Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review — The Prefect

By Alastair Reynolds

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Imagine, if you will, a perfect democracy. A democracy where there is no centralized government, where every citizen votes independently on nearly everything. Each habitat (of which there are 10,000 comprising the Glitter Band) is a unique social system, yet all share the common right to vote accomplished through a centralized network simply referred to as The Abstraction.  In many cases this network is connected cybernetically to every citizens’ brain, and everything and anything is subject to continuous polling. Each habitat decides its own politics, laws and manner of living. In this future Golden Age of absolute democracy (demarchism) the worst crime is to withhold a person’s right to vote or to tamper with the votes themselves. The responsibility to protect these rights and make certain every citizen is afforded them rests upon the shoulders of Panoply, an order of enforcers armed with a unique and versatile weapon called awhiphound.

The Panoply chain-of-command is as follows: Cadet – Prefect in training; Prefect – Neophyte Prefect, in-house duties only; Field Prefect – Prefects experienced enough to police the Glitter Band; Senior Prefect – Experienced Field Prefects serving mostly as administrators; Supreme Prefect – Jane Aumonier.

It is 2427 in the keenly constructed universe of Revelation Space, well before the events of Chasm City, and in the seemingly highest order of human civilization a great crime has been committed. A lighthugger (a colossal starship) has attacked a habitat killing every citizen. Field Prefect Dreyfus and his team have been assigned to investigate and a delightful, fast paced, and incredibly thoughtful adventure begins. This is action-adventure come detective mystery come Hard SF novel not to be missed. The characters are extremely well conceived and brilliantly developed. With every twist and turn of the plot Reynolds reels you in like a hypnotized bass. All of the trademark elements that validate him as being amongst the best working SF writers today are present. The twisted and deviant villains and sub surface motives and schemes.

I asked Alastair Reynolds back in May of 2006 what made him return to the Universe of Revelation Space and he wrote

“After two books away from the Revelation Space universe, I felt that the time was right for me to return to it. I really felt that Absolution Gap was the last word on the matter, but by the time I’d written the new stories for the Galactic North collection, I felt a lot more excited about the idea of doing another RS book. It’s sufficiently different in tone and approach that it feels like something new – to me, at least. It’s got nothing of the gothic/noir sensibility of the first four books, being a lot more high-tech and hard-edged, with loads of cool gadgets and nasty weapons.”

I loved it, and I highly recommend this wonderful epic!

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Book Review — Pushing Ice

By Alastair Reynolds

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

I am incredibly fond of Revelation Space and all wonders of that groundbreaking series, and I must admit I was secretly hoping for another, but I can honestly say after reading Pushing Ice that I would now prefer a sequel to it as opposed to the former. Make no mistake, Pushing Ice pushes the limits of hard science fiction and, like a great rushing comet, soars magnificently through the stellar medium of

modern science fiction. This awe inspiring novel follows the lives of two women aboard a comet mining vessel as they experience an unforgettable sojourn through time and space. They battle the elements, their resources, each other, aliens, and time itself.

This is no daft space opera here. Alastair keenly develops every scene, character, and plot device meticulously with the practiced hand of a literary surgeon. In an unprecedented (and perhaps unconscious) lift of the oft forgotten 19th century classic literary technique of using a character with the initials J. C. to act as the sacrificial Christ-like catalyst and turning point of the narrative, Alastair Reynolds cleverly blends classic and contemporary literary strategies, intrigue, action, and character throughout the scope of this novel.

I have often wondered who would finally answer the question of how do you justify or create a universe where vastly different races develop at approximately the same rate. The overwhelming odds are that if several different races did come together they would be at such vastly different levels of technological development that they would never truly interact. This fact has been ignored or overlooked since before Ming the Merciless attacked the Earth with his Purple Death Ray.

My favorite race from Pushing Ice is best introduced by Alastair himself: “Musk Dogs are not in themselves belligerent or aggressive, nor are they exceptionally advanced by Structure standards. They are just . . . trouble.” And that was no overstatement.

Read this book and be captivated. I have to ask, does anybody

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Book Review — Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

By  Suzzana Clarke

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

“Can a magician kill a man by magic?” Lord Wellington asked Strange. Strange frowned, “I suppose a magician might, but a gentleman never would.”

These words summarize the mentality of the magicians in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. For all intents and purposes, this story provides to us fantasy nuts proof that not only science fiction writers can do great alternate history stories.

This multi-award winning novel documents the quest of Gilbert Norrell and Jonathan Strange to revive the lost “English Magic” during the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

Filled with intrigue, hidden deeds, conflicts between magicians and the beings from fairy, this story offers hours of enjoyment for all readers, and if the audio book is more to your liking, the talented British voice actor, Simon Preble, lends his voice to the mix.

All in all, this story is truly the great piece of literature it has been touted to be, and anyone looking for their next favorite, would do good to look here.

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