With no other resources at his disposal, Sylveste forges a dangerous alliance with the cyborg crew of the starship Nostalgia for Infinity. But as he closes in on the secret, a killer closes in on him because the Amarantin were destroyed for a reason. And if that reason is uncovered, the universe - and reality itself - could be irrevocably altered.
©2008 Alastair Reynolds; (P)2008 Tantor
"One of the best books of the year." (Science Fiction Chronicle)
"Ferociously intelligent and imbued with a chilling logic - it may really be like this Out There." (Stephen Baxter, co-author of The Light of Other Days)
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.
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 book jumps frequently between scenes and plot lines, a common technique for building suspense, which works fine in print where white space on the page is your cue for the scene change. However, for an audiobook, you need cue... normally a long pause in other audio books. In this recording, there is no cue! No pause, no page turn sound, nothing! It makes it very difficult to listen to because the scene changes are often during conversations, so you don't even know which characters are speaking. Very annoying!!
The story itself is wonderful, except for the ending which is literally deus ex machina.
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.
Sci-fi, History, Police Procedurals and Science
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.
"Good Book? Awful Narration!"
I have never actually given up on an audio-book before and I have library with Audible.co.uk of over 200 unabridged titles. I have however, given up trying with this book though and the sad thing is, that it has nothing to do with the author!
After restarting the title over 5 times, I still have no idea what the story is about as I found the narration to be rambling and dull which resulted in me missing large amounts of the narrative as my attention wandered to just about anything else. John Lee's reading quite simply bored me beyond belief and I wish I had heeded the reviews written by John (in Hampshire) and Tim (in Ayrshire).
Perhaps the book would be great with a different reader (my vote would go to Peter Kenny who is brilliant in Iain M Banks' audio books), who knows?
John Lee was a terrific narrator in Ken Follett's books, but not in Revelation Space.
I certainly won't be buying the rest of the series.
PLEASE NOTE: THE STAR RATING I HAVE GIVEN THIS BOOK RELATES PURELY TO THE NARATION.
"Really worth a try"
It is amazing how opinions differ. I thought this was excellent and I went on to enjoy all his books in written form. You should definitely try one as you have a whole oeuvre to look forward to if you enjoy it.
I would point out that I think Ricky Gervais is a very dull comedian and that The Office is tedious drivel so my tastes may not lie on the average!
"Narration difficult to follow"
I could not get into this book, the narrator - normally brilliant - was my biggest issue. I could not follow the separation in plot lines. The narration jumped from one to the other without any pause, introduction or announcement, maybe a small thing, but it was enough for me
"Good book, terrible reader"
Revelation space is one of many books I've read in dead tree format, and have revisited in audiobook form. Usually it's a very rewarding experience, and I loved this book when I read it so had high hopes for the more immersive medium of audio.
However this is the second Alastair Reynolds book I've listened to, and I just can't face any more of them as John Lee's narration ruins them. His pacing... is... terrible.
That's only the second time in years of audible membership a narrator has spoiled the experience, but a bitterly disappointing one as I was looking forwards to making my way through Reynold's back catalogue.
"Confusing audio, maybe better as a written work"
This is the first audiobook I've actually given up on. A shame really, I quite like Alastair Reynolds' work and despite the thoroughly unlikable characters, there are some interesting ideas in the story.
The French and mid-European sounding accents are somewhat similar so it can be hard to work out who is speaking (at first).
The plot jumps around a bit (in time and locations) - because there are very few cues in the audio that the narrative has moved to another planet (and the voices sounds similar) - I had to work hard just to keep track of what was going on. Even slightly longer pauses in the narration between planets/times would have helped me spot that that the story had moved elsewhere.
"Good story - Fell out with the narrator."
This is the first Alastair Reynolds book I have read and it grew on me. The first third is a little confusing; the main cause of which I think is the narrator's style. I have greatly enjoyed John Lee's narration in other books but on this occasion I felt it left quite a lot to be desired. It sounded like he had spend a lot of time perfecting some sort of Eastern European accent and then, when he had got it just right, he applied it to all the characters! Therefore, at times, I had no idea who was speaking. Once you get a feel for the plot and who everyone is, the 'audio-homogeneity' is not really a big issue, but it did take me a while longer than usual to settle into this book.
On the whole I found it enjoyable, with a good story and some great sci-fi moments, although it did not inspire me to read any sequels for a while, especially as I have read numerous reviews of the opinion that this book is the best of the bunch.
"Clumsy in places but still a powerful tale."
Cyberpunk meets Space Opera. The book is similar in tone and scope to Iain Banks Culture Novels, though not as confident in its handling of the vastness of its subject matter. In the 26th century human identity dissolves into a bewildering mosaic of cyberpunk virtual personalities, quantum physics and time-dilated reality. Entertaining, though patchy, the book suffers from long stretches of exposition between characters along the lines of 'A ha! little did you know that when you thought I was doing X I was in fact doing Y' and some of the ideas have been recycled from other sources (Carpenter's Dark Star, any number of Generation Ship stories). The narration is competent, if portentious, and suffers badly from hokey funny-foreigner accents. One character, Sajaki, is supposedly Japanese but comes across like the wicked Uncle from Aladdin (note to narrators, Japanese accents and Chinese accents are completely different). The Russians and French are no better and long conversations end up sounding like an episode of 'Mind your language' or 'Allo 'Allo. Having said that the final scenes are impressively described and leave you with a genuine sense of wonder rare in much SF these days.
"An excellent book let down by the reader"
Alistair Reynolds creates a very compelling universe, with interesting characters, location and technology. The details he puts into the universe create a very immersive experience, which can be a little confusing at the beginning as we jump both in time and location between the characters of the story. But the story is well worth staying with as the story unfolds.
Then we come to the reader. Oh dear is the kindest way to put to it. I'm sure John Lee is a talented individual, but reading books aloud is not one of his talents. The voices he uses to depict different characters varies so faintly that it's nigh on impossible to tell when one character stops speaking and another responds. Then his normal reading voice suffer from the same problem, often its hard to tell when the narration has topped, and someone is speaking again. This one experience with John Lee has put me off buying anymore books read by him, as I want to concentrate on the plot, not figuring out which character is speaking or whether its actually narration.
So my conclusion is that this an excellent book with enjoyable plot, characters and settings, quite spectacularly let down by the reader.
"Buy a hard copy instead !!!"
The narration - truly awful. SO bad I couldn't manage to finish the book.
Don't really know as could not finish it due to the monotonous intonation of the narrator. The first audiobook I haven't managed to finish :-(
Very flat performance with a monotone intonation with no variation in pitch or speed. It really ruined the part of the book that I actually could face listening to. I managed about an hour before it got so bad I gave up and listened to something else.
I only managed an hour before giving up - can't really comment on the story but it sounded like an interesting premise.
The first time have ever felt the need to write a review and I am doing so just to warn people to buy the paper version of the book and read it for yourself as the flat narration sucks all the joy from the story. Take heed reader - the narration alone makes this a true waste of a credit - you have been warned !!!
"Can sci-fi get better than this?"
This is easily the best sci-fi novel I have come across in my 42 years. It's a real treat for jaded, old sci-fi lovers like me who fell let down all too often by modern space operas that raise more questions than they answer. This epic tale has wheels within wheels, unexpected plot lines, no waffle, no fat, and just the right blend of hard science with fiction. I found John Lee's narration style took some getting used to, but in the end I came to enjoy his delivery. It's a crying shame that this book is the only work by Alistair Reynolds available on Audible. I would buy the others in a heartbeat.
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