Century Rain

Alternative Worlds

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Century Rain
Alastair Reynolds
Ace, Jun 2005, $24.95, 512 pp.
ISBN: 0441012906

Not long after the end of World War II, American jazz musician Wendell Floyd came to Paris to play. Though he had some gigs, he and his band partner Andre Custine earn their keep as private investigators. French landlord Blanchard hires them to investigate the death of a tenant Susan White; the cops declared her death a suicide or accident, but their current client believes a homicide occurred.

Three hundred years later, the earth is a frozen wasteland devastated by the twenty-third century technological calamity the Nanocaust. Archeologist Verity Augur leads a dig beneath the icy landscape of Paris until an assistant is killed during the excavation. Verity expects to be blamed and her career aborted when the tribunal hearing rules. Still, she keeps working as the bureaucracy is slow to begin the inquiry. Soon she finds “threads” that tie her present to 1950s Paris and the route to arrive in this warmer upbeat city. There she meets Wendell; they quickly realize they need one another to solve their respective scenarios; neither expected nor prepared for an overarching revelation that they find in the Paris Metro that could destroy space occupying both worlds.

CENTURY RAIN is an exciting mixing of an Urban Noir inside a fabulous quantum physics based science fiction thriller. The story line is action-packed, moving back and forth between the ages but mostly commingling in the 1950s. Wendell and Verity are a fine pairing while the support cast enhances understanding of both ages and the string that bounds time and place. The set up for the finale is so good that a wonderfully developed finish feels almost anti-climatic as Alastair Reynolds is at his best.
 
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