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Chasm City

Narrated by: John Lee
Series: Revelation Space, Book 2
Length: 23 hrs and 3 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (2,658 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Named one of the best novels of the year by both Locus and Science Fiction Chronicle, Alastair Reynolds's debut Revelation Space redefined the space opera. With Chasm City, Reynolds invites you to reenter the bizarre universe of his imagination as he redefines Hell.

The once-utopian Chasm City - a domed human settlement on an otherwise inhospitable planet - has been overrun by a virus known as the Melding Plague, capable of infecting any body, organic or computerized. Now, with the entire city corrupted---from the people to the very buildings they inhabit---only the most wretched sort of existence remains. For security operative Tanner Mirabel, it is the landscape of nightmares through which he searches for a lowlife postmortal killer. But the stakes are raised when his search brings him face to face with a centuries-old atrocity that history would rather forget.

©2008 Alastair Reynolds (P)2009 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Consistently startling.... Reynolds remains one of the hottest...SF writers around." ( Publishers Weekly)

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Enter Revelation Space HERE

I almost always read many audible reviews before I pick up a new audio book, but in the case of the Revelation Space series, I really wish I had read the reviews on each of the books before I started any of them. If I had I would have realized that although Audible has Chasm City listed as book 2 in the Revelation Space series, it is actually a prequel to Revelation Space and can stand alone. I would have also seen Michael's and Robert Eric Koch's reviews suggesting that you start Alastair Reynolds with this book. Although my first Reynolds was House of Suns and I think that's a great one to start with, I certainly agree with those reviewers that Chasm City would be a good place to start and I would strongly recommend that you get your first introduction to the world of Revelation Space via Chasm City rather than with Revelation Space. Although Revelation Space was published only a year earlier than Chasm City, there is an enormous improvement in Reynold's writing between the two books. Chasm City is not only much more tightly plotted and easier to follow, there is very adept use of symbolism and foreshadowing in Chasm City that adds suspense and thrills that just weren't there in Revelation Space. (Makes me want to listen again just to find all those little gems that were cluing my subconscious.)

This is a really dark, kind of creepy story and Reynolds uses such evocative language through much of the book that I was surprised a couple of times while listening to look up and realize it was a nice sunny day out - in my head I was tip-toeing through ghost spaceships, diving into the mists of Chasm City, and evading hunters on the mean streets at night. There are two story lines interwoven into the novel and both are told first person. Reynolds has done a wonderful job in pulling the listener into both stories and the plot is well organized so it is easy to follow although it is rather intricate. The first person perspective in this novel can give you the willies at times - I didn't like the decisions that one of the POV characters was making as he becomes rather megalomaniacal, but I had already so identified with him that I couldn't quite stop rooting for him even while hating him. Now, THAT is creepy-good writing!

This is a much more methodical layout of Revelation Space than you get in the debut novel and I think reading Chasm City first would make it easier to follow Revelation Space. John Lee brought his A-game to this book so the narration is great also.

Great future science, good characters, super-twisty plot, terrific writing, wonderful narration - this is a killer good audio book!

83 of 84 people found this review helpful

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  • Joshua
  • mcleansville, NC, United States
  • 10-27-11

A hard-edged but fascinating first-person mystery.

Another great story by Alastair Reynolds. Listened to the audio format of this one; as always, narrator John Lee does a FANTASTIC job of telling the story, keeping the characters separate with his amazing variety of voices, and adding just the right touch of emotion and intonation at all the right times. And of course it's very pleasant to listen to, I still think it sounds just like Sean Connery reading the story. In short, I wish he was the narrator of a lot more audiobooks out there.

This one was a standalone book in Alastair Reynold's "Revelation Space" universe, which with each book shows off the depth of Reynold's universe and the planning he's put into it. This one is a standalone, and a prequel to the Trilogy proper that adds a lot of backstory. A bit darker and very much like a Noir mystery, it keeps you interested, and guessing, right up until the end. There was quite a bit of language in it as one might imagine from this type of story.

I am very glad he wrote this one from first-person viewpoint. I also rather enjoy the info-dumps that Reynolds puts into a lot of his stories - a plot device not used by everyone and even reviled by some, but I think it's necessary with stories of this complexity. Besides, they always appear at just the right moments and helps to avoid the frustration of wondering what's really going on that some authors make you go through.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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A Great Standalone Read Worth Your Time...

Alastair Reynolds is a fantastic writer, and often, the challenge is to pick a first read of this exceptional author. Well, this is a GREAT place to begin: Strong plot and subplots, wonderful descriptive wring that draws you in, characters with appreciable depth, and a universe that is chock full of original ideas and execution. Chasm City is, in my humble opinion, one of the author's best works.

And it's also a GREAT listen.

You've probably read the audiobook's description, and have made a general opinion. Well, stop there. You have NO IDEA how well this has been written for you, the listener.

From viruses that cause religious memories and experiences, to dna-level bio-political synchronicity, to infected nanotechnology that warps architecture, to biology and societies on a far-flung planet that went from becoming the hub of the known galaxy slowly grinding into the dregs of a forgotten but very active planet of biological and social mysteries. Place a ferocious chase between murderer and hunter in this maelstrom, and throw in a backstory involving deception on the multigenerational starships that delivered mankind to this world. It's simply engaging and listen-worthy.

AND. You can start here to get acquainted with the author's other works.

There is a challenge though, and it's keeping up with the sweeping storylines that crisscross at many points within the story. Pay attention, and you won't be disappointed.

Keep your hands in the car at all times, because this is one exhilarating roller-coaster ride.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

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Best Of The Best, A Must Read for Any SF Fan

Any additional comments?

Alastair Reynolds is easily one of the three or four best science fiction writers working today and when it comes to hard SF, there’s really no one better. I’m convinced that Reynold’s body of work will be the standard by which both space opera and hard SF are judged for years to come. Chasm City is his best stand-alone novel (just barely nudged from the top spot imo by Redemption Ark). The novel is set within the Revelation Space universe, delving deep into the future culture in which the events of Revelation Space take place. A truly original and groundbreaking novel, Chasm City truly does redefine the space opera genre. While most space operas find convenient ways around Einstein and physics, Reynolds actually uses the physical restrictions of the real world to tell his story. The characters are relatable but just weird enough to work in the context of his universe. I highly recommend this novel for any SF fan and it works as a great introduction to Reynold’s body of work. The narration of John Lee seems, at times, a little colloquial but is otherwise fine.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Kyle
  • Gloversville, New York, United States
  • 04-02-12

The best of the Revelation Space series to date

Would you listen to Chasm City again? Why?

I've read Revelation Space, Redemption Ark, Absolution Gap, The Prefect, and now Chasm City, and I feel it's safe to say the latter is Alastair Reynold's best work. The story is great, but the thing that really makes it stand out is it's the only novel in the series written from the first person perspective. Therefore, the entire novel focuses on character development, which is done brilliantly. I don't feel like this book would diminish greatness were I to read it/listen to it several more times.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Reynolds as you expect him

Nice tie in to the other books. Great narrator, with a variety of accents that I enjoyed. A little confusing when some of the "dreams" begin, but you grow used to it. Love the story line, and Reynolds writing. Enjoyable book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A soldier, an arms dealer, and a psychopath--

Ex-soldier/sniper/assassin/security chief Tanner Mirabel was born on Sky's Edge, a backwater world colonized hundreds of years ago by the first and last solar-system-born flotilla of generation ships that upon reaching the target world disintegrated into a never-ending civil war. Thus when the people of Sky's Edge trade with space-living Ultranauts for advanced technologies, they eschew longevity in favor of weaponry. Other cultures like that of the planet Yellowstone's Chasm City's "post-mortal," body-modifying, and jaded aristocrats (who live in the Canopy above the Mulch-dwelling downtrodden humans and bio-engineered pigs) view Sky's Edge as a world of quaint savages. But Chasm City has its own problems, having been visited seven years ago by the Melding Plague, which mutated myriad nanotech machines, especially the "medichines" embedded throughout bodies, brains, and blood streams, and made nightmarish monstrosities like human-building hybrids. The plague is somewhat under control, thanks in part to the mysterious drug Dream Fuel--But what will happen when Tanner comes to Chasm City on a quest of revenge against Argent Reivich, a Sky's Edge aristocrat whose men shot off Tanner's foot and killed his arms dealer boss Cahuella and Cahuella's wife Gitta, on whom Tanner had a crush? And what is the meaning of Tanner's vivid "dreams" (complete with stigmata) of the life of Sky Haussmann, the man responsible for getting the flotilla to Sky's Edge but also for committing such heinous crimes that he was crucified, thereby inspiring a religion to spring up around his legend?

Alastair Reynolds' big novel Chasm City (2001), like his others, is full of sublime space opera noir replete with driven characters and flora and fauna and technologies and cultures extrapolated from particular (often extreme) environments. Tanner is no saint, having become a clinical assassin killing even his own side's soldiers without questioning the reasons for his orders, and then having gone to work as security chief for war criminal Cahuella. But he does have a knightly code whereby if you help him he'll help you, if the situation permits he won't be unnecessarily cruel or homicidal, and if he gives his word he keeps it. He is quite the tough talker, as if having stepped out of a hardboiled pulp mystery and into a space opera. Indeed, some of the dialogue is cliched or klunky, like "Gideon is extremely bad news," and "Don't even think about trying something or you'll become an interesting addition to the décor." That said, Reynolds also writes some neat lines, like "You look so out of place, Tanner, that you're in danger of starting a fashion," and "Just start the thing up, or the only composing you'll be doing is decomposing."

Anyway, Reynolds writes great, vivid, sf-strange descriptions. The giant hamadryad "snakes" of Sky's Edge and the outre denizens and buildings of Chasm City and the creepy kinky Ultras of no fixed address are all top notch. He does great space opera sublime, as in his depiction of super advanced alien maggots or grubs who've been space faring for at least 300 million years, long enough to make all human endeavor look like a veneer of dust atop a mountain. (Hey, I enjoy having my species get taken down a peg or two.) And check out this clockwork gun: "It was made completely out of carbon--diamond, mostly--but with some fullerenes for lubrication and energy-storage. There were no metals or explosives in it; no circuitry. Only intricate levers and ratches, greased by fullerene spheres. It fired spin-stabilised diamond flechettes, drawing its power from the relaxation of fullerene springs coiled almost to breaking point. You wound it up with a key, like a clockwork mouse."
(Alas, after plenty of attention, the gun plays no role in the plot.)

Reynolds writes exciting action scenes, featuring plenty of graphic violence. But he has a prudish aversion to sex, as in the only scene hinting at love making:
I pulled her to me, looking into her face.
"For today, yes."
[Here we must imagine the sexy interlude that Reynolds doesn't write.]
I woke before Zebra.

He likes to start in the middle of the action and to dole out information little by little, so that beginning his book is disorienting, but if you persevere and grasp clues, you start figuring out what's happened and caring about what will happen. (In fact, a few times in the second half of the novel he tries to be too helpful by summarizing too much information to be sure the reader keeps up to speed.)

There are plenty of compelling themes here: life and death, immortality and mortality, memory and identity, war and peace, the degree to which ethical action is essential or relative, the possibility of personal or social change, etc.

However, I have trouble with the "Life's what you make it" theme and the suggestion that hero and war criminal are just fluid definitions applied by people in power. That's probably true, but such an attitude may be used to remove responsibility for war crimes and murder. Is Reynolds advocating a let-the-past-go approach to atrocities because we're different today, as if changing into better people frees us from having to pay for past crimes?

About the audiobook. . . Although reader John Lee does a great booming Lago/Maggot, creepy Marco Ferris, and sandpapery Reivich and brings the book to life, too often he tries too hard to differentiate characters from the same class in the same culture via different accents, like Quirrenbach (German ?) and Zebra (British), both of whom are from Chasm City's Canopy, or Gomez (cockney or Celtic?) and Sky (British), both of whom are from the Santiago generation ship. And when he's not indulging in accents, many of his characters sound similar, due to his British base accent and somewhat snide dialogue delivery.

Chasm City shares the same universe as many of Reynolds' other novels, but I believe they are all stand alones. Fans of big scale hardboiled space opera should like this book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Very atmospheric

It has been a while since I took iPod out of my car into home to listen to a book. Chasm City was the book which gripped me so much that I did that.

This was my first "read" of Reynolds and quite a pleasant one! I am great fan of darker, atmospheric and realistic (as far as we can imagine it today) science fiction which covers not only science and technology but also human aspect of future. This book has it all! Story is very atmospheric and surrounding, settings and tech are not completely whacked out like in some sf fantasy books and there is a lot of human aspect and emotions, unlike some dry classics like Rama or Ringworld.

The Narrator is very adequate. In Revelation Space - which I listen to now - John Lee has the annoying habit to start a sentence with much intonation and trail out from there, becoming silenter and silenter - this was complained about by some in reviews to RS. Well, it is not present here! John Lee is really much better in this one IMHO.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Kelly
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • 05-19-16

Absolutely love this universe.

Alastair Reynolds blew me away with this space opera, and I've read the series 3 times now. He creates entire genres of humans. Different worlds and whole new enemies and dangers. Chasm City is an amazing back story for a few planets in the universe. John Lee is the best narrator!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Steve
  • Delray Beach, FL, United States
  • 10-14-13

Ties The Alistair Universe Of Books All Together

I wish I had read this one before his others. It explains the references from his other books and would have made the whole series much easier to enjoy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Martin
  • 07-22-13

Revelation space.

What other book might you compare Chasm City to, and why?

Chasm City is part of the revelation space series, in the timeline of that universe it comes second in the series - but on the advice of the author from his own website I listened to this 4th and I would agree that is the best way to go through the series. That said this book stands perfectly well without any of the others and does do not have an ending that requires you to read more nor does it require you to have read any of the previous books. Reads perfectly well as a stand alone.

What does John Lee bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

John Lee is for me a great Narrator, some people do not seem to get on well with his style but I personally find him very easy to listen to and I enjoy every book he reads.

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

It took me the best part of 2 weeks to listen to this one which for me is quite a long time. I have over indulged in the revelation space series in the last couple of months - listening to them one after the other, which is quite an undertaking in terms of time! I think I will take a short break from there now and listen to another Author - till I return for a listen to The Prefect :) Had I not been so indulgent in this series I am sure I would listened to this book in 4 or 5 sittings.

Any additional comments?

Fantastic series and for the number of Audible credits you use compared to the many hours of listening you get, the value for money is superb.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • AndyMackenzie
  • 05-08-10

chasm city

great book and loved the variety of characters. hope more in the future.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Jake
  • 03-04-15

Hi5 Alastair Lad!

In Short an Awesome book, well read, very good story, very good characters, I'm no expert but it gets my approval.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-30-11

thrilling

This is a fantastic book that kept me fumbling for an excuse to don my headphones and continue listening, Alastair manages to write twists into his novels that reveal themselves subtly and exactly when they should, I never found myself guessing them prematurely or getting lost in the plot.
His superb grasp on physics and evolutionary biology combined with his creative imagination make the whole story very credible and intriguing, I would recommend listening to "Revelation space" before this, and visiting Alastairs website to view the chronological order of all his novels as they are not clear from here.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Cliente Amazon
  • 05-17-19

A must for Sci-fi lovers

Great book! Found it a bit difficult to imagine at times, but what Reynolds has created with this series is something extraordinary. A must for every sci-fi lover.

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  • Phil
  • 05-16-19

One of the best sci-fi stories I have ever read

Beautifully plotted and executed, a story with more twists and turns than any snake. Fantastic!

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  • Clay Baker
  • 04-20-19

amazing ideas - but maybe too many of them?

i was captivated by chasm city - as in the setting. absolutely loved it - more than so many other sci fi settings. brilliant.
did the story really need all those weird twists and turns though?

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  • fergus grant - stevenson
  • 01-27-19

Entertaining but flawed

I found the world in which this book is set entertaining and I certainly didn't guess the ending from listening to the first third of the book. However the main character is a bit annoying and rather unlikeable.
This is not as good as the first book in the series - Revelation Space. Having said that I will probably listen to the third book too so I can't have been put off that much!

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  • Mr. N. R. C. Kiley
  • 09-08-18

Loved it

This is a great book, it starts slow and builds in pace and anticipation, until you can see what's going on, you think. Very clever construct.

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  • Pete Barlow
  • 06-29-18

Another story?!

Having read all of AR’s books to get to hear them read has given me a new set of stories. Of course you know the plot BUT JL’s narrative gives a different slant - fantastic!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-21-19

Alastair Reynolds dropped the ball before it was thrown.

This book was so disappointing. Not because it was a terrible story, but because he developed it so well and then copped out at the very last moment. He obviously didn’t realize what he had before he threw his jewel in the bin. I’m surprised that after 700+ pages of good writing he couldn’t think of anything better than a completely absurd deus-ex machina climax.

I also wish he’d had cut the over used tropes and cliches of science fiction. He has a PhD in astrophysics you think he’d be smarter and more original. He takes the horse that’s been beaten to death, revives it with fantastical futuristic technology, and then beats it some more.

On the plus side John Lees performance was superb.

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  • Ben
  • 10-08-16

addictive

Chasm city was a story that had me consistently coming back for more, eager to uncover the next twist. the narration grew on me, and after an hour or so I couldn't have imagined a better voice for it. excellent

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  • Vytautas
  • 02-19-16

Did listen twice. Had to though!

On second listening i could see the significance of the different bits which seemed unrelated the first time.

The fact i got through it twice prices or was a good book!

A wacky and complex mystery. A mix of harsh scientific realities and circus- like horror for a future space-faring society. Very imaginative and largely makes sense.

I wish the characters had a bit more ... character. I found them largely paper dolls. You could switch any of their names and you wouldn't notice the difference because they don't have distinctive traits or behaviours. But it's OK. It enables the mystery.

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  • johnnie
  • 05-26-15

Steam punk

Enjoyable in many ways though the story was ultimately weak. I think the author might be hoping for a film deal; steam punk blade runner. The first book is on another level. I'll read the third in the series to form a better opinion.

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  • Thesle
  • 05-01-15

Another brilliant book

Chasm City starts so far away from where Reynolds ended Revelation Space that the reader wonders if the two will ever meet. Reynolds doesn't disappoint though, intertwining two story lines to reveal more depth in the protagonist than a linear story could. Reynolds has a great way of not only showing how the protagonist influences those around him to reach a better end, but also how the protagonist himself was influenced, for better or worse. As the story climaxes we are not actually sure if we are meant to empathise with the main character or his antagonist.

Lee's narration is a much more solid performance that Revelation Space, making this book an easier listen as well.

All in all, a great story that will create new fans and engage existing ones.

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  • Kai
  • 05-22-17

Fantastic

This is, while very different in some ways, superior to Revelation Space, the first in the series. It deals with certain themes and character in extremely imaginative and spectacular ways. While not necessarily perfect, or especially close to it, it is more than worth listening to.

And of course, John Lee is still my favourite narrator. I can't fault him.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful