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.
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.
Alastair Reynolds is one of the leading lights writing this generation's space opera, and his perspective (European, a PhD in Astronomy) gives his stories a very contemporary feel. I like the hard SF setting, with slower-than-light starships and ancient, dead civilizations instead of living aliens, and parts of this book were quite spooky and sinister. When the crew is prowling the corridors of the huge spaceship Infinity avoiding "rats" and other creatures controlled by a hostile intelligence, it felt like one of those old sci-fi horror movies.
Revelation Space is full of great ideas, especially in the conclusion, where it turns out that the small and large intrigues of the main characters have all been leading them to a confrontation on a much larger scale than they imagined: a threat that could end the human race. I like high-stakes stories like this. So this book was basically a recipe for everything I should love in a sci-fi novel.
So why only 3 stars? Because another crucial ingredient for me (and this is very much my own preference, which is why other people may love this book) is characters who feel real and who I like at least a little. Reynolds's characters aren't as wooden as those of some other hard SF writers, and he gives them plenty of background and motivation and personality, but after describing all those things, he doesn't spend much time letting them live and breathe and reminding you why they are interesting. They just go about their business executing the plot. As soon as the book ended, I was thinking about the story and the technology, but the characters were mostly forgettable.
Unfortunately, there were also parts of the book that just plain bored me; listening to the audio, sometimes my mind drifted and I didn't catch (or care about) all the details. Also, I just did not like John Lee's narration. He gave everyone an accent, not always distinct ones, and I didn't like all the voices.
I loved this book. It was my first from audible.com, and I was not only immediately sucked into the story, but I also really enjoyed the narration. Regardless of what other reviewers have said, I found the accents and dialects to be well done, unlike many contrived and corny variations. John Lee's voice acting is subtle and properly punctuated, without all the histrionics that usually ruin audiobooks. Moreover, although lengthy, Reynolds moved the plot along well while dipping into details that thoroughly paint just the right picture. The description and detail is vivid and expansive, and I frequently felt as though I was wandering the Nostalgia for Infinity spacecraft when some corridor or facility was described. The characters were compelling and interesting, and you really want to know each one's story as the plot thickens. And with no real "good guy," I still empathized with the various protagonists, wanting them each to succeed at their respective goal - even when it meant contradicting or conflicting with other characters' motivations. Really great. I'm suggesting it to all my SF fan friends, and moving on to Chasm City.
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.
The editor and the narrator were HORRIBLE. I have heard this is a really good book but I will never be able to finish because of this crappy performance.
There is absolutely no indication that the narration has moved from one character story arc to another. It is very confusing. At one moment you are following along, the next you have no clue what is going on. Then you realize you have moved to a separate story arch. There isn't even a pause in the narration. You could believe they are in the same sentence when they have crossed chapters.
Unfortunately due to eye issues I won't be able to read this book. I have heard it is a good book from people who have read it.
I LOVE this genre
ANYONE. He is the only narrator that I refuse to listen to again. (I have 150 audible books and maybe 50 more audio books not through audible). He ruined A Feast of Crows by George R R Martin so bad they sent it back and had Roy Dotrice re-narrate it. Unfortunately I listened to the John Lee version. At least I can go back and listen to the remake with Roy Dotrice who is an excellent narrator.
....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.
I will listen to NO boring book. Old Fav's,Card, King , Hobb. New Fav's, Hill, Scalzi, Sawyer, Interested in Lansdale, Crouch, Konrath
I envy those with the IQ and concentration to be able to follow this story. You are certainly on a higher plain then myself. AR shows that he is very intelligent and has a very strong vocabulary.
I have been reading Sci-fi for thirty years, but I don't have the ability or stamina to keep track of what is going on in this novel. This is like learning a foreign language. Even thought this is the first of a series it seems like you have walked into the middle of something. There are lots of science terms. The vocabulary is not only deep, it is British English, not American English. Just as I think I know what is happening the characters change. I never could figure out the plot or story or reason for the book.
To make it even more confusing John Lee has an alien sounding voice. He does accents but not voices, most characters sound the same. When changing from one scene to the next there is no pause. Some scenes change in mid sentence. Lee has done this in other books.
One of the people I am following likes Terminal World, so I will probably try that at a later date. If it is not better then The Prefect, then I will have to give up on AR.
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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.