Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Absolution Gap

Absolution Gap by Alastair Reynolds
Penguin Group, 2003
Mass Market Paperback, 768 pages
Revelation Space Series #3
ISBN-13: 9780441012916


Humanity has endured centuries of horrific plague and a particularly brutal interstellar war . . . but there is still no time for peace and quiet. Stirred from aeons of sleep, the Inhibitors - ancient alien killing machines - have begun the process of ridding the galaxy of its latest emergent intelligence: mankind. As a ragtag bag of refugees fleeing the first wave of the cull head towards an apparently insignificant moon light-years away, they discover an avenging angel, a girl born in ice. She has the power to lead mankind to safety, and the ability to draw down their darkest enemy. And on a planet where vast traveling cathedrals crawl towards the treacherous fissure known as Absolution Gap, an unsettling truth becomes apparent: to beat one enemy, it may be necessary to forge an alliance with something much, much worse . . .
My Thoughts:

Absolution Gap by Alastair Reynolds is the third volume in his Revelation Space Series. This is a hard science fiction space opera series - so there is real science in the fiction. Obviously, you will want to read the first two volumes, Revelation Space and Redemption Ark, before Absolution Gap. It should also be mentioned that Reynolds has a stipulation of no faster-than-light travel. This really helps create a sense of the vastness of space and the time it would take to travel anywhere.

For me, Absolution Gap is the weakest of the three books in the series. In many ways the ongoing threat of the Inhibitors was down played. Reynolds dense, poetic prose began to feel a bit overwhelming and I ended up thinking that some editing should have been done. The ending was disappointing to me. Rather than writing the awaited conclusion to his space opera, it felt as if Reynolds was tired of the Revelation Space universe so he took off in another direction and started telling a different story.

What is more likely is that there actually was another book in here, a book about the religion based on watching the gas giant, Haldora, that was established on the moon Hela. Reynolds incorporated it into the Absolution Gap storyline, but it would have served him better to write this book and then write the conclusion to the Revelation Space Series.

In the end, though, if you've read the first two books you'll want to go on and finish the series.

She stands alone at the jetty's end, watching the sky. opening, pg. vii

The view zooms in, concentrating on that one star. The star becomes brighter, until it begins to show colour. Not white now, not even blue-white, but the unmistakable tint of green.
It isn't right. pg. ix

As little as he cared to admit it, he was anxious. It was six months since he had last seen Clavain. Not a long time, really, most certainly not when measured against the span of the man's life. Yet Scorpio could not rid himself of the sense that he was about to encounter an acquaintance he had not met in decades, someone who might have been warped beyond all recognition by life and experience. He wondered how he would respond if it turned out that Clavain had indeed lost his mind. Would he even recognize it if that was true? Scorpio had spent enough time around baseline humans to feel confident about reading their intentions, moods, and general states if sanity. It was said that human and pig minds were not so very different. But with Clavain, Scorpio always made a mental note to ignore his expectations. Clavain was not like other humans. History had shapes him, leaving behind something unique and quite possibly monstrous. pg. 4

"We've found something," Scorpio said. "We don't know exactly what it is, or who sent it, but we think it came from space. We also think there might be someone in it." pg. 6

And thus it was that no human members of the crew of the Gnostic Ascension - not Jasmina, not Grelier, not Quaiche, nor any of the other Ultras - were ever aware that, for more than half a second, the largest gas giant in the system they were approaching, the system unimaginatively called 107
Piscium, had simply ceased to exist. pg. 12

"The queen's insane. Everyone knows that. But she's also pragmatic enough to know a valuable resource when she sees one." Morwenna spoke openly because she knew that the queen had no working listening devices in the revival chamber. "Look at Grelier, for pity's sake. Do you think she'd tolerate that freak for one minute if he wasn't useful to her?" pg. 18

"So you think there are millions - billions - of people out there who are going to die? People we've never met, people we've never come within a light-year of in our lives?"
"That's about the size of it."
"Well, sorry, but that isn't the way my head works. I just can't process that kind of threat. I don't do mass extinction. I'm a lot more locally focused than that. And right now I have local problems." pg.26

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