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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

Critic Reviews

"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)

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  • Eoin
  • Kilcullen, Ireland
  • 07-15-12


This book defeated me, I am ashamed to say. I do most of my audio listening whilst driving, but this requires you too pay too much attention, and thus, while driving you lose important plot points, for two reasons:

1) There is a lot of tech within the book, and diluted time due to near-light speed travel on ships, and there is a lot of scene-shifting within chapters, which leads me to...

2) Other reviewers have alluded to it already, but it was a bad move not to have some sort of pause or audio-cue when scene-shifting between chapters. What happens is that John Lee (whose other stuff is ok, in my opinion), moves between scenes without taking a breath and you completely lose where you are whilst driving.

Shame I have to give it up, it's supposed to be a classic series. But them's the breaks.

127 of 133 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Challenging noir space opera bursting with ideas

Revelation Space has three main characters one of Russian decent, one of French and one Indian, with many Japanese characters figuring prominently, and the narrator portrays each one with the appropriate accent. The perspective of the novel shifts between these characters liberally within each chapter. Further, future tech flies fast and furious with explanations dispersed (sometimes) over several chapters. Taken together these factors make for a challenging read, but the fast-paced intricate and mind-bending ride is incredibly rewarding. The Revelation Space universe is proof that Reynolds' space operas are equal to the likes of M. John Harrison's or Iain M. Banks'.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Mauricio
  • North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 08-19-10

A challenge that's worth the investment

A great read. As another reviewer said, this is very much in the style of Peter F. Hamilton's books. Epic and complex. I started getting frustrated at the beginning since things don't seem to make sense, but if you stick with it then everything falls into place.
I wish a knew what some of the tougher scientific concepts mean because there's some stuff here that is beyond my understanding but in a way that made it even more interesting.

I love John Lee's narration and characterization in the book, although I do agree that the cuts between scenes are so short that you get confused when things end and start. Other than that I look forward to the next book which I'm downloading as I write this.

31 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • Gillette
  • Lawrence, KS, United States
  • 02-27-10

Frustrations with narrator and editing

The book so far is very good. However, the combination of the narrating and one particular editing decision has turned me off of the audio version. So far I have only been unable to finish one audiobook I've purchased from (out of about 150) and I may now have to change that number to two.

The Narrator: John Lee has never been my favorite, but I've had him read four other books in my collection, and he did fine. On this one, the voices for the characters are goofy even more often than in the narration of Peter F Hamilton's "Pandora's Star" and "Judas Unchained". In many scenes, there's just not enough vocal differentiation between characters to follow the scene clearly.

The biggest problem: Some "genius" editor decided that there would be NO pause, NONE at all, when the book changes scenes. Since there are multiple plot threads and not quite enough vocal variety between some characters, and the scene changes rather frequently, this editing decision is really disruptive to the listening experience. I was so confused about which characters were where and doing what that I had to start over after getting about five hours in, and it was only the second time through that I began to recognize that there were even scene changes!! There's less of a pause between scene changes than pauses between the end of one sentence and the beginning of another. Nerd that I am I timed it! If the aforementioned genius editor hadn't decided to cut 5 minutes from the total length of the book in this manner, I might have bought the other four books from Audible. No chance now, unless some reviewer of the other books can tell me whether there are pauses at scene changes.

101 of 110 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Mixed review

This book is about one person's quest to find what disaster befell an ancient civilization and how it is relevant to the human race. The story describes this future world quite well, with some imaginative technologies and situations. It all seems very possible that such a future could come about - some of it at least. The reader, as usual, is very good.

The problem I had with this book is that there is not a clear protagonist. The main character is not such a likeable guy and you don't get to know him well enough to understand his motivations for this life long search, hence it seems a little contrived. The other characters are ambiguous as well. It is not that I want all the characters to be one dimensionally good or bad, but you do want to identify yourself with them and that did not happen for me.

Then a lot of the explanations of why/what happened are given near the end of the book. One person or another just fills in the blanks by recounting some of the salient facts. This never works well in a book of fiction. It is much more interesting to let a character experience something, instead of a documentary style of offering up just facts. I found myself scrambling to put it all together; too many facts all at once (of course an audio book does not help here, since it is hard to re-read a sentence or passage).

The end was a little disappointing too.

All in all though, it is still a story worth listening too; but it could have been made a lot better with some good editing and sharper characterizations.

61 of 68 people found this review helpful

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A worthwhile slog through fog

I have two pieces of advice for anyone considering this audio book:

1. Don't start Alistair Reynolds with Revelation Space. My first Reynolds was House of Suns and I think that's a great one to start with although I haven't yet read all of his work. If I had started with Revelation Space, I don't think I would have finished this book much less read any of his other work and THAT would be a shame.
2. Find a good plot summary before you start listening to this book. This is one that would be tough to follow in print and even tougher on audio. A good plot summary helps tremendously. I would write one, but fortunately, Jefferson has included a good one in his review so I'd point you there. (Thanks, Jefferson.) There are some others on the internet if you are looking for more.

Revelation Space was my third Alistair Reynolds novel and it was challenging! However, having read Pushing Ice and House of Suns, I knew I wanted to read most if not all of Reynolds work because I really like his writing. And, Revelation Space is the introduction to Reynolds "signature" universe so I knew I needed the introduction even if it was hard.

Listening to this book felt a lot like trying to put together a 10,000 piece jigsaw with no picture or border pieces to work with. The first two thirds of the book are totally DENSE with descriptions and concepts and it doesn't seem to quite fit together. The pieces of the plot I could understand were intriguing, but it felt like much of it was just going past me. And, it doesn't help that these are not the best Reynolds characters. All the characters are interesting in a way that unusual things are interesting, but not sympathetic because you can't quite understand their motivations or their goals. They aren't really good or evil - most of them just seem rather duplicitous (lots of hidden agendas here) and amoral so there is really no one to root for/against through most of the book. I will admit that by the end, I was really rooting for Volyova; she is clever, thinks on her feet, and by her standards she's loyal. One of the things I've come to appreciate about Reynolds is that he writes some very good female characters. Although John Lee provides distinct character voices with the narration, it is not as much help as it might be because he uses so many thick accents that it is actually hard to understand some of the dialog.

If you feel like you are wading through a swamp in dense fog through much of this book, you wouldn't be alone, but it is worth the effort to stick with it. In the final third of the book, it's like Reynolds finally steps in and takes control; he hands you the border pieces and gives you the completed picture to work from and suddenly all the pretty, but meaningless pieces start to snap together in this amazing puzzle and it's quite a stunning picture. You really don't understand much of the plot or the characters or the universe until the final third of the book, but when it culminates, it makes for a grand conclusion.

Not the best Reynolds novel, but worthwhile if you are up to the slog through the initial fog.

28 of 31 people found this review helpful

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Sometimes Corny, Often Awesome, Modern Space Opera

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.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Laura
  • San Jose, CA, USA
  • 04-02-09

Enjoyed this book

This book exceeded my expectations. When I picked this audiobook, I was looking for a science fiction novel leaning more towards hard science fiction and less Star Trek (though I do like Star Trek). I thought it might be somewhat dry with details but it wasn't. I want more... :)

For someone looking for a science fiction novel that combines a good amount of detail scientific (lots of detail in some areas) with futuristic fantasy and suspense, this is a good audiobook to get. The audience of this book should be mature as the book is graphic and dark in some areas but nothing too extreme, would make a good R rated movie as it has lots of oportunity for great space scenes and CGI.

The author does a good job of revealing just enough details and forshadowing to keep up the suspense without being predictable, puts you on the edge of your seat. The story is very emmersive and I look forward to continuing on in the world with Revelation Ark.

26 of 30 people found this review helpful

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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.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Scott
  • la mirada, CA, United States
  • 09-07-09

Great sci fi, great narrator

If you've ever listened to any other John Lee recordings, you'll know he's one of the best narrators in the business. He does an excellent job with this book.
As to the story itself, this is good sci-fi... I am really not sure where a lot of these other reviewers are coming from, maybe they were looking for the huge space battles from Star Wars. This book is more about the mystery of discovery and the politics and dangers that go along with it. Enjoyed it very much!

31 of 36 people found this review helpful

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  • Peter
  • 07-06-10

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.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr Munn
  • 04-02-14

Buy a hard copy instead !!!

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The narration - truly awful. SO bad I couldn't manage to finish the book.

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

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 :-(

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

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.

Was Revelation Space worth the listening time?

I only managed an hour before giving up - can't really comment on the story but it sounded like an interesting premise.

Any additional comments?

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 !!!

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Andrew
  • 01-20-13

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

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Tim
  • 04-14-11

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.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Richard
  • 12-12-11

Good Book? Awful Narration!

I have never actually given up on an audio-book before and I have library with 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.


17 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Edward
  • 10-16-09

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!

23 of 26 people found this review helpful

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  • melmoth2
  • 06-20-09

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • John Mcloughlin
  • 03-29-11

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.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Yevgeny
  • 11-28-12

Textbook feel with sleep inducing narration

The whole book feels like a set-up for the other 2 books in the trilogy. The story only really starts in the last few chapters with certain plot points left ignored in the end.

I have to agree with some other reviewers, the narration for 2/3 of this book feels like sitting though a lecture. the story jumps between different times and places without so much as a pause for breath or a change in tone. So it is hard to figure out if you are still on the same planet or even in the same century.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Jaspal
  • 08-06-12

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.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Thesle
  • 04-05-15

A well told and complex narrative

Reynolds starts the story with several seemingly unrelated narratives that he gradually weaves together, generating interest, along with a lot of questions. Although he doesn't answer all of them in this book it would appear he has answers for them, which gives a confidence to the story typical of his other works.

The narration is the only let down, with Lee starting every sentence with an accent and ending every sentence by trailing off as if running out of breath. This makes the book difficult to listen to, especially in noisier environments like a car.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Keith
  • 10-25-17


It starts off deceptively slow and disjointed, but enjoyable all the same. As the hours go by listening to it, you began to wonder how all of it fits together as story. It seems like there are multiple separate books being told at once, but as you realise that nothing can travel faster than light in this book's universe, it begin to realise that there is just one story being told on a scale that is hard to imagine. No words are wasted, all are slowly add to whole that crystallizes brutality fast like a rollercoaster.

As for the narrator, if I didn't know better I'd say there were at least a half dozen of them. By the time you're familiar with the main characters, hearing he said this, they said that, etc is mildly distracting because you can simply hear who said what.

Could not recommend more, but be prepared to have your mind turned on as it more than simple journey.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-05-17

Excellent sci fi

This is a fantastic hard sci-fi space opera, something that (especially if you've read other Reynolds) you would do well to listen to. The characters are cleverly crafted, and the story keeps you interested and intrigued right until the end.

Lee is an awesome narrator too, by far the best I've heard on Audible so far.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 10-06-16


In the beginning the story jumps from one character/scenario abruptly with no fluidity but toward the end of the book you don't notice this, probably becauce all the characters have become familiar.
I enjoyed this book

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  • Daniel
  • 08-10-16

Good book, but narrator voices all sound the same

The story is good, takes a fair while to get going. I found I really had to pay attention as all the voices sound very similar, which makes it especially hard when the scene changes to a different character during the same chapter. I don't really think all the Russian /French accents are really necessary, I get the idea was to match them to the names, but it didn't work so well in the execution

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  • Nick
  • 07-22-15

Confusing reader but good story

The reader made scene and point of view changes confusing, so I was totally lost for the first part of the novel, taking minutes to figure out we had moved to a new character and place.
But his accents were excellent, and otherwise read well.
Story was fascinating

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  • johnnie
  • 05-23-15

Complex ideas

A thoroughly engaging narration with good and seamless voicings. The story, if a bit fantastical for my tastes, is richly scientific. For those who like gothic epic science fictio

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  • Oliver Kluge
  • 09-22-16

Great story, terrible narration

I listen to audio books on the bus to and from work, meaning the listening environment is a little noisy. Coupled with this narrators odd shifting tones and volumes throughout a sentence, it was impossible to get through this. I ended up picking up my hardcopy of Revelation Space instead to get my fix.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful