I bought into A.Reynolds after I'd finished reading everything by Iain Banks and Peter Hamilton. I tend to prefer the tone of British authors as they are less sensational and have a particular humour :) So tragic was the loss of Mr Banks, I was absolutely gutted by the fact that I'd never read another Culture novel...selfish, I know but gutted nonetheless.
I recall a Google hangout I was part of, around February 2013 (iirc), Banks, Hamilton and Reynolds hosted. All 3 of them gave over so much of their writing character, I knew then that I would read Mr Reynolds' books even with a few of Peter Hamilton's still to get through. So, in time, I did a cursory bit of research on Alastair Reynolds...as soon as I discovered he used to work as an astrophysicist for the European Space Agency I was sold. You just don't get better credentials than that in my opinion, that IS better than a MA in English Literature as far as I - as a massive fan of Science Fiction writing - am concerned. I have not been disappointed so far, the Revelation Space universe (which I believe is set in our actual near galaxy) is wonderfully conceived and executed with finesse. The factions into which the human race has split are very believable and, like I say, the scientific ideas underpinning the technologies which drive the story arcs are second to none.
If you are looking for a new sci-fi author to read and enjoyed Banks/Hamilton...buy this now!