Monday, December 3, 2007

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

I admit it; I’m a late arrival at the Alastair Reynolds party. But when I saw Revelation Space reissued with a shiny silver cover, I had to buy. Not that I’m obsessed with form over function or anything.

As I get older, I like my science fiction hard. Space opera, galactic fantasy, call it what you will, I’m really not interested. Base your science fiction on science, and give me characters to get interested in, and I’m happy.

In Revelation Space humanity has spread out to the stars over centuries, and has split into various factions. Journeys between planets are made instant through the use of suspended animation machines.

Alien races have been discovered, but they are stationary, and remain unknowable. The pattern jugglers are vast sentient oceans discovered across various planets.

However the main faction of humanity that makes spaceship engines has suddenly and without explanation ceased to do so.

Against this background some interesting extrasolar archaeology is taking place. On a blasted planet, and alien civilisation was wiped out in a sudden cataclysm, nine hundred thousand years ago.

The Fermi Paradox again makes its appearance. The most used explanation for why we cannot see any signs of alien activity is because we do not yet know how to look. It’s a theme Stephen Baxter explores in Space. That’s not the only answer to Fermi’s Paradox. In this case, Reynolds convincingly brings to life the offhand explanation of the killer robots.

Oh yes, killer robots. What if there is a race of killer robots, moving between the stars, extinguishing life wherever they find it? How would they go about finding life anyway? Do they want to destroy all life, or just space-faring species? How would they go about this, and how would the target species react?

Revelation Space holds a secret, and that truth could be the end of humanity.

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