Revelation Space - Alastair Reynolds - New
Revelation Space is a 2000 hard science fiction space opera novel by Welsh author Alastair Reynolds. It was the first novel set in the universe which became known as the Revelation Space universe, although the then-unnamed universe had already been established by several published short stories.
Revelation Space was followed in publication by Chasm City, a stand-alone novel which was set earlier in the universe's timeline but wasn't strictly a prequel. Chasm City was followed by Redemption Ark, which was a direct sequel both to Revelation Space and Chasm City.
On the planet Resurgam, archaeologist and scion of House Sylveste, Dan Sylveste, is engaged in an archaeological dig, researching a species known as the Amarantin and cause of their apparent mass extinction, dubbed "the Event". Sylveste also has a lingering interest in the Shrouders, strange aliens who fortress themselves inside impenetrable artificially curved spacetime. He has to face several political problems on the colony, including a power struggle between the archaeologists and those interested in terraforming the planet to make it more habitable. Eventually Dan Sylveste is arrested and imprisoned during a coup.
Meanwhile, aboard the lighthugger Nostalgia for Infinity, Triumvir Ilia Volyova — an Ultranaut — is having problems both with her new Gunnery Officer who has gone insane, and with the Captain John Brannigan, who is infected with the Melding Plague. Volyova slows the Plague by keeping the Captain and the Plague frozen. Plus, the ship is carrying a cache of 40 "Hell class" weapons that the crew found in a deserted area of space. The weapons have destructive capabilities beyond measure; one such weapon is able to make stars go nova, thereby destroying them. On Yellowstone, in Chasm City, ex-soldier Ana Khouri from Sky's Edge, separated and sent here away from her husband thanks to a clerical error, works for the company Shadowplay, an organization that lets the wealthy take out assassination contracts on themselves, so they can brag about the experience should they survive.
On the Nostalgia, Volyova ends up killing the crazed Gunnery Officer, Nagorny, and disguises his death as a malfunction of his reefersleep casket. The ship is en route to Yellowstone to look for Dan Sylveste, who is to able channel a Beta level of his dead father, Calvin Sylveste. Calvin is the only person with enough medical and technological expertise to have a chance at curing the Captain of the Melding Plague. Unfortunately they are too late; Dan had left on an archaeological expedition to Resurgam decades earlier. While the Nostalgia is on Yellowstone, Volyova decides to look for a new Gunnery Officer. Ana Khouri is kidnapped by the mysterious Mademoiselle and given a mission to terminate Dan Sylveste, for an as-yet unstated reason. When the crew of the Nostalgia for Infinity decides to head for Resurgam to look for Sylveste, the Mademoiselle manipulates Volyova's search procedures for a Gunnery Officer to let Khouri infiltrate the crew.
Unbeknownst to Volyova, Ana Khouri is carrying a digital representation of the Mademoiselle in her head, which encounters the mysterious digital entity "Sun Stealer" hidden in the computer of the ship's weapons network. Sun Stealer cannot exit the weapons system undetected due to a firewall intended to prevent remote takeover of the ship's defences. However, once Khouri accesses the weaponry, her neural implants offer the Sun Stealer an escape route. The Mademoiselle fights a digital battle against Sun Stealer for the duration of the trip to Resurgam inside Khouri's implants.Upon arrival at Resurgam, the crew discovers that Sylveste has been captured by the new government of Resurgam and coerce the fledgling government into handing Sylveste over. Once aboard the Nostalgia, Sylveste is then able to hijack the entire ship by revealing that his implants are carrying antimatter, which he threatens to detonate should the crew not comply with his wishes. He instructs them to move the Nostalgia along the final trip to the nearby neutron star Hades and the strange camouflaged artificial planet Cerberus that orbits it. At this point, they debate as to whether or not they should attempt to enter Cerberus. Khouri has been informed by the Mademoiselle that Cerberus contains an Inhibitor beacon, and argues against any further approach to Cerberus. The dispute becomes increasingly violent, until Volyova commences an attack upon Cerberus.
Before the crew can progress any further, the Sun Stealer succeeds in taking over the ship's computers and is preparing to attack them. Volyova and Khouri realize that the Sun Stealer's function is to attract the attention of the Inhibitors: he is a digital envoy of the mysterious Shrouders, who sent envoys such as the Sun Stealer out to attract the Inhibitors' attention using the beacons- if the Inhibitors responded, then it was still too dangerous to leave their spacetime fortresses. Realizing that alerting the Inhibitors would spell the end of humanity, Volyova and Khouri attempt to stop Sylveste from reaching the beacon in Cerberus.The pair are ultimately unsuccessful, and Sylveste penetrates Cerberus's defence systems (Cerberus is revealed to be have been built by aliens to deter other species from reaching the Inhibitor beacon at the centre). Dan Sylveste and the simulation of his father Calvin are scanned as they enter the centre, and copies of them are reawakened inside the Hades Matrix, revealed to be a vast alien computer. Khouri is crushed by the gravity of the neutron star Hades, but has also been recreated digitally within the Hades computer matrix, while Volyova has returned to the Nostalgia for Infinity. Finally realizing that he has been tricked by the Sun Stealer, the original Sylveste detonates the antimatter in his implants, sacrificing his physical self in a last attempt to stop the Inhibitors from awakening.
Khouri is released by the Hades Matrix and returns to Nostalgia for Infinity, where she finds the Sun Stealer has been defeated- Volyova deactivated the freezer units holding the Melding Plague at bay, allowing the plague to subsume the entire ship. With the Sun Stealer destroyed, and Sylveste now existing as a simulation in the Hades matrix, Khouri and Volyova leave on the Nostalgia for Infinity, unaware that the Inhibitors have, in fact, been awakened.
About the Author Alastair Reynolds
Alastair Preston Reynolds (born in 1966 in Barry, Wales) is a Welsh science fiction author. He specialises in dark hard science fiction and space opera. He spent his early years in Cornwall, moved back to Wales before going to Newcastle, where he read Physics and Astronomy. Afterwards, he earned a PhD from St Andrews, Scotland. In 1991, he moved to Noordwijk in the Netherlands where he met his wife Josette (who is from France). There, he worked for the European Space Research and Technology Centre, part of the European Space Agency, until 2004 when he left to pursue writing full time. He returned to Wales in 2008 and lives near Cardiff.
Alastair Reynolds wrote his first four published science fiction short stories while still a graduate student, in 1989-1991; they appeared in 1990-1992. In 1991 Reynolds graduated and moved from Scotland to the Netherlands to work at ESA. He then started spending much of his writing time on a first novel, which eventually turned into Revelation Space, while the few short stories he submitted from 1991-1995 were rejected. This ended in 1995 when his story "Byrd Land Six" was published, which he says marked the beginning of a more serious phase of writing. As of 2008 he has published over thirty shorter works and eight novels. His works are hard science fiction veiled behind space opera and noir toned stories, and reflect his professional expertise with physics and astronomy, included by extrapolating future technologies in terms that are consistent with current science. Alastair Reynolds has said he prefers to keep the science in his books to what he personally believes will be possible, and he does not believe faster-than-light travel will ever be possible, but that he adopts science he believes will be impossible when it is necessary for the story. Most of Reynolds's novels contain multiple storylines that originally appear to be completely unrelated, but merge later in the story. Five of his novels and several of his short stories take place within one consistent future universe, usually now called the Revelation Space universe after the first novel published in it, although it was originally developed in short stories for several years before the first novel. Although most characters appear in more than one novel, the works set within this future timeline rarely have the same protagonists twice. Often the protagonists from one work belong to a group that is regarded with suspicion or enmity by the protagonists of another work. While a great deal of science fiction reflects either very optimistic or dystopian visions of the human future, Reynolds's future worlds are notable in that human societies have not departed to either positive or negative extremes, but instead are similar to those of today in terms of moral ambiguity and a mixture of cruelty and decency, corruption and opportunity, despite their technology being dramatically advanced.
The Revelation Space series includes five novels, two novellas, and eight short stories set over a span of several centuries, spanning approximately 2200 to 40 000, although the novels are all set in a 300 year period spanning from 2427 to 2727. In this universe, extraterrestrial sentience exists but is elusive, and interstellar travel is primarily undertaken by a class of vessel called a lighthugger which only approaches the speed of light (Faster than light travel is possible, but it is so dangerous that no race uses it). Fermi's paradox is explained as resulting from the activities of an inorganic alien race referred to by its victims as the Inhibitors, which exterminates sentient races if they proceed above a certain level of technology. The first three novels of the series deal with humanity coming to the attention of the inhibitors and the resultant war between them. Century Rain takes place in a future universe independent of the Revelation Space universe and has different rules, such as faster-than-light travel being possible through a system of portals similar to wormholes. Century Rain also departs substantially from Reynolds's previous works, both in having a protagonist who is much closer to the perspective of our real world (in fact he is from a version of our past), serving as a proxy for the reader in confronting the unfamiliarity of the advanced science fiction aspects and in having a much more linear storytelling process. Reynolds's previous protagonists started out fully absorbed in the exoticisms of the future setting and his previous Revelation Space works have several interlinked story threads, not necessarily contemporaneous.
Pushing Ice is also a standalone story, with characters from much less distant in the future than in any of his other novels, set into a framework storyline that extends much further into the future of humanity than any of his previous novels. It contains an alternative interpretation of the Fermi paradox, intelligent sentient life in this universe is extremely scarce. The Prefect marked a return to the Revelation Space universe. Like Chasm City, it is a stand-alone novel within the Revelation Space universe. It is set prior to any of the other Relevation Space novels, though still 200 years after the original human settlement of the Epsilon Eridani system. It was published in the United Kingdom on 2 April 2007. On 7 June 2007, Reynolds announced that his next novel would be entitled House of Suns, and that it would be set in the same universe as his novella "Thousandth Night" from the One Million A.D. anthology. This novel was released in the UK on 17 April 2008 with an American release to follow.. He is presently working on a new novel which he has confirmed will be a standalone and is due for publication in October 2009. It is described by Reynolds in a recent interview as "it's SF, it's weird and it doesn't have spaceships". Alastair Reynolds further elaborated on the book in a recent release from StarShipSofa, saying that it would have steampunk influences.
Revelation Space - Alastair Reynolds - New
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