Sunday, December 23, 2018

Revenger - Alastair Reynolds (A Christmas Story)

This was written a couple of years ago, but it seems appropriate to post this now, since it has baubles in it. 

I recently bought a stack of old SF books from a second-hand shop. Unfortunately it seems my discernment has changed over the years and quite a few of them went into a bag after a few pages to go back to a charity shop. I also went into Waterstones and bought some new books from writers who have never really failed me, and one of those is Alastair Reynolds. Finally giving up on the second-hand stuff I picked up Revenger.

Here we have a far future human civilization after the planets have been broken up and formed into millions of small worlds called the Congregation. There have been many ‘occupations’ of these worlds – the rises and falls of previous civilizations – which have left all sorts of high tech goodies scattered across space. These are often to be found in ‘baubles’ – worlds often concealed under force fields that open intermittently. This opening can be predicted by augury, usually by experts aboard the sailing ships that seek out this treasure. Of course the sailing ships run the perfectly feasible technology of light sails but, you know, there are pirates too.

Arthur C Clarke tells us that ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’. Reynolds takes hold of this and gives us alchemy, a form of phrenology that delighted me, and all the dusty weirdness where advanced technology has become ancient, whipped up with a riff from Pirates of the Caribbean. I had a ball with this.



Matt said...

Just started this book after I dismissed it years ago as it did seem SF enough for me (too many references to pirates in the blurbs might have been the problem). Then a few months back I was watching a YouTube video on Dyson swarms by Issue Arthur (recommended too) and he mentioned that Revenger was set in a Dyson swarm that was decaying and I was suddenly interested again.

Not sure about all the pseudo psi powers at the moment but it's still early in the book.

Martin Sommerfeld said...

Well.... "meh"... for me a sub-standard Alastair Reynolds novel, think I liked everything else I read by him better so far. Though what I read was mostly set in Revelation Space to be honest, except Pushing Ice.
Interesting world in the dyson swarm, but I had a hard time relating to any of the characters and the techno/magic left a bit too much unexplained for my taste. Maybe he is setting a lot up for the future, just saw a sequel called Shadow Captain is due 2019.
If this spoilery-question is allowed: For me was not really clear why every one "converted" by Bosa Sennen seems to be become over the top cruel, as it was hinted in the end there might be more to Bosa Sennen than just the fun of piracy.