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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Review: Chasm City

Chasm City (kindle edition) is Alastair Reynolds' second novel set in the Revelation Space universe. This is a standalone novel designed to be read in any order within the series. However and it would still make sense to have a good understanding of the Universe before proceeding so I still recommend reading his collection of short stories Galactic North. The novel centers around use former soldier known as Tanner Mirabel. We start off with a cinematic action sequence with Mirabel stalking someone for revenge, but ends up fighting for his survival.

Despite the title of the book, the novel is as much about Sky's Edge as it is about Yellowstone, the star system in which Chasm City exists. Through a series of dream sequences, we learn about Sky's Edge's founder, Sky Haussman, who turns out to be a thoroughly despicable character. Despite the misdirection, we figure out what the connection is between Mirabel and Haussman is by the middle of the novel, but the novel has us firmly in its grip by then and the urge to read on is compelling. What's more, Reynolds has yet another surprise up his sleeve, and while that one is tougher to figure out, it's not too hard for the reader to put two and two together.

The universe is realized very finely, and we learn about the origins of the Melding Plague, as well as the backstory behind Chasm City. The result is a deeper view into Reynolds' universe. At the end of the novel there's a little bit of redemption, and a hint as to what's coming in future novels.

Recommended for a plot that's interesting and fair (in that it's possible to unravel the mystery before the reveal), and a reasonable exposition. As usual, the characters are shallow and not that interesting in themselves, but that's a common fault for science fiction writers, who love their ideas more than they love their characters.

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