Three hundred years from now, Earth has been rendered uninhabitable due to the technological catastrophe known as the Nanocaust. Archaeologist Verity Auger specializes in the exploration of its surviving landscape. Now, her expertise is required for a far greater purpose. Something astonishing has been discovered at the far end of a wormhole: mid-20th-century Earth, preserved like a fly in amber.
Somewhere on this alternate planet is a device capable of destroying both worlds at either end of the wormhole. And Verity must find the device, and the man who plans to activate it, before it's too late - for the past and the future of two worlds.
©2008 Alastair Reynolds (P)2010 Tantor
“Century Rain fuses time travel, hard SF, alternate history, interstellar adventure, and noir romance to create a novel of blistering powers and style.” (SFRevu)
I'm an Alistair Reynolds fan, got this the same day it became available. The story is good, but not one of his best. I realy liked the steampunky 'Terminal World' much more. If Mr. Reynolds is going to veer from his standard hard SciFi space operas, he should continue in that direction, in my humble opinion. However, John Lee really nailed this one!. His voice for the American private eye was spot on. The only other review so far was negative due to the "1920 detective noir" style. The main character is a detective from 1959...go figure. I thought it was perfect for the character and story. Bravo Mr. Lee!
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
Paris in the 1950's, Wendell Floyd is an ex-pat American jazz musician forced to actually make a living as a private detective, although he and his partner, Andre Custin, still play occasionally. The pragmatic Floyd thinks he may solve his money troubles with the investigation of an apparent suicide. While in Paris of the distant future, Verity Auger, an archeologist, is digging into a ice-locked dead city searching for relics of the past. The listener understands early on that while Auger's Paris could be in our future, Floyd's Paris is definitely not in our past and Auger is tasked to understand what that means. Clearly these disparate tales must be linked and they do merge fairly early in the narrative and Auger and Floyd ultimately realize they are each the key for the other's mystery.
There are some flaws in this overall good story:
1. While I like the characters of Floyd and Auger, I just never "felt" the chemistry between them so the love story is a bit flat.
2. Erratic pacing. The setup is very good, with a gradual build up that generates a great deal of suspense, but the long and repetitive chase scenes and the muddled political conflict break the tension frequently in the later sections of the book.
Century Rain has some good things going for it as well:
1. Wonderful prose - I would argue that there is no Science Fiction writer who writes more elegantly than Alistair Reynolds. As always, he uses beautiful metaphors, sets vivid scenes, and employs such a wide vocabulary that my ears stay tuned even when the story slows.
2. Grand provocative ideas. We all know about The Law of the Unintended Consequences, but Century Rain takes that idea to the grandest scale and shows us a planet that has been made uninhabitable as a result of good intentions gone VERY bad and people who don't know how to quit digging when they get in a hole.
3. Gripping thriller type plot with some clever nods at Casablanca
John Lee was not at his best on this book, but was competent and did not detract. This isn't Reynolds best book, but I still found it entertaining and mind-expanding.
Yes, as long as they like the genre.
There's a great twist in the story when you realize what is going on for the first time. Reynolds didn't come out and say it, he just gave lots of little clues. Then all of a sudden it just tipped, and I had a great ah ha moment. Wonderfully done.
I could listen to John Lee read a book about dirt and would probably be captivated. He is one of my top two favorite readers. His voice was soothing and stayed out of the way of the action in the text, and he voiced the characters so that you knew who was talking without having to think about it.
There was maybe two times when I teared up, but hey, I'm an emotional guy.
This is my favorite Reynolds novel so far--though I still have quite a few more to read. The plotting is very tight, including a satisfying joint resolution, toward the end, of several seemingly unrelated subplots. The characters are distinctive, and mesh nicely. As for the high concept, I don't want to risk spoilers by saying too much about it here. I found it very appealing. As a student of 20th Century history, I was particularly fascinated by the very subtly-crafted wrongness of Reynolds's 1959 Paris.
I can't decide whether the occasional references to "Casablanca" are fun or just a little too cute. I'm also not hugely enthusiastic about Mr. Lee's narration, especially the character voice for the main American character, with accent and phrasing just far enough off to be occasionally irritating. On the other hand, a supporting character with a Danish surname sounds pretty credible to my admittedly non-Danish ear. The defects are all minor, though. I'd give this one a strong recommendation.
I've listened to many of Reynolds' novels. This is the winner. Reynolds had me believing in his new and exciting SF inventions, but beyond that the novel is a fine mixture of mystery and terror.
Smoke me a kipper; I'll be back for breakfast.
This is my first Reynolds book. I was very impressed by the idea of this book and the science behind it. While during a few parts I felt like it was a little over my head, he mostly keeps it understandable for all readers. It was a very interesting plot and I enjoyed that it never felt boring even though it's a longer book.
While his idea and concept for the story were great, he lacked in several areas. The characters were fairly flat - which was tolerable in the older sci-fi books but I rather expect more now. I believe the problem lies in that Reynolds knows nothing about Americans.
The two main characters are American but it feels very like he watched, say, Columbo, then wrote his characters from the stereotypes on screen. Our main male character is a very typical gumshoe. And our female is a somewhat abrasive archeologist turned spy. The falling in love bit felt unfounded as well. But back to the American issue - Reynolds appears to not know about America. For example, the Americans call a flashlight a torch, which everyone knows is what Brits say. And he acts as if we have regional accents like in England, which we don't. E.g. -continually has Americans doubting she is from Nebraska because they don't recognize her accent. Well, Reynolds, no one would recognize a Nebraska accent. It's not that distinct at all. So, I felt like someone with the internet at their fingertips could easily find out more about Americans if they were going to write about them.
In all, I enjoyed the story, but only in the way I enjoy the older sci-fi books which tend to have good science but not so great with the character development. I think it's worth reading. I plan to read another book of his to see if it was writing about Americans that tripped him up or if he just has issues with characters.
The narration is fairly good. He gets a little confused on the accents early on but gets better.
The big reveal to Floyd
One of his best
Loved it! Another great story from Alastair Reynolds
the Narrator. John Lee has a wonderful voice, I could (and have) Listen to him all day.
I see it as a cross between Casablanca and Starwars.
Landing the spaceships on the Eiffel Tower and it's eventual collapse
yes, but I cannot sit that long. it took a couple of days, but I enjoyed it
Alastair Reynolds is a wonderful writer. not all of his works take place in the same universe, but the are all quite imaginative
Overall good audio book, but needed more depth
The ending was ordinary and to some degree predictable.
John Lee's delivery of the Century Rain and seamless charter transition was excellent as always. John lee can make listening to any Sci-fi worthwhile your time.
I'm a Hard SF & Space Opera-loving, alien android from the future. I bring gifts of SciFi eBooks & accessories for your leader's Kindle. Take me to him/her/it.
In this standalone story, Alastair Reynolds manages to squeeze multiple SF sub-genres together harmoniously, ensuring something entertaining for all readers. The premise is that a dormant snapshot 'backup' copy of the earth, accurately duplicating the 1936 moment when it was mysteriously created by aliens down to the last atom, has been discovered in deep space and it has been activated by one of the warring factions from the 24th century. Now, history progresses there under the subtle influence of hostile agents who prevent WW2 as a means of stifling the technological developments that might allow the inhabitants to resist the greater holocaust they have planned for them, in the pursuit of pristine real estate. The unlikely heroes are a 24th-century archeologist who specializes in pre-apocalypse excavations, and a down-on-his-luck private investigator who begins to see that something isn't quite right in his 1959.
Sound confusing yet? It actually settles in fairly gradually, and the two Earth timelines are well delineated. The primary three or four characters are also very rounded, and a lot more believable and flawed than commonly seen in such busy plots; The private investigator Wendell Floyd, for example, sees himself primarily as a struggling musician who takes on PI work between gigs, and sees the world in a very musical way. Verity Auger, the archeologist intervening in his world, consistently and stubbornly acts in a much braver manner than she herself asserts. I was surprised to read so little about the children she left behind for her mission, but which she claims are central to her motivations.
The miracle and threat of nanotechnology are central themes explored, and in nearly every scene in which it is employed, we see unique applications that I've not seen elsewhere, and I appreciated the expanding implications of its use. Notably absent are the expected frictions and misunderstandings of characters from such disparate cultures interacting, but a technological 'hand wave' introduced early on may explain this. The pacing picked up considerably in the final third of the story, when the setting shifts dramatically, but this corresponded nicely to the rising stakes in the conflict. All in all, an exciting and thought provoking novel that lives up to expectations from this excellent author.
"Best so far."
I have listened to most of the Alastair Reynolds titles available on Audible, and will listen to the couple that remain for me. This one I left till later as I didn't quite like the description and thought it might not be for me, I was very happily proven wrong. I love John Lee as a Narrator for this Author and as he has been consistent throughout this Authors titles it is very comforting for me to come back to him. If you have enjoyed previous titles by this Author and Narrator I think you will be very happy with this listen, if you haven't tried any yet then this one is a great introduction to them both. Great story line, I thought half way through I could see the entire plot laid out before me but I was completely wrong. Best listen in a long while for myself, loaded with Sci Fi and gumshoe detective in Paris in the 50's. sounds mad, but it really is excellent!
"Space Opera collides with a twisting Whodunnit"
A Private Eye team who are really musicians in a not-quite-right 1950s Paris with a case that isn't quite what it seems, and a future Paris archaeologist whose trial turns out to be an elaborate ruse to send her in to an increasingly dangerous mission field. Hold onto your hats for the twists and turns of the unexpected in this loveable mystery novel.
This is something quite different from Reynolds normal fare, at least to start with, and my initial scepticism turned more and more to delight as the story unfolded.
It's not the greatest reading (French accents can be difficult to do), but who cares - rollicking story.
"Entertaining mix of hard(ish) scifi and film noir"
An entertaining mix of speculative scifi with a lot of affectionate nodding towards Sunday afternoon classic drama and hacker culture.
Sounds odd, but it works. A healthy number of laughs including one cracker that had me laughing at the cheek of it as much as anything.
In terms of setup, it takes a sort of Groundhog Day approach to many elements; you're in the situation and the book doesn't attempt to resolve every mystery or explain the origin of every thread, an approach I heartily endorse; there's nothing worse than grinding through reams of completist exposition or justification.
Enjoyed John Lee's narration again, although it sounded like slightly harder work in places than "House of Suns" which I consider exemplary.
Be prepared for an intriguing sci-fi story which weaves a two stranded plot into a satisfying and engaging whodunnit. The characters are well-drawn, especially the leads, Verity and Floyd, and the pace never flags. I like Alastair Renynolds and it was great to see him attempt something new and different from his usual harder core sci-fi.
The narrator captures the mood just right and you can soon forgive him for the sometimes unconvincing French accents as you're caught up and swept along by the plot.
"Not a book I really enjoyed..."
I generally love S.F. This however... just doesn't do it for me. On the one hand I found John Lee's narration somewhat irritating - I've listened to quite a lot narrated by him before and generally he is okay - in this case not. Sometimes he switches from one scene to a completely different one - without missing a beat. You do a mental double take and realise the story has warped to somewhere else. The story itself - I found the characters and some of the dialogue unconvincing but can't tell if it would have been significantly better with a different narrator.
In summary - not my favourite SF audio book by some margin.
"An alternate history...not exactly..."
An excellent combination of mystery, thriller, hard sci-fi and alternate history, all in one.
At some points I was wondering where it was all heading, but that was just me being impatient - it will all make sense in the end!
It's a nicely complete story that leaves plenty of room for a sequel without leaving anything out - basically that's a hint - I want more!
I think John Lee will always be connected in my mind with Alastair Reynolds now - so much so that I'm reluctant to try an Alastair Reynolds book narrated by anyone else.
"High concept done well"
You know what you are getting from Alastair Reynolds before you hear the first word. It will be high concept. It will ask a lot of the reader. It will be a mental stretch. All of these things are true of this book. The plots initially seem unconnected but weave together into a tightly meshed and tautly paced conclusion. The settings are especially lovingly rendered with a touch of the gumshoe detective genre in the style. Don't let that put you off. It works well here. A fine book, well performed and filled with memorable moments. It is very good and narrowly misses excellent.
"Fascinating but there must be a sequel"
A well written story with engaging characters. As always very well narrated by John Lee. I found the ending left me wanting more, probably needs a sequel.
"Raymond Chandler does Space Opera"
This is a good listen. Alastair Reynolds writes fast moving SF with good plot lines. The tributes to Chandler and 1960's French film noire is an additional bonus. Plenty of "how will they get out of this" moments. John Lee give his customary solid performance, although his German pronunciation falters at times.
OK, it's SF, but as an astronomer Mr Reynolds conveniently glosses over the advances in Physics and Astronomy prior to 1936. I think the E2 versions of Hubble and Zwicky would have twigged what was going on.
Excellent start but unfortunately the author seems to have run out of interest resulting in a very disjointed tale.
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