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Falling through Alastair Reynold's Revelation Space is a strange experience. For the eponymous Revelation Space is more than just answers, it's also questions - deep questions about the place of life in the galaxy, and about what a race must do to survive in a viciously hostile universe. For the future history Reynold's has been carving out in a series of short stories, novellas and novels is not a happy one. The galaxy has been shattered by war, and we are the inheritors of the ruins. Leftover artifacts are as much trap as treasure, and in the darkness of the gaps between the stars, even the immense lighthugger starships are silent and lonely places.

Revelation Space is a tale of archaeology - of lives as well as of ruins. Dan Sylveste is constructed on the ruins of his father's great experiment, and his own great work, the discovery of what happened to the aborigines of the dead world of Resurgam, is about to collapse in yet another round of politics and mutiny. But great events move Sylveste, and an immense cycle of revenge and loss is about to reach out and grab him, and suck him into a story millions of years long. For the Dawn War that shattered the galaxy isn't over, and before the novel ends Sylveste and his compatriots (wives, friends, enemies, would-be assassins, simulations and wild alien engrams) will be forced to make decisions that could mean the end of humanity. The decaying, dissolving, ruins of the starships sweep us all on into the unknown.

A first novel, Revelation Space isn't perfect. However, it shows great promise. Sylveste's tragedy is a powerful, almost Shakesperean story, and the back drop of Reynold's future is complex and detailed, full of conflict and passion. With the sequel, Redemption Ark only a few weeks away, this was a re-read to prepare myself for yet more terrible revelations about the angry stars of Reynold's imagination.

I am now ready. Bring it on.

(For a sampler of Reynold's work - try Infinity Plus for two shorts and an excerpt from his second novel Chasm City)