Revelation Space (2000)
Dan Sylveste is the son (?) of a controversial, whose experiments on fellow humans apparently didn't work out terribly well. A political leader himself, Sylveste is obsessed with the remains of the alien Amarantin civilization. In particular, he's bothered by the way their technological advances seem to have stalled out and the way this failure won't jibe with the remnants left behind. His research gets seriously side-tracked when there's a coup against him.
Ana Khouri is a soldier who was separated from her husband and then shipped home injured, so that he must be long dead now, given the time changes during space travel. With nothing left to lose or live for, she's become an assassin in a modern diversion for the super-rich who try to avoid being killed by people they hire themselves. But now someone has hired her to travel to the dead Amarantin world, Resurgam and kill Sylveste, who's own trail is leading there.
Ilya Volyova is the mate on an advanced interstellar ship, Nostalgia for Infinity. The captain of the ship is being consumed by software virus plagues. Only Sylveste can help him, so they too are headed to Resurgam. They've been tricked into enlisting Khouri as their gunnery officer.
Meanwhile, a construct of some sort--called only Sun Stealer--is roaming the ship and fighting both of Khouri's employers for control of her.
Sound kind of convoluted? Well, that ain't the half of it. First time novelist Alastair Reynolds also packed in heaping doses of science and speculation, such that it's easy to get confused about exactly whether the action of the book is even physically possible (or ever will be). And the backstory that is required along the way could pretty much be a stand-alone novel.
But when you sweep everything else away and cut to the core of the story (mild spoiler alert), he's basically riffing on Fermi's Paradox. His answer to the question of why alien cultures have never contacted us is that in the wake of "The Dawn War," when advanced civilizations ripped up the galaxy, a species called The Inhibitors put in place a warning and disposal system that gets rid of any sufficiently advanced new culture that arises. That's what seems to have happened to the Amarantins and, by following in their footsteps, Sylveste may be about to unleash the same fate on humankind. This interweaving of the ancient idea of forbidden knowledge with all kinds of futuristic notions makes the book satisfying on numerous levels, even if you aren't sure what just happened when you finish it.
See also:Science Fiction & Fantasy
-AUTHOR SITE: Alastair Reynolds
-WIKIPEDIA: Alastair Reynolds
-WIKIPEDIA: Revelation Space
-GOOGLE BOOK: Revelation Space
-FAN SITE: Dragonsworn
-AUDIO SHORT STORY: Scales by Alastair Reynolds
-PROFILE: Alastair Reynolds: 'I've been called the high priest of gothic miserablism': His latest book is set 6.4m years in the future, he admits to stealing other writers' ideas - and he's just secured a £1m book deal. Stuart Jeffries enters the fantastic world of Alastair Reynolds (Stuart Jeffries, 7/13/09, The Guardian)
"I started off with just the idea of killer robots and then it became more sophisticated because of the ramifications of the Fermi Paradox." (The paradox that highlights the apparent contradiction between the high probability of the existence of alien civilisations and the lack of evidence for, or our dearth of contact with, them.) [...] "In 'soft' sci-fi like Star Trek, the paradox wasn't even recognised," Reynolds says. "Humans had contact with aliens all the time, and the aliens were just a little bit more or less advanced than us - they may have had a little more warp drive, but ultimately we could compete with them. I thought it was much more likely that aliens and we would have an enormous technical disparity, to the extent that we could barely communicate. So the question is, what do you do with that in science fiction? [...] "In Revelation Space books, the backdrop is that the aliens are all wiped out by killer machines and so the universe is littered with ruins of their civilisations. It's an arse backwards answer to the paradox, but it gave me a lot of scope to develop a vast imaginary universe."
-PROFILE: 'No one pointed a gun at my head and said, become a science fiction writer': SF's rising star Alastair Reynolds has just signed a £1m contract to deliver 10 books over 10 years. He talks to Richard Lea about his plans for a space opera trilogy and the tricky business of peering into the future (Richard Lea, 6/23/09, guardian.co.uk)
-INTERVIEW: An Interview with Alastair Reynolds (Interview conducted by Gary Reynolds, January 2009, Concept SciFi)
-INTERVIEW: Interview with Alastair Reynolds (Patrick St-Denis, 2008-03-31, SFF World)
-PROFILE: Once a physicist: Alastair Reynolds (Dec 3, 2007 , Physics World)
-PROFILE: Science fiction 'thrives in hi-tech world' (Darren Waters, 4/30/07, BBC News)
-INTERVIEW: The Wonderful, Rational World of Alastair Reynolds (Hard SF, 2006-06-29)
-INTERVIEW: Plundering The Abyss: An Interview with Alastair Reynolds (conducted by Sandy Auden, 2005, The SF Site)
-INTERVIEW: An Interview with Alastair Reynolds (ANTHONY BROCKWAY, 2003, NTL World)
-INTERVIEW: Deep Space, Deeper Revelations: An Interview with Alastair Reynolds (Nick Gevers, July 2000, Infinity Plus)
-INTERVIEW: The questionnaire (Compiled by Rosanna Greenstreet, 6/10/00, The Guardian)
-REVIEW: of Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds (Jon Courtenay Grimwood, The Guardian)
-REVIEW: of Revelation Space (David Soyka , SF Site)
-REVIEW: of Revelation Space (Greg L. Johnson, SF Site)
-REVIEW: of Revelation Space (Jay Tomio, Because We Said)
-REVIEW: of Revelation Space (Keith Brooke, Infinity Plus)
-REVIEW: of Chasm City (Rich Horton, SF Site)
-Chasm City (Nick Gevers, Infinity Plus)
-REVIEW: of Chasm City (Linda L. Richards, January Magazine)
-REVIEW: of Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds (M John Harrison, The Guardian)
-REVIEW: of Redemption Ark (David Soyka , SF Site)
-REVIEW: of Redemption Ark (Stuart Carter, Infinity Plus)
-REVIEW: of Absolution Gap by Alastair Reynolds (Jon Courtenay Grimwood, The Guardian)
-REVIEW: of Absolution Gap (Greg L. Johnson, SF Site)
-REVIEW: of Absolution Gap (Rick Kleffel, Agony Column)
-REVIEW: of Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds (Martin Lewis, SF Site)
-REVIEW: of Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds (Duncan Lawie , Strange Horizons)
-REVIEW: of Galactic North (Mark Watson, Best SF Reviews) -REVIEW: of Galactic North (Andrew McKie, Daily Telegraph)
-REVIEW: of The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds (Martin Lewis, Strange Horizons)
-REVIEW: of The Prefect (Daily Telegraph)
-REVIEW: of Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Dreams, by Alastair Reynolds (The Guardian)
-REVIEW: of Turquoise Days (David Soyka , SF Site)
-REVIEW: of House of Suns, by Alastair Reynolds (Eric Brown, The Guardian)
-REVIEW: of House of Suns (Andrew McKie, Daily Telegraph)
-REVIEW: of house of Suns (John DeNardo, SF Signal)
-REVIEW: of Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds (Jon Courtenay Grimwood, The Guardian)
-REVIEW: of Pushing Ice (Sara Sklaroff, Washington Post)
-REVIEW: of Pushing Ice (Andrew McKie, Daily Telegraph)
-REVIEW: of Zima Blue by Alastair Reynolds (Peter Ingham, Daily Telegraph)
-REVIEW ARCHIVES: Alastair Reynolds (Infinity Plus)
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