Alastair Reynolds’ “Revelation Space”

A Must Read 300As a huge fan of hard science fiction, I’ve come to grips with the fact that the genre’s “good to bad” ratio is about 1:10. Is isn’t hard to find painfully standard fare books in the genre, so I am always on the lookout for another great find. This week, I snagged a copy of Alastair Reynolds’ 2000 space opera, Revelation Space. The story, set in the year 2551, follows the race to find one man: Dan Sylveste, an archaeologist who is studying a long dead alien race. Sylveste believes these aliens became technologically advanced before they were wiped out, a discovery that would challenge everything we think we know about how civilizations develop. Hot on his trail are Ilia Volyova and Ana Khouri. While Ilia needs Sylveste’s help to save a life, Ana pursues the man for darker reasons, intended to fulfill an assassination contract on Sylveste’s life in an effort to halt his work. As the story continues, these three separate people become entwined in a struggle with forces that are beyond the understanding of any civilization.

Revelation Space has an atmosphere about it that is hard to pin down. It seems to take obvious influence from Lovecraft, but there are hints of more modern works, as well. The almost haunting atmosphere of the ships brings Alien to mind, in particular. Regardless of the influence, Revelation Space creates a unique take on humanity’s future. We haven’t scorched our worlds in nuclear fire. We haven’t cured all diseases. We just kept existing. Revelation Space may be the most realistic sci-fi book I’ve ever read. The technology is (usually) plausible, and the cast of characters are as flawed, yet well-meaning, as any people I’ve ever met. The overarching themes of the last act are presented in some of the most memorable scenes I’ve read in years, and the tension is turned up so much that I simply couldn’t stop reading. Even while playing with grand stakes, the story feels innately personal, and at times, even claustrophobic.

Put simply, Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space is the book I will recommend for anyone who thinks science fiction is cheesy or too cliché. If you want a tense, thought-provoking thriller, then Revelation Space is the book for you. I’m counting down the days until I can get my hands on the next book set in Reynolds’ universe: Chasm City. 

Source: Jake Depew, Assistant Editor