Revelation Space Review (Sci-Fi Space Opera)

Title: Revelation Space | Series: Revelation Space #1 | Author: Alastair Reynolds | Publisher: Ace | Pub. Date: 2009-5-29 | Pages: 585 | ASIN: B001QL5MAA | Genre: Science Fiction Space Opera | Rating: 3 out of 5 | Source: Self-purchased

Revelation Space

Nine hundred thousand years ago, something annihilated the Amarantin civilization just as it was on the verge of discovering space flight. Now one scientist, Dan Sylveste, will stop at nothing to solve the Amarantin riddle before ancient history repeats itself. With no other resources at his disposal, Sylveste forges a dangerous alliance with the cyborg crew of the starship Nostalgia for Infinity. But as he closes in on the secret, a killer closes in on him. Because the Amarantin were destroyed for a reason — and if that reason is uncovered, the universe—and reality itself — could be irrecoverably altered…. -Goodreads

Book cover for Revelation Space


Revelation Space Review

I tried to read Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds a few months ago. ‘Tried to read’ because I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it. The characters were completely unbelievable and … other things annoyed me. Anyways, that’s a different review for a different book. I picked up Revelation Space because it was what we selected as  a group for our Dare to Discuss science fiction book club for May. I’d heard some good things about it, and was willing to give the man another shot. I honestly did not realize at the time that Revelation Space was Reynold’s debut book.

Revelation Space was a whole bunch of good ideas strung rather shoddily together. I can’t believe the sheer amount of times the man rehashed something that had just happened a few pages previous! The book never seemed to gel. It was like Reynolds had this epic tale he wanted to get out, but just wasn’t quite sure how to make it happen. The story just wasn’t tight, the characters were flat, and the writing a fine example of quantity over quality compensation at times.  And I’m fairly sure I’m not in the minority on my opinions regarding this book.

On top of that, the kindle version of the book was riddled with punctuation and formatting errors.  My understanding is that even though this was his debut work, he wasn’t exactly a no-name that appeared out of the blue. So yes, I did expect better of him. And he was given a traditional publication, so the shoddy formatting and lack of proofreading is just doubly irritating. I paid 8.99 for a book I stopped reading halfway through and got a print copy of instead so I could more easily keep track of what was going on.

With that being said, though, I didn’t hate this book. I found what is quite possibly my favorite quote ever in it.  There were several times where I snickered at a verbal dart. I loved his idea of the Amarantin civilzation. The self-hired assassin ‘game’ that Khouri participates early on was a neat development. And the idea of the Inhibitors and how they would have came into being was thought-provoking .  As I said, there’s lots of good ideas in Revelation Space. There’s just not a lot of good writing. Now, given that it his debut book, I won’t be too harsh on him here for that. However, it doesn’t look like (from Pushing Ice) his writing much, which is the sad part.

Finally, and this bugs me more than anything I think, I don’t feel like I got what the synopsis promised. The synopsis makes it sound like this is going to contain some edge of your seat action, tense moments when you don’t know how things are going to play out, and danger at every turn. That’s not what this book is. Yes, it’s dark, and about 500 pages through a little bit of action actually happens, but… Really, Revelation Space is a slow-paced exploration of Reynold’s world and ideas that’s an interesting read, but not a thrilling one by any means. 

Disagree with me? Think this is a fantastic book and you want to tell me why? First, register for the forums (it’s free). Then show up tonight to talk about it with us! We don’t bite and we respect people can have different opinions.

Date: May 17th

Time: 7:00 PM EST

Link: Revelation Space Forum Discussion

2 thoughts on “Revelation Space Review (Sci-Fi Space Opera)

  1. The sad thing is, the description at the top of your article makes the book sound absolutely fabulous. It just sounds like the author lacked a supervision of his vision–a good editor might have rescued the work and made it the book it intended to be. It’s just a shame Pinocchio never found his blue fairy!

    1. Yep! And the discussion we had about it last night made it clear we all thought there was a really good book in there somewhere . David Dubrow said the other books in the series keep getting better… But yeah, not tempted at all.

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