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Revelation Space | [Alastair Reynolds]

Revelation Space

Nine hundred thousand years ago, something annihilated the Amarantin civilization just as it was on the verge of discovering space flight. Now one scientist, Dan Sylveste, will stop at nothing to solve the Amarantin riddle before ancient history repeats itself. 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.
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Publisher's Summary

Nine hundred thousand years ago, something annihilated the Amarantin civilization just as it was on the verge of discovering space flight. Now one scientist, Dan Sylveste, will stop at nothing to solve the Amarantin riddle before ancient history repeats itself.

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (1944 )
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3.9 (1435 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Frank Lawrence 03-09-10 Member Since 2014

    Cougar

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent Read (Listen)"

    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.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. Umstott 03-05-09
    M. Umstott 03-05-09 Listener Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great premise, perhaps overly intricate"

    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.

    11 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin Stokes Fairport, NY USA 05-26-15
    Kevin Stokes Fairport, NY USA 05-26-15 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An epic tale spoiled by unlikable characters"

    This book held my interest enough for me to finish listening to all 22 hours, but just barely. The biggest problem with this book was that I didn't particularly like any of the main characters, and therefore didn't care what happened to any of them. As I listen while driving and while working on physical tasks like woodworking, I was frequently completely lost about what was going on. This was due to the author's tendency to throw wild technological ideas at the reader while switching between protagonists with little or no warning that a context switch had occurred.
    For most of the book I had little understanding of the motivations of the protagonists, although it becomes more clear at the end.
    On the positive side, the author did a good job of creating a universe limited by the speed of light. The ship itself was fascinating, an ancient vessel which had over the years become decrepit like a 30 year old automobile which the owners had kept on the road but most of the non-essential features are either broken or have quirks.
    As a space opera, of course the fate of mankind is on the line. The story is original, but the whole crisis seemed rather abstract and really did not have me on the edge of my seat. The narrator does a good job except for the occasional mispronounced word.
    Overall, I thought this book was not terrible, but could have been better. I will not be rushing to get the next book in the series.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason 01-31-15
    Jason 01-31-15 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
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    "Terrible editing ruins this audiobook"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doug D. Eigsti Colorado Springs, Colorado United States 01-21-14
    Doug D. Eigsti Colorado Springs, Colorado United States 01-21-14 Member Since 2013

    Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Compendium of Technological Marvels"

    This is book one in the main sequence of the Revelation Space series. Based on listener recommendations I postponed listening until after first hearing CHASM CITY. And it was a good thing I did or I would have never gotten around to Chasm City. This book has many of the same elements, many of the same political machinations, the same level of fantastic technology, but none of the spark of genius, none of the psychological surprises of Chasm City that make it so fantastic. Sure there are glimpses of what Reynolds is capable of but, on its own, this book does not inspire. What this book does offer is an extensive compendium of advanced technological marvels. It hearkens me back to some of the Science Fiction of old where the gadget was the thing. I would compare this to Herman Melville’s MOBY DICK. But before you think this is a glowing recommendation, please read on. My assessment of Moby Dick is this: It is an exciting 70 page revenge novella imbedded in a tedious 400 page Maritime encyclopedia. Revelation space is a seventy megabyte (70 MB) short story encased in a one gigabyte (1GB) speculative fiction catalog of ideas. It has the scant characterization one would expect from a short story, and also like a short story, has great ideas that make it worthwhile. One thing I can say in its defense: This book, like any Hard Science Fiction stripped of story and characters, is still a fascinating exploration into scientific speculation, while Epic Fantasy stripped of the same is just so much double double toil and trouble. All in all it is a interesting book, but more for the ideas than for the characterization or for the story.

    John Lee, who is much better reading Chasm City, is here less engaging. His smooth voice never seems to impart any sense of urgency to the experience, and this book does need some inspired help. He does have a wonderful sonorous voice that is never tiring, so he makes it pleasant to plod through the litany of technological wonders hour after hour. My chief complaint for him is that some of his women sound more masculine than his men. Maybe I am being too critical of the novel REVELATION SPACE because I see enough potential here to hear the series out to the end, and Chasm City shows how good this series can be. I guess that I am just a sucker for a gadget story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Saint Louis, Virgin Islands (U.S.) 03-18-13
    Stephen Saint Louis, Virgin Islands (U.S.) 03-18-13 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good but flawed."
    What did you like best about Revelation Space? What did you like least?

    The book sets up some very interesting premises. I'm curious to see how it all wraps up.

    That said, the book moves painfully slow, at times. I wouldn't say any of it was superfluous, everything seemed to have a reason, but there was a lot of time spent with not much happening.

    And I agree with previous reviewers that the editing makes it a very hard listen. A lot of times I can multi-task when listening to an audiobook but not much with this one. Even walking to and from work could be a challenge as I had to pay close attention to scene changes or I'd miss them. There literally is no pause between segments.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The explanation for the state of the galaxy was an intriguing one and something I'd not heard before.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    More distinction between character voices. Everyone has almost the same accent. Couple that in with the lousy editing job and you've got a recipe for confusion. Normally I love John Lee's narration but this was not his best work.


    Do you think Revelation Space needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Pretty sure it has one.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Novie Kailua Kona, HI, United States 02-11-13
    Novie Kailua Kona, HI, United States 02-11-13 Member Since 2012

    Retired nightclub performer/computer technician, I now teach hula and ukulele to seniors, and record Hawaiian music for my halau!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very little appeal, sorry, but no."

    Fro me, this book is a little hard-core science fiction. I can appreciate that the author is himself a scientist, but maybe that's what got in the way. It has been a few days since I finished this book, and to tell you the truth, I can't remember any of the characters. There is one, Sylveste(?) but I only remember the name because I used to live near Sylvester, GA. See, I couldn't stay on track with the story if nonsense like that kept bubbling up in my mind in the middle of the thing.

    Just so you know I did slog through it, this is what I DID get, that Revelation Space is some kind of liquid planet where when you go swimming, it takes all your personality and knowledge and sometimes gives you back some of the knowledge it's been sucking out of other people. And sometimes it just spits you out, a mass of salmon-colored slime. Apparently some people think this is a great idea, because they are all looking for it.

    1. There was no apparent pause or breath or whatever between the scene changes. I often had to back track to make sure I hadn't dozed off. Only now, by reading other reviews, did I learn that I am not crazy.

    2. The narrator's fakey fakey accents were terribly distracting. Why, in the middle of space, millions of miles from earth, and several centuries forward, are people still talking with accents? I heard French mixed with German, Japanese that sounded like Charlie Chan (and that was fakey to begin with). I think the narrator got confused as to who was speaking with what accent, because at times it appeared like the entire dialogue was coming from a single character. Even when there was no dialogue, the narrator was sometimes reading with an accent...

    3. Another thing, the characters had no character.

    4. And, forget figuring out what gender a person is. The narrator didn't even TRY to sound female. We got all these Russian names, Spanish names, etc. and whatever. I could not figure out what sex these people were. After a while I didn't care.

    I really wasted my time with this one. I have another of this author's books in my library and I am definitely not going to go there. The narrator is the same - oh, joy.

    P.S. I looked this book up on Wikipedia and even after the "glowing" things it has to say about the Revelation Space Universe and Mr. Reynolds, I am not moved.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    LaDerick 10-22-12
    LaDerick 10-22-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Horrible... I could not finish it."
    Would you try another book from Alastair Reynolds and/or John Lee?

    Yes


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Not sure.. I love Doomsday books


    What didn’t you like about John Lee’s performance?

    I love John Lee in other books but this one is Bone Dry!


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment


    Any additional comments?

    I could not get past the first 4 hours.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emanuel Zion, IL, United States 05-10-12
    Emanuel Zion, IL, United States 05-10-12 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Boring!"

    Well, thats just my opinion. It felt like I was watching(Listening) a foreign movie. Felt like the writer wanted to make sure that you know that he was a well read and intelligent individual and he probably is but it made for a trying story that was easy to get confused with.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Midland, MD, United States 03-30-12
    John Midland, MD, United States 03-30-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    "Probably the most annoying narration ever"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Anybody who really gets a kick out of being thoroughly confused.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    I really couldn't tell. The narrator decided that since everybody had foreign sounding names, that they should all have accents which made deciphering their speech give me a headache.


    Would you be willing to try another one of John Lee’s performances?

    I'd sooner cut off my toes with a boltcutter. His fake French accent for everyone with a French last name was horrendous. His fake Russian accent was worse. Then when a French character spoke to a Russian character he lost all distinction between them and it sounded like an insane person with a speech impediment arguing with himself.
    If they ever re-do this book with a different narrator, I'd get it again. As it stands, I had to turn it off after 2 hours.
    I might as well have thrown my money in a toilet, because that's the same amount of enjoyment I got out of his performance.


    What character would you cut from Revelation Space?

    I wouldn't cut any. I need 15 words. 15 words.


    Any additional comments?

    In addition to the horrifying accents, there was no pause or break between scenes. A scene on a spaceship blended seamlessly into a scene on a planet leaving the listener completely lost. Mr. Lee's uninflected deadpan narration moved so hurriedly from scene to scene that it was like trying to read a technical manual with pages removed and replaced with pages from The Joy Of Sex. Both instructional, both manuals, but you'll never get the whole picture from either.
    Tell Mr.Lee to go back to waiting tables.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • Robert
    Lower Earley, United Kingdom
    8/6/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not suitable as an audio book"

    I read this novel in paperback a number of years and thought that getting it as an audio book would be a good way to re-read (listen) to it.

    The story is first rate but it may be just too complex for most people as an audio book.

    At the beginning the chapters jump from plot line to plot line and while the chapters are noted the transitions are jarring and it takes a long time to get up to speed on everything that is going on. Eventually the plot lines start to converge and things get better but this is a very exhausting listen and at the end instead of looking forward to the next one you want to go have a lie down.

    Again, the story is very good and I certainly recommend getting the print version and the narration is quite good but you need to be a dedicated Science Fiction fan (I am) to get through this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Miss Amy Rushworth
    7/4/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Just don't..."
    What would have made Revelation Space better?

    I have listened to the first part of this book maybe 5 times, I couldn't tell you what its about or any of the characters names. The narrator seems to have some sort of midwiping ability.


    What will your next listen be?

    Nothing with this guy reading it.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    The narrator was just so horribly bland I have never given up on an audio book until now...


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rui
    EDINBURGH, United Kingdom
    7/1/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Enjoyable plot, so-so ending, and average narrator"
    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    I don't like John Lee performances that much, especially after listening to books with other narrators. I find it hard to distinguish between characters.
    Eventually I get used to it, and doesn't distract that much.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Not really.
    I found the beginning quite slow and boring. Halfway through, things start getting more interesting.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Midgeslayer
    Glasgow, UK
    6/17/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The Ministry of Silly Voices"

    I like John Lees other work. Perhaps it is the characters he has to portray here. A portentously delivered giggle inducing mixture of dodgy French accents from Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail, Inspector Clouseau's oriental man servant Kato from the Pink Panther films, Evil Russian female bond villains and a touch of 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum'. The giggles pass though and it is not a bad story after all.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Iain
    Altrincham, United Kingdom
    6/8/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Dreadful narration ruins the book."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Narration was so poor that I had to give up listening and return this one. Didn't get a chance to reach any conclusion about the story itself.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Alastair Reynolds again?

    Maybe


    What didn’t you like about John Lee’s performance?

    The narrator has some extremely irritating habits. Each sentence is started loudly, and then gradually fades in volume as it approaches the end; I found it almost impossible to find a comfortable listening volume where I could still hear the whole sentence.

    The narrator also seems to have very little range; one 'foreign' accent gets used for a vast range of characters, sometimes on both sides of a conversation, so it becomes impossible to discern which character is speaking.

    A further issue, which may be editing rather than narration, is that there is often no break between different chapters or settings. The narration runs seamlessly from one to the next as if it is all part of the same sentence - it may be several lines before you realise that the setting or the character has changed.


    You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    I will never know, because the problems with the narration became so distracting that I couldn't listen to it.


    Any additional comments?

    The narration quality on the Audible audiobooks inevitably varies greatly, and some narrators are better than others. On the whole, I expect and can live with that, but this particular example probably needs to be withdrawn from sale.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • William C. Powell
    High Wycombe
    5/1/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "marred by weak narration"
    What did you like best about Revelation Space? What did you like least?

    It's a good yarn, takes a while to get going. It's badly let down by the narration. See my full review below.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Up until the mid-point, it's all a bit disjointed. The sweet spot is from about 50% to 95%, where the story moves along nicely, all the protagonists have come together, and it's a fine action yarn. The last 5% was a let down.


    What three words best describe John Lee’s performance?

    monotonous, hurried, limited


    If this book were a film would you go see it?

    yes


    Any additional comments?

    Well, I managed to avoid the DNF on this one, and indeed managed to get back to a point where I rather enjoyed the ride.

    I had a couple of possible outcomes for the novel. One in which all the villains and minor characters die, and all the major protagonists survive. The other in which some of the villains get their comeuppance, but by no means all, and in which at least one major character dies, probably saving humanity as far as that is possible. And that's properly dies - none of this reincarnation as an AI nonsense. If I'd been reading Iain M Banks, I wouldn't have bet on either outcome over the other.

    I'll avoid the spoiler. Suffice to say I wasn't entirely pleased with Alastair Reynolds' rabbits and hats.

    Faults first, and those specific to the audiobook - the narrator (John Lee) is poor.
    The emphasis is practically identical for every sentence - he starts forte then fades to a mezzo piano, almost piano by the end.
    His range of accents is frustratingly small. He has one French accent, which he uses for every inhabitant of one world, regardless of age or gender. The starship crew get a hybrid Russian/Japanese accent, which is somewhat erratic.
    His pauses as he switches between the starship and one or other of the two planets are too short to be worthy of the name. Too many times I find myself a paragraph or two into a new scene before I realise there's been a change, and I have to work out where I am and who is now on stage. Mental rewind - no, missed it. Bah!

    General faults:

    "Quadrant 5" - really? Is it no longer a requirement for authors to understand the etymology of the words they use?
    Too much repetition, too many infodumps (sometimes the same infodump repeated for the benefit of a new character who didn't hear the first one).
    The alpha copy of Dan Sylveste - a plot point that wasn't, at least not in this book. A red herring?
    The computer security was inconsistent - lax or strong as the plot needed it.
    Sunstealer's potency or impotency was likewise variable, according to the needs of the plot.

    Some positives:

    A surprising level of empathy built up with Volyova over time. Likewise Khouri.
    The descriptions of the light-hugger ship - like the Nostromo, but with intelligent rats, a rotting infrastructure and sludge/slime. However it is not explained how the rats survive the acceleration that kills a rogue crewmember. Nor what happens to all that liquid under the same acceleration.

    Still, it is a good adventure, though the ending is just too pat. The audiobook is harder work than it needs to be.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Graham
    Hatton of Fintray, United Kingdom
    6/13/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Jumpy to start Good once it gets going"

    Initialy I thought I'd made a big error on this one, it starts by bouncing about through multiple related plot lines, It may have made more sense in the book but in audio I found myself going hu!, only to realise the narator had switch between the set up lines.
    Once they come together its a really good book but it takes a few hours to do so.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    Winchester, United Kingdom
    6/7/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Epic hard sci-fi"

    This is one of my favourite books. Reynolds has a real physics background, and his comfort with unthinkable scale and relatavistic distances. The plot is constructed like a steel trap, with massive stakes, and strong, memorable characters. If Christopher Nolan did a pure space opera, it would end up being like this. The characters are all brilliant, ruthless, terrifying competent types, which I love, but others might not. It's hardcore sci-fi though, so it's more like Greg Bear or Greg Egan than Isaac Asimov or Larry Niven.

    John Lee does a competent enough job of the narration, but it's clear that he doesn't really understand what he's saying. He has a tendency to make all the characters sound like louche French philosophers drinking Pernod in a Parisian cafe circa 1913, even the Middle Eastern soldier Khouri and Russian engineer Volyova. Also, he uses the American pronunciation of words like process (with a short o) which seemed odd.

    I also question the decision for a man to be the narrator. There are more important female than male characters here (Volyova, Khouri, The Madamoiselle, Pascale, Sluka, Sudjic etc.), and on balance I think I'd have preferred an actress.

    This kvetching aside, he wasn't distracting or anything, so it's still a worthwhile purchase if the subject matter is your thing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Jack
    London, United Kingdom
    8/24/12
    Overall
    "Worthwhile in the end."

    John Lee's narration starts out with a peculiarly jarring rhythmic structure, I must have listened to the first hour of this book half a dozen times before I got into it. However, by the end of part one I was hooked; the rhythm had become more natural and my ear attuned to the subtleties of the character's accents. An interesting story and the first Alastair Reynolds I have 'read', the narrator will not dissuade me from future listens, but neither will I be rushing to find other books that he has read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mogster
    UK
    6/18/12
    Overall
    "Dissapointing"

    Just given up on this. It is a shame as the synopsis sounded great. Not sure whether it was the reader or just that the story is hyper complex but after two hours of listening I had absolutely no idea what was going on. It seemed to be a whole bunch of stories which jumped all over the place. I am sure it came together at some point but with the reader sounding bored and disinterested and putting on silly accents for virtually all of the charaters, I had had enough and bailed out at 2hrs 36mins! One star as that is the least I can give!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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