Review : Revelation Space

My rating : ★★★★✬
Cover- Revelation Space
I waited two weeks before penning this review[before which I’ve started reading the Redemption arc], just to let my feelings for the book sink in. I want to give Revelation Space 5 stars but there are few aspects that pulled it down to 4.5 stars.

I bought the book in early 2011, my second purchase from Amazon ever. Growing up with Jules Verne I was out of touch from reading for nearly a decade. The Mysterious Islands, Journey to the center of the earths were my everyday reads back in school. So when I got in touch of old nerd-buddies, I was strongly advised to ‘start’ back the reading habit with this. They couldn’t be more wrong and let me explain why.

Revelation Space starts off amongst three streams -a  violent desert storm in the far-flung planet of Resurgam where Dan Sylveste investigates the 900,000 year old Amarantin civilization and it’s sudden extension, a mysterious incident called the Event. The Amarantians were found to have achieved great technological feats before getting wiped off from the history.

The second thread starts with the introduction of the great ship Nostalgia for Infinity, a slower-than light interstellar spaceship that visits the Yellowstone in search of Sylveste.
The third thread of the novel happens in Chasm city, Yellowstone, where a professional assassin Ana Khouri gets recruited by mysterious The Mademoiselle to infiltrate Nostalgia for Infinity. The Mademoiselle is able to set a chance meeting making it appear as though it happened by chance, with one of the members of NFI, triumvir Ilia Volyova.
Rest of the story is about how the three threads combine and a great revelation at the end, a reason for Fermi paradox.

Not being a native English speaker or a trained reader patient enough to slug through hours even if the story is a drag, I lost my interest in the first 150 pages. After three years and some 100 books later, I picked it up by chance. One fine evening on the patio of Starbucks, coming into contact with Khouri, my favorite character, and Sylveste, I finished the book in another 3 sittings. I felt ‘wow’d. The concepts in the novel were very interesting, especially the explanation of highly-bio-modified Ultras and the sentient robots. I would even rate this as having a tinge of fantasy in them, the alpha and beta simulations of Calvin Sylveste, AI at different stages of sentience, and the suits that can carry a passenger to several Gs.

The Revelation Space universe is bleak and cold where humans feel less empathy than what it is now. The culture is spread out and has not reached it’s peak. Hardships and assholes are the deal of the day. People fight each other, against un-known terrors, hell class weapons and anti-matter bombs gets hidden inside eyes.

The world-building and the intricate explanation of every scene is detailed enough that it matched the best I’ve read with[Hyperion again]. I state this as The book is author’s debut full-length novel. Every part of the POV character’s vision, every clatter his/her foot makes, every feel from the touches, explained. To a majority of readers this would be a overkill, but to me it was an experience- one I revisited since Dan Simmons’s Hyperion cantos.

Now comes the part I explain about the half-emptiness of the last star. Pacing- something that would’ve used an extra serving.  Several parts in first half of the book drags so slow that you would be tempted to take breaks. One scene that pops out when I think of the pacing is a 10 page explanation (8000 words?) of the simulation scene that takes place at the spider room in NFI, between the Ultras and their new recruit Khouri. It was where I left stopped reading during my second try. Third trial was easier as I was much more patient reader with greater grasp for the language and sci-fi terms that I was able to slug through it. Once that piece got over, the story morphed into something else. I felt like riding on a powerful mammoth carrying me toward the end of the book, it’s foot stomp being the soundtrack and the jerks and shakes explaining the emotional fluctuations I felt through the story.

The final third of the book was so good that gave me gasps and ‘wow’s every 10 pages. The quantum computation was explained succinctly in couple of paragraphs, better than my science book and the LHC like concept was touched upon. Alastair Reynolds love/hated the two pillars of Fermi paradox that this book was born. I enjoyed the epilogue very much although I’d have liked it to end with …………………[spoilers].

This is not for the reader who just finished The Old Man’s War, this is Hard sci-fi that pulls you in, twists your emotions and gives you a satisfying experience. The wordage and artful threading the story gets woven by is a satisfying and great read.