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Sunday, September 26, 2004

Review: Absolution Gap by Alaistair Reynolds

This is the fourth book in the Revelation Space Universe. The first three were Revelation Space(RS), Chasm City(CC), and Redemption Ark(RA). Unlike the first three books, that are all stand-alones stories in a greater tapestry, AG (Absolution Gap) is really a sequel to RA. It starts off with many of the same characters, in the same situation, just twenty years foward in time.

I think two things occurred to me during and after I read this book. The first, and less favourable thought, is that Alaistair Reynolds isn't so great at disguising his plot twists. I spotted the major twist to this story really very early - I found the same thing in CC. The result is that the "discovery" scene loses force, because I worked it out sometime last week, as opposed to perhaps only an hour previously.

The second is that this whole series is really a horror series, just one set in space and not on earth. It is a horror series of many different levels, but primarily in terms of the atmosphere, and also psychologically. There are several moments which I really wish I could have hidden under the bedcovers, but likewise the story keeps dragging you in. What I wrote notwishstanding, the over-plot to the series has advanced now to a highly advanced state.

The main character of this book first made an appearance in RA - that is Scorpio. Scoprio is a guy with a particularly checkered past, without perhaps some of the compensating factors of Reynholds other flawed heroes. At root is the fact that Scorpio is not a hero, he's just a guy trying to make sense of the chaos about him and hold true to some very simple ideals. On balance I think that Scorpio is the best character Reynolds has now written.

I do, regretfully, have one fairly hefty criticism. The ending, the very ending, contains rather too much Deus ex machina for my liking. There is the barest amount of foreshadowing, but the whole thing leaves an ugly taste in my mouth. The 99% of the story leading up to those final pages was great, and I simply do not understand why Reynolds chose to demean all that fine work (+ the 3 previous books) with such a poorly thought out ending.

That said its only my opinion, I would recommend people read it, especailly if you've read (and liked) any of the other three. Maybe you'll disagree with my quibble over the ending. Who knows. Read it, and find out.

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