Review: Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

Vertigo

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#1
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Arafura and Adrana are teenagers who don’t much like their family life and so decide to run away and join a solar light sail powered spaceship, make their fortunes and return to bale out their impoverished father. That’s the idea anyway; of course nothing ever works out quite according to plan.

This is a strange mishmash of a book. It feels, particularly at the outset, as those it is striving for a young adult audience but later loses that early atmosphere, becoming much darker and more adult oriented. I wasn’t too unhappy with that as I don’t generally get on very well with YA style books. The universe manages to be both extremely far future and, at the same time, almost steampunk, not dissimilar to the feel of Chris Wooding’s Ketty Jay books (though with much less humour). It is set in a universe in which the planet or planets orbiting the ‘Old Sun’ (possibly Earth and Sol or possibly somewhere else; it’s neither made clear nor particularly important) have been sundered into hundreds of thousands of small ‘worlds’ where gravity is provided either by spinning them or placing black holes at their centres. All this has been done by a population, human or alien, lost in the mists of time. Subsequently these worlds have gone through waves of occupation by both human or alien civilisations leaving behind caches of their technology scattered throughout the system. The present civilisation, mostly human, live in or on the various worlds raiding the caches for technology that they can use despite having no understanding of how it works. This makes for an interesting and different backdrop where some of the tech is pretty much steampunk and the rest so far advanced to meet Clarke’s definition of magic.

I thoroughly enjoyed the setting, the writing, the characters and the story, the only fly being a slightly uneven feel to the whole book and a bit of predictability about the plot at least on the macro level; the smaller plotting details were much less predictable. Also why do SF authors so often pick a small number of random ‘new’ words for a few things whilst leaving the vast majority unchanged – things like ‘lungstuff’ instead of air? All it seems to achieve from my perspective is a disjointed vocabulary where the unchanged stuff draws attention to the changed and the changed to the unchanged. A long way from being Reynolds best, Revenger is still an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next instalment.

4/5 stars
 
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#2
Thanks for the review. I have been on the fence about a Reynolds YA book, but maybe I'll give this a try. I generally find it hard to just try stuff, so I probably read fewer new authors than I should, while Reynolds is kind of tried and true (even though Slow Bullets was horrible). He's not the world's best writer, but his worlds and plots are good enough to make up for sometimes simplistic characterizations and dialogue.
 

Vertigo

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#3
Thanks for the review. I have been on the fence about a Reynolds YA book, but maybe I'll give this a try. I generally find it hard to just try stuff, so I probably read fewer new authors than I should, while Reynolds is kind of tried and true (even though Slow Bullets was horrible). He's not the world's best writer, but his worlds and plots are good enough to make up for sometimes simplistic characterizations and dialogue.
To be honest I'm still a little on the fence on this one myself, even after reading it. I did enjoy it but I'm not sure the story really knows what it wants to be; YA, grim dark, steampunk, hard SF, it has elements of all of those and even fantasy, wrapped up in tech so futuristic that it looks like magic. I always have somewhat mixed feelings about that sort of thing; sometimes seems like a bit of deus ex machine cop out when you can simply pick up a lump of 'stuff' and it can do all sorts of magical things. Although I gave it 4 stars I ummed and ahhed a lot; I never do half stars but this was really more of a 3.5 stars. Difficult one, but I supposes the bottom line is that I did enjoy it and I will go on to get the next, however it doesn't begin to compare to something like House of Suns in my opinion.

And I know exactly what you mean about trying new authors; I hate doing it with the fear that I'll just waste a load of time which is far worse than wasting a load of money!
 

Rodders

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#4
Nice review.

I struggle with Alistair Reynolds non RS books, but I have this on my TBR pile at home.
 

Brian G Turner

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#6
I read The Prefect on the expectation that it would be hard SF - but it seemed more like a fantasy in space, within a thriller framework, and that was disappointing. However, I think it's his Revelation Space series that people tend to talk most about - would either House of Suns or Pushing Ice be good to pick up as standalones?
 
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#7
I read The Prefect on the expectation that it would be hard SF - but it seemed more like a fantasy in space, within a thriller framework, and that was disappointing. However, I think it's his Revelation Space series that people tend to talk most about - would either House of Suns or Pushing Ice be good to pick up as standalones?
The Prefect is set in the RS world, but it is a police procedural, as is the recent sequel novel. Pushing Ice is more hard SF while House of Suns is more far flung but personal. I'd read them both.
 

picklematrix

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#10
Reynolds is near the top of my tbr pile, though ill probably start with his more adult works, as they come highly recommended
 

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