Saturday, 17 December 2011

Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds

Another Reynolds book?  Most of them have had some pretty flawed, though entertaining, and I didn't even finish his most recent - Terminal World.  I was right to stick with him, though: the sequel to Revelation Space is a cracker.

This trilogy is all about the Fermi Paradox - given the estimates on intelligent life in the galaxy, why can't we see any evidence of it?  Is there something stopping civilisations making that jump to interstellar travel?  Something robotic and scary perhaps?

The plot's great. I like the characters and the themes (redemption's a big one) are handled really well.  But where this book excels are in the science and the space battles.  Reynolds' day job is with the European Space Agency and he not only knows what he's talking about - he knows how to communicate it.  Travel between stars, different dimensions, messages from the future and the best way to rip apart a solar system are all dealt with in a realistic way. The military side of things is fantastic too, and the tactics and manoeuvres are really clever and exciting, but again rooted in reality.

There are a couple of odd jumps in the narrative - two thirds in and in the last chapter - where huge important chunks of the story are missed out.  Both sections would probably take up a novella to tell, and they sound like great stories, but it actually kind of worked.  We find out the bare bones of what happens, and the rest is left to our imagination.  I was reminded of the end of the Hobbit where we never see the big battle with Smaug at the end, but we imagine it was pretty cool.

One more book in this trilogy to go - Absolution Gap - and as often with these SF series, a couple of books which come before which I possibly should've read first - Chasm City and the Prefect.  Unlike Peter F Hamilton though, you don't need to read them first to really enjoy this series.  I've abandoned a few science fiction novels in recent months, but this has renewed my faith in the genre.

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