View Full Version : Revelation Space - Alastair Reynolds

08-04-2002, 13:08:02
Just finished this, with mixed feelings. This was a very good, yet very sloppy, book with some very far out, incredible stuff that really made you think set in between some of the worst characterization and dialog I've ever read. Overall, a good read and worth the effort, but it falls short of what it should have been. Sort of like a Michael Chrichton novel.

What I liked:

- the splintered technological races of humanity, I can really see something like this happening

- the Melding Plague, ditto on this

- the archaeological aspects of the plot, it was really neat to have such "low-brow" labors in such a high tech setting.

- the details of Amarantin society, such as their written language being doubled because of their eye placement.

- the extended timescales of the story (it takes place over the course of several decades) although it took me most of the first chapter to realize that this was the case.

- the software entities. This reminded me a bit of Neuromancer, but a little better done. Lots of possibilities there to mull over for quite some time to come.

What I didn't like:

- the characters knew what was going on long before the reader did, and only because the author decided to keep the reader in the dark until the last few pages. There was little reason for this, knowing what was going on would have increased the tension because then we would have known for ourselves what was at stake rather than just having to take the character's words for it.

- the characters all behaved as though they were in a deep depression. Nothing seemed to affect them much.
"Hmmm, the ship's trying to kill us."
"I think we're all going to die."
"Would appear so."
"Well, we should probably do something about it."
"This might be a good time for a long expository scene where I don't actually reveal anything."

- the story suffers a bit from Star Wars Syndrome, i.e. everything's related. I would have liked at least one of the mysteries presented to us during the course of the story to have remained somewhat mysterious and not be linked intrinsically to the same source, though this is definitely nit-picking.

In the end, I would reccommend it, but with a warning or two not to expect much out of the characters. They start out with a lot of promise, which they deliver upon for the first half of the book, but then tend to flatten out as the resolution approaches. Some really great ideas presented here, though.

08-04-2002, 14:16:12
Alistair Reynolds is one helluva writter i agree, i really enjoy his work (Chasm City as well) but disagree with your criticsms, for me the characterization etc worked. I really cared about Khouri and Volyova, and became pretty fond of Volyova and her beutiful weapons.

I liked the archeologic Amarantin plot as well, its unveiling of the mystery was a real page urner for me and made me feel like I did when i first watched 2000/2001 with the mysterious obelisques.
9 hundred million years is a good number to have in a story about a disapeared alien race, as well as terms like "The Event" and "Clay Layer" etc. I also liked the political unrest of Resurgam, and the Melding Plague really is a cool and disturbing concept about the dangers of advanced applied nano-technology.

Although i can understand how every fact mentioned in a story being related to the plot can be iritating, for me it was not. All in all Alistair Reynolds ROCKS! Its good to know if anything ever happened to Banks, we have a backup in place. (Although their styles are actually quite different- and i would say Banks is the more advanced Writer).

Read Chasm City too!

08-04-2002, 14:29:18
:bash: :bash:

08-04-2002, 14:32:12
whats wrong Noisy? you hate Reynolds? this is ALISTAIR, not BRIAN:)

08-04-2002, 14:41:26
I knew this thread would draw you out of hiding, Qweeg.:p

I will read Chasm City when I get a chance, I've got a few (dozen) books in my pile to get through first, though...

Overall, I did enjoy Revelation Space, the ideas alone (along with the somewhat realistic science with which they are presented) was worth the read. And for the first half of the book, the characters were really good and pulled me along, but it just seemed to me that once the author had them all pulled together finally, he lost interest in them and turned his attentions to all the cool spacial phenomenon that he'd thought up. To give due credit, the reason it did irritate me that the characters fell flat in the final chapters is because Reynolds had done such a good job of making me care about them at the start of the story.

This book gave me a lot to think about, and for that it was worth reading, so I'll try out Chasm City to see if his characterization smooths out at all, but for now I still prefer the "science literature" of Banks and his more people centered stories.

08-04-2002, 15:28:02
Originally posted by Qweeg
whats wrong Noisy? you hate Reynolds? this is ALISTAIR, not BRIAN:)

I hate people who add to my reading list.

08-04-2002, 15:33:28
Ahhh. :)

23-04-2002, 16:00:11
I finished Chasm City only last week, and read Revelation Space about 3 months ago. I must say I enjoyed both books far more than I have done any of the Iain M Banks novels that I've read. It felt far more alive, like the universe of the novel was much more developed.
I loved the timeshifts that you had to deal with in Revelation Space, and the idea of the neural scanning etc. Brilliant concepts, on a huge scale, and very well done. I also would disagree with your criticisms about the characters. The ending is slightly bizarre, but very unexpected.

Chasm City is quite different IMHO to Revelation Space, but really helps to explain a lot of the back-story mythology/religion to Sky's Edge, and also has some great characters. Plus it's a real head-fcuk with the twist at the end, nice one!

Reynolds is very imaginative, has a huge scope to his described universe, has some great concepts and is able to hang it all together. Both books highly recommended in my opinion.

23-04-2002, 17:24:49
Vote FunkyFingers for MP for Reading.

I was about 75% through Chasm City when I finnally figured out that reading the main characters voice with a slight spanish accent (like Mr Adams in the Adams Family) actually made it easier for me to get him kinda thing. Well the guys name is Cahuella or something, really works in a Colombian drugs lordish kinda way.

23-04-2002, 18:13:36
To each their own...

I agree with you 100% on Reynolds' setting, ideas, and concepts, I enjoyed the hell out of these and found the book worth reading just to see these laid out. The universe he's created is very interesting and fun and feels a lot more realistic than most, Mr. Banks included.

However, (and folks that have not yet read the book should probably stop reading here, as I'm going to give away the farm with some examples here) the ending is only something of a surprise because he witholds information from the reader that the characters are all in full possession of. And I still hold, in my own subjective opinon, that the characters fall flat in the second half. Khouri and Pascale especially just go dead once they move away from Resurgam. Sylveste is Pascale's husband, she knows most everything that he knows, yet her reaction to events -and more importantly to his lies and behavoir- is to keep her mouth shut and mope around? Khouri is an assassin and a soldier, but is just an observer to most of what happens rather than the person of action she was at the beginning. Volyova leads a mutiny against Sajaki, and he and Hegazi's reaction is to call her a bitch and ask to go to the infirmary? We're constantly told how volatile and dangerous Sajaki is, yet in all of his scenes, he behaves as though he's stoned half out of his mind. When the pick up operation goes wierd and two of his crew are attacked on Resurgam, he mostly seems disappointed instead of outraged. Volyova was out of it then, why didn't he put Khouri over the coals as soon as they got back to the ship? When he finally does put her to the mind scan, why is Volyova so able to push him around? Why doesn't he confront them right there? Or even get angry? Again, all he seems is disappointed. There are lots of other instances I could cite where the characters just don't behave in a consistent manner.

I don't want to sound like I'm bashing the book, I'm not. I liked the ideas and the layout. I just got frustrated with it because it fell short of what it could have been with just a little more effort. Reynolds does a good job of building up real characters at the beginning of the story, he just doesn't follow through. I will still get Chasm City, I liked Revelation Space enough to keep following Reynolds, but my humble opinion at this point is that while Reynolds may have some great IDEAS, a story is ultimately about the characters and there are authors out there that are much better at keeping the balance.

24-04-2002, 08:30:57
And just in case you haven't read Revelation Space yet, it's been neatly summarised above by Guy :D

I don't really remember enough about exactly how the characters own personalities were operating and I don't remember myself ever having the concerns about them that you do, but hey, each to his own! Glad we both agree that the Reynolds books are great. Both highly recommended.

24-04-2002, 13:44:05

I felt that if I was going to continue to level criticism at the book, I should provide specific examples of what I found fault with.

Spoiler warning now added to above post.

Out of curiosity, Funky, which Banks novels have you read?

24-04-2002, 15:18:30
Hey, no problemo - it's good that we have different opinions, it leads to good discussion!

Iaiaiaian M Banks - I've read Excession and Feersum Enjin
Ian Banks - The Wasp Factory, The Bridge and Complicity.

I really really really liked The Bridge actually - obviously The Wasp Factory is his classic "disturbing" novel, and I enjoyed it, and Complicity was really quite unsettling in the way it puts the reader in the 1st person whenever murders are being committed to make you complicit in the action, but The Bridge was just brilliant, loved the concept and the execution, very clever.

Feersum Enjin was good, especially once I'd worked out how to read the strange phonetic spelling. Excession I just got rather bogged down by it, nothing seemed to happen. Ok the concept of the Ships being sentinent and all their communication was interesting, but it wasn't very exciting.

24-04-2002, 17:35:32
Haven't read Bridge or Complicity yet, agree with your assessments of the others, though. Excession is the weakest of his novels I've read thus far.

If you get a chance, try Use of Weapons. This is my favorite out of all the Culture books I've read so far. Structure and even plot wise, it's pretty much a Culture version of Wasp Factory, but it's a very well executed character story. Next behind that would be Consider Phlebas and then Player of Games. Phlebas is a fairly conventional novel but with some great character twists, Player is just a lot of fun (if you can get past the fact that it's basically a novel about playing the ultimate form of Sid Meier's Civilization). I'm about halfway through Look to Windward right now, which so far is looking very good. I'll post a quick review when I finish it.

Discussion is good!;)

27-04-2002, 14:49:43
I tend to just take the rough with the smooth ya know, i did notice character flaws and in Chasm City the characters all seemd to form a group and wander around with each other like a troupe of rich delinquents etc but >shrugs< didn't spoil my fun- I tend not to remember the weaknesess if the overall effect impresses me enough. By the way Cahuella MUST be read with a gradually emerging Spanish accent- it is the definative way, so there, you know Nothing of these things!

I really enjoyed The Bridge too, brilliant concept never seen a coma-world like it, and feersum enjin reminded me of some of v p0strs around here, and probably layed the foundations for text message spelling, the Crypt fascinated me- and what with Blue-Chip technology etc, were probably appraoching that level of intergrated transparent er.... what the Crypt was.

18-06-2002, 12:52:36
Just bought 'Revelation Space' and 'Chasm City' from W.H. Smith with their 'Two paperbacks for a tenner' promotion, saving four pounds. (Or, for the pedants among you - 3.98.)

18-06-2002, 14:22:43
Nice one, that's a good deal there, and you've got a lot of reading in store. Revelation Space is fantastic, huge galactic scope. Chasm City is a more detailed study of some of the planets and cultures you experience in Revelation Space.
Wonderful! Read, enjoy, then post back here!

18-06-2002, 14:54:59
Sadly, that will be a fair while yet. I picked up another couple of books at the second-hand bookstall in Kingsmead this lunchtime as well, taking my 'to read' pile to well over 50 books.

'Permutation City' - Greg Egan
'Deadly Litter' - James White.


18-06-2002, 17:07:42
Kingsmead - is that Kingsmead in Canterbury?

18-06-2002, 18:05:51
Farnborough. That's Hants, not Kent.

19-06-2002, 08:46:14
Farnborough, near Guildford Surrey??

19-06-2002, 12:13:43
Getting warmer! We don't like to associate ourselves with Surrey in any way, though. People like RC come from there.

19-06-2002, 13:43:28
I moved from Canteruby, Kent, to Richmond, Surrey, via Twickenham, Middlesex and Barnes, Laaaandaaaaan.

How exciting