mental picture of what's going on is completely wrong. Generally, this means I'm lost most of the time - not a pleasant listening experience.
I'm sorry to say I will not be trying any more of Alastair Reynolds audiobooks because of this.
Mr. Reynolds is an excellent story teller and, in particular, a great SF author. He is able to weave a delightful tale mixing extraordinary scientific developments with an intriguing account incorporating mystery, adventure, and beguiling characters. Mr. Lee is well suited to tell the tale. His slight accent and intonations add to the suspense. This book is a must listen for anyone who likes SF.
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.
....be prepared to invest some time in the series as each book is long (a 'plus' for me) and the connecting plot ('long plot') is strung out loosely throughout each book. This isn't a 'con' for the series but its not as direct as Peter F Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga/Void Trilogy and could be an adjustment depending on what you are used to.
I found this to be a good book but i think it was a little tough to listen to b/c the of the way the author used the character names. Maybe it was just me but I found myself confused by characters being called different names at different times w/o being properly linked back to the 'common' name used throughout the rest of the book. Mainly this happened when the author switched from the common last name to the first name in dialogue. Perhaps knowing that upfront, listening to the book will be easier for you.
Other than that, the story was very entertaining and John Lee did an excellent job. At this point i hardly feel its necessary to mention Lee's performance b/c they are a staple of any audiobook. I don't have any doubts about the 'listening' aspect when i see its John Lee.