September 30th, 2002

The Monday Evening "The First Cold Of The Winter Review": Redemption Ark

Alastair Reynolds' universe is a dark and lonely place. The only aliens we've come across in half a millennium of interstellar exploration and colonisation are either long dead or just too strange to understand. We've seen glimpses of its past and future in previous novels and shorter works, but it's in Redemption Ark that Reynolds takes us to a pivotal moment in time: the return of the Inhibitors.

Factional wars and strange plagues have ended a golden age. In the dark around the world of Yellowstone a freighter pilot, working the edge between legal and criminal, is going to find herself caught up in the plans of the most powerful of the human factions: the cognitively enhanced Conjoiners. It's a net that's going to take her light years from home, to the Resurgam system, on a journey to retrieve some lost weapons - weapons that just may give humanity a chance in the real struggle that is to come. The struggle against a universe full of machines designed to stop intelligent life filling the stars.

Billions of years ago, there was a war. Archaeologists call it the "Dawn War". Civilisations were destroyed, and whole areas of the galaxy sterilised before one species decided to end the curse of bickering intelligence. Seeding the stars with machines intended to destroy intelligent life, they left traps that have kept the galaxy a quiet and empty place. Unfortunately for humanity the events of Reynolds' first novel, Revelation Space, have woken the Inhibitors, and humanity is right at the top of their "to exterminate" list. And the Resurgam system looks like it's going to be the first to go...

Reynolds tells a dramatic story on the wide screen of classic space opera. There's a 21st century edge to his writing though, a universe that's grubby and lived in, where universe-shattering events don't come from moral certainties, instead being born in the fumbling decisions of individuals caught up in the tidal wave of history. This is a big book, with several plot strands that twine around each other as they race each other across the interstellar void. It's a dark place out there, and Reynolds is ready to show us just how dark it can be.

Redemption Ark is classic modern SF, powerfully written, with a feel for excitement that keeps you on the edge of your chair. Reynolds' best book to date. Highly recommended.
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