Friday, 20 July 2012

Revelation Space

Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space (2000)
Dan Silveste is a copy of his own father's consciousness inhabiting a cloned body of the same, and having had some sort of religious experience during a visit to the alien Shroud whilst psychologically augmented by the similarly alien Pattern Jugglers, he's digging up stuff left behind by an extinct race of bird-like creatures. Meanwhile some woman is hired to assassinate him by some other woman in a massive spaceship, just as Dan is kidnapped by someone else following his marriage to some woman who was something to do with security on the colony world where he's digging up all this stuff; and whilst this is all fine and liberally seasoned with vivid descriptions of mind-bending technological developments, half-way through these six-hundred pages, I noticed that I still had no fucking clue as to why any of these people were doing what they were doing or why I was expected to care. I even read the first couple of chapters twice but it still made no difference.

The science is mind-bendingly wonderful; the prose is deliciously literate - if that isn't just a bit too Jilly Goolden; the story is imaginative and happily lacking in cliché; and yet Revelation Space taken as a whole is without doubt one of the dullest things I've  read, and on the grounds of resenting an entire week of my life wasted on trudging through page after page of discussions about  nothing, I'd actually go so far as to say I hated it more than anything else I've ever managed to finish out of protest, possibly excepting Heinlein's irredeemably dreadful Stranger in a Strange Land. Not one character seems to possess anything approaching a personality, and the dialogue is Blake's 7 strength levels of bad, and after a while one begins to tire of reading something for hours at a time without experiencing any discernible advancement of plot, ideas, or general comprehension.

Alastair Reynolds, like Stephen Baxter and Peter F. Hamilton, writes epic scale space opera but, unlike Stephen Baxter and Peter F. Hamilton, misses the point that space opera works best at a certain pace. Revelation Space would have been an amazing novella, but six-hundred pages is taking the piss. I know he has his fans and he's not without talent, but I'd say avoid at all costs.

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