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Review of the Revelation Space Trilogy by Alastair Reynolds <a href="" target="_top">Click Here!</a> By Christian Koch Ads by Google

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Revelation Space Trilogy by Alastair Reynolds Books: • Revelation Space • Redemption Ark • Absolution Gap Reynolds dreams big. There's a lot to appreciate about an author who writes in scope big enough to encompass the entire human light cone. Reynolds gives us the majority of the human history, as he imagines it, in interstellar space. The literal size of this scope is undeniably impressive. While my astronomy is not quite strong enough to know this for a fact, he seems reasonably accurate with his stellar positioning, with respect to earth at or near the center of the human sphere of expansion. It's not quite the hardest of the "hard" science fiction, but it's very firm. Not that anything like this should surprise us coming from an author with a PhD in astronomy. Where the facts leave off and Reynolds begins extrapolating, it's with a scientist's eye for detail and a powerful imagination filling in the story. Set in three separate novels, the Revelation Space story is a space opera of the grandest scale. Though different in feel, the sheer size has echoes of Frank Herbert's Dune epic. In Herbert's case an imagined version of the galaxy that left enough notes for his son to write at least twice as many books about the

Dune universe as his father did. Revelation Space, which we will henceforth refer to as the RS trilogy, is no less large, although Reynolds limited the size of the human sphere to the speed of light. This gives his stories a great layer of complexity with relativistic time effects while keeping the implausibility factor of faster-than-light travel to a minimum. The RS trilogy starts out by posing a problem for the galaxy: Where is the intelligence? Along the lines of the Drake equation and the Fermi Paradox, given so many stars in the galaxy with so many planets, it becomes increasingly unlikely not to find intelligent life nearly al over the place. But the galaxy of the trilogy has no intelligence other than humans. At least none left alive. Littered throughout the worlds that humans have colonized, there are strange remnants of civilizations that simply ceased to be. Moreover, certain irregularities in the galactic arms where physics suggests star systems should be point to evidence of something big happening at some point in the past. The Dawn War is the name given by Reynolds to the struggle for power and dominance between emergent interstellar intelligences. Early in the history of the galaxy, sentient species emerged, expanded and came to conflict. Because of inherent incompatibility, the Dawn War dominated millions of years of galactic evolution. This war consumed and involved the majority of the intelligent creatures in the galaxy until there was only one dominant amalgam of biological and machine intelligence in the universe. Revelation Space introduces us to some of the major characters in this epic. We learn about the Ultras, humans who pilot interstellar ships that travel within a few tenths of a percent of the speed of light (lighthuggers). The Ultras slip through decades of "world time" thanks to the relativistic effects of near light travel. They are also dysmorphic, opting for intentional body modifications. Another faction mentioned in Revelation Space and introduced properly in Redemption Ark are the Conjoiners, humans who have augmented their minds with implanted computers in order to transcended normal human intelligence. They are responsible for the design of the massive but essentially incomprehensible engines that allow interstellar vessels to travel at a fraction below the speed of light. The Inhibitors are the dark nemesis in the revelation Space trilogy. They are the relics or descendant of the victors from the Dawn War. They are fierce alien creations left to monitor the galaxy and suppress emergent interstellar intelligence. The Inhibitors are organized but do not possess an intelligence of their own. Hyperpigs are a variant of pigs genetically crossed with humans, originally bred to be human compatible organ donors, they possess sentience and the ability to speak. There are normal human elements in this story as well, although they are mostly supporting characters for the more epic character classes that are struggling through this story. At more than 2,000 pages, it's not light reading, but it is compelling and very engrossing. The plot is strong enough to pull the reader along and Reynolds has a great ability to develop his story for the reveal. Where the stories truly struggle is the endings. They aren't good. In the first two novels, this is to be expected, they're largely just setting up the plays for the next book. As standalones, they don't do that well, but as part of an emerging tale, then Revelation Space is good and RS + Redemption Ark work very well together. The third novel, Absolution Gap really jumps off from a different place and with a different focus. It abandons some of the characters that we've come to follow from the first two books, kills a few of them off and gives us a whole new set of characters. This is ok, and done with a better set of characters, this

might have been really effective. But as written, it seems contrived and unnecessary. Reynolds develops some good characters and really good adversaries. It seems pointless to abandon all those interesting plot lines to go in a different direction. Though he did shift the focus of characters in Revelation Space to a new set in Redemption Ark, he kept a core from RS to RA and that helped create continuity. In Absolution Gap, he really abandons all but a few of the RA characters and kills off the interesting dynamic relationships that he's developed. He then introduces us to a whole new set of individuals and keeps only the barest skeleton of characters from the RA. This could work to keep the novel fresh, but it falls a bit short. Instead of having a compelling drama to carry us through AG, we a largely confused by a new set of characters and the carryovers from RA sit mostly on the sidelines of "the action" and are overly introspective. This is an odd choice for an author who is writing a space epic. Why would we be interested in following tangential characters away from the epic end battle? This is my biggest frustration with AG. All throughout the novel, it seems to be building towards some kind of confrontation and a reckoning between the humans and the Inhibitors, who are trying to exterminate their presence using absurdly advanced and alien technology. But as we get closer to the end, the reckoning is farther and farther away. Instead he totally cops out in the last 50 pages and ends this epic story with a deus-ex-machina to wrap the problems of humanity up with a neat little bow. It's the biggest kind of letdown for such a grand book. Reynolds really sets up a universe that is firmly bounded by Einsteinian and Newtonian physics and then goes about violating all those rules whenever he see fit. It's frustrating to see the iron-clad rules of physics violated when Reynolds spends so much of the book establishing this as a key aspect of his universe. At the end, you realize that this happens a few times throughout the story. There are different events that happened that shift the balance of power and influence and they mostly involve finding alien technology or communicating with the future. This "magic" and causality violation is probably the only way to deal with an alien menace like the Inhibitors, but it draws into question why the rest of the book was so firmly grounded in science and plausibility. Good fiction is based on good human drama. It doesn't matter what kind of science fiction, fantasy, technology or everyday life you want to insert into the story. If you don't have good drama, then it's just fetishism for swords or laser guns or something like that. The Revelation Space trilogy largely avoids this problem; it does have good human drama that is interesting. Most of the time, the tech is just a jumping off point and doesn't interfere over much with the story. But in the end, Reynolds succumbs to his fetish and has the technology save the day. It's too bad that such an intelligent story ends in such a sad and lame mess. Endings can be the hardest thing to do well. Good endings will wrap up your story while opening a small window into the next chapter. They can leave you satisfied while wanting more and that is a lot to ask for ten pages at the end of 2,000. Reynolds struggles here and really seems to be opening up a door to more books in this vein, rather than closing the Revelation Space story. While the trilogy is still well worth reading, I think Absolution Gap would have been better if had been written as a standalone book rather than the end to the Revelation Space story. Christian Koch is an author and trained economist with over 7 years of experience analyzing and writing about financial markets. His work is published in several places including the Buy N Sell Gold Blog. Check out his personal blog: Mr. Christian.

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Review of the Revelation Space Trilogy by Alastair Reynolds