on 11 August 2012
Okay, so I'm late for this party. . . Again. . . I know. . .
I've had this book sitting on my shelf for years. It doesn't speak well of me, but this was my first reading experience with Alastair Reynolds in long form. And as was the case with Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon last year, I should have read Chasm City years ago.
Only rarely will you find a work that will grab hold of you, capturing your imagination from the very first page, and won't let go till you reach the last page. Chasm City is one such novel. Just a few sentences into the Yellowstone introductory document, and Reynolds had me -- hook, bait, and sinker.
Chasm City delivers on basically every level, making for an awesome reading experience!
Here's the blurb:
Tanner Mirabel was a security specialist who never made a mistake - until the day a woman in his care was blown away by Argent Reivich, a vengeful young postmortal. Tanner's pursuit of Reivich takes him across light-years of space to Chasm City, the domed human settlement on the otherwise inhospitable planet of Yellowstone. But Chasm City is not what it was. The one-time high-tech utopia has become a Gothic nightmare: a nanotechnological virus has corrupted the city's inhabitants as thoroughly as it has the buildings and machines. Before the chase is done, Tanner will have to confront truths which reach back centuries, towards deep space and an atrocity history barely remembers.
The worldbuilding is top notch. Reynolds' narrative is vivid, making the different locales and characters come alive. The author's ability to create various and disparate environments is uncanny, with an imagery that leaps right off the page. So whether the action occurs on Sky's Edge, the Mendicants' habitat, Yellowstone, the Refuge, or Chasm City, Reynolds' narrative makes you feel like you are right there.
Chasm City begins with the first person POV of Tanner Mirabel. Yet once he gets infected with an indoctrinal virus, the reader goes back in time and experiences the POV of Sky Haussmann, the planet's most infamous figure. For some reason that will be unearthed near the end of the book, Mirabel begins to dream about Haussmann's past and what led to his infamy. Though a good chunk of the tale takes place in real time, there are several flashbacks to explain how and why Tanner Mirabel set out to kill Argent Reivich. The supporting cast is all right, though not truly well-defined. But that's not an issue, for the structure of the story makes it Mirabel and Haussman's tale from start to finish.
And although the novel starts off as Tanner Mirabel's story, very quickly the flashbacks become fascinating enough for the reader to actually hope that they'll take over. Soon enough, both the real time action and the flashbacks become intertwined in such a fashion that they sort of become one. Chasm City makes for compulsive reading!
One would think that a doorstopper science fiction novel like this would have its share of info-dumps and uneven pacing issues. Yet Chasm City remains a veritable page-turner. If the Sky Haussmann's episodes at the beginning of the book feel a bit weird, once that storyline nearly takes over the entire book they become an intrinsic part of the plot. Believe you me: this one is hard to put down.
Alastair Reynolds' Chasm City was cruising toward a perfect score until the very end. Something odd occurs, something that was a bit too much. It doesn't take a lot away from the overall reading experience, mind you. But it did leave me shaking my head in bewilderment. Following such an incredible journey, I felt a bit let down by the final confrontation. . .
Still, Chasm City is about as good as space opera gets. This novel deserves the highest possible recommendation.
on 16 July 2012
This is the second of Reynold's books that I have read, and is set in the same universe as his debut effort, Revelation Space. This offering is a very different beast to the previous book, however, both in terms of focus and writing style.
Through first-person narrative we follow soldier-turned-mercenary-turned-bodyguard Tanner Mirabel, as he resolutely stalks a man named Reivich across the galaxy. We only get hints as to why at first, with the background of this unstoppable vendetta slowly being revealed. Mirabel's mission is complicated by his being infected with a religious virus that makes him experience memories from the life of despised martyr Sky Hauptmann, a mysterious figure that died many years before.
If that sounds complicated, I haven't even scratched the surface of the story. Mirabel's quest eventually takes him to the metropolis of the title, a location that will be familiar to readers of the first book. Surrounded by an array of exotic characters, all of them seemingly determined to kill him or aid him (or both), and caught up against his will in a story centuries in the making, Mirabel has to fight, bluff, and threaten his way through the murk his life has become.
It is to Reynolds' credit that Tanner remains a somewhat sympathetic protagonist even as we find out more about the darker portions of his life. If you're a longterm reader of science fiction, particularly the works of Philip K. Dick, you have a good chance of working out one of the majot twists before it is revealed. However, there are SO many more unexpected developments in this convoluted tale of revenge and redemption, you will be entertained to the end.
on 5 December 2011
I was casting my mind back trying to remember why I bought this book. Several years ago I read a book called Revelation Space by the same author, and remember finding it quite heavy going, and I'd never gone back to any of his other novels. But now I remember that it was the Amazon blurb that made me want this book. Even then, it had been sitting on the shelf for quite a while, unread. It's quite a daunting looking tome, big and black and heavy, and Reynolds' reputation for hard SF had me on the backfoot a little. But, lo and behold, once I started reading it was impossible to put down.
Chasm City is a very different book to Revelation Space, even though it is set in the same universe. Told mostly in the first person, it is a science fiction thriller, rather than space opera, and the structure of the novel is brilliant. There are, effectively, three storylines. The main one, that is happening as you read, is that of Tanner Mirabel's pursuit of Argent Reivich, the man he believes responsible for the murders of his former employer and that man's wife. The novel begins with a thrilling sequence set on an orbital elevator above the planet Sky's Edge, and then shifts forward fifteen years, as Tanner comes out of reefersleep with short-term memory loss, having travelled to another system on Reivich's trail, where lies the Chasm City of the title.
It is here that the second tale kicks in, as Tanner, infected with a techno-virus, experiences - through dreams - the life of a man called Schuyler Haussman, who had travelled on the original flotilla, a group of generational ships that carried mankind to Sky's Edge centuries ago. On top of this, Tanner's memories of what happened to his former employer, Cahuella, and his wife, Gitta, begin to haunt him, and various colourful and crazy characters try to help or thwart him as he continues his hunt for Reivich.
The way Reynolds interweaves these three stories is quite brilliant, and lends the novel a thrilling pace that rarely - if ever - lets up for the entirety of its 600+ pages.
In Chasm City he has created an intriguing and scary place. In some ways, it seems like a cross between the future LA seen in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, and the steampunk-ish environs of China Mieville's New Crobuzon. Both the city and its denizens are well-realised, and the gap between the classes within the city come across really well. In some ways, I wish he'd done more with it, because it's such an impressive creation that you can't help but feel there is much more to tell about it, but it easily serves its purpose.
Anyway, I finished this novel and immediately went out and bought three more by the same author, including Revelation Space, which I am now determined to re-read and see if I was wrong about it last time around.
In the meantime, if you're looking for a futuristic thriller, I can't recommend Chasm City highly enough.
on 9 May 2011
This splendid book adds further depth to the Revelation Space universe focusing on an apparently simple personal revenge crusade featuring Yellowstone's Chasm City and the Rust Belt in the immediate aftermath of the onset of the Melding Plague. Reynolds has not yet written a simple book, and this is no exception; the seemingly unrelated storylines converge, fooling the reader into thinking that they know what is going on, only to diverge again with an unexpected twist. The clever dual personality of the main character was both inspired and original, not unlike the shatterling concept in House of Suns, but I did find that, early on, the Haussmann flashbacks were a bit obtrusive and seemed to interrupt the narrative flow (which, I suppose was the point). Thankfully, this book has a proper ending (Reynolds must have had a really bad day when he penned the ending of Absolution Gap) and, at last, we have an explanation of the source of the Melding Plague as well as an insight into an alien life form only briefly mentioned in Revelation Space.
In my continuing mission to explore modern science fiction writing, I am happily marooned on planet Reynolds, enraptured by the ever evolving siren song of the Revelation Space universe. A little overly florid, perhaps, but there are now two kings of modern, proper science fiction; Reynolds and Banks - always two there are and the formerly unchallenged master, now seemingly resting on his laurels, had better keep an eye on the apprentice.
I enjoyed Revelation Space, but found the ending to the trilogy very disappointing. In fact I was so disappointed with the end of Absolution Gap, that I almost didn't buy this book at all.
I did buy it though, but approached this book prepared to be disappointed again. Instead found myself enjoying this book far more than I expected.
This book stands alone from the trilogy, but is set in the same universe and time frame. It also features some of the same characters.
You don't have to have read any of the other books to enoy this one, but I would suggest that if you are intending on reading Revelation Space, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap, you should read them first as this one fills in and fleshes out some of the background to events and characters contained within those books.
I found the plot in this book to be much more focused and tighter than Revelation Space and its follow ups. The plot also moves at a faster pace. It also, I am very glad to say, has a much more satisfying ending.
Alastair Reynolds is very good at hiding the twists and turns in his books, yet giving you enough clues that you can work them out if you want to work hard enough. If you don't want to work that hard, the actual points where the twists are revealed are very nicely done. He doesn't make you feel like you have been stupid not to have spotted what was happening, or assume that you would have worked it out by then - this is probably a lot harder to do than I can imagine!
All in all I would say this book is well worth reading.
on 8 December 2004
This book is set over a much shorter timescale than his first book (Revelation Space) and the story is much tighter and more pleasurable to read for it.
There are three interesting storylines that converge toward the end, but I must say that I thought the 'twist' was obvious from the middle of the book.
The universe this book is set in is the same as Revelation Space, although in a slightly different period and there are plenty of references to the first book to help place this story. However, this is an entirely independent story from Revelation Space.
Chasm city is a horror - it's buildings, machines and society ruined by the melding plague. There is an almost Dickensian feel about the poor, Mulch dwellers and the upper class Canopy society. Chasm City is quite well described and has many interesting features.
However, the characters are too shallow. We never really know what motivates most of them. Tanner Mirabel is supposed to be a professional soldier/mercenary but his professional detachment goes out the window as he vows to avenge his boss's assassination, travelling across space for 15 years in suspended animation to track down the killer, Reivich. The motley crew he links up with variously want to mislead him, kidnap him or/and kill him, but all end up going off together to confront the big baddy near the end on Tanners side. For the most part, it is not clear why they each have a change of heart.
There are other oddities as well - mutant pigs who pop up now and again to save Tanner, then are never mentioned again. The Mixmasters scan his body for physiological changes and injuries and spot his retinal modifications but miss his poisonous fangs and his missing arm. Still, no one's perfect. I also lost count of how many times Tanner Mirabel was captured by someone, or lost consciousness.
The other storylines suffer similarly. One is the earlier story of Tanner and the other is the complex tale of Sky Haussman. Not sure what turned Sky into a psycho - was it the lights failing as a boy, his father dying of his injuries or was he just predisposed to instant psychosis? We don't know.
I'm afraid this all sounds a bit negative, BUT actually I was thoroughly gripped by this book. Try to glide over the plot holes and lapses in logic and it's basically a good yarn.
If you liked Revelation Space, you'll like this. If you didn't like revelation Space, it's still worth giving this one a go.
on 20 June 2001
I loved Revelation Space and so was dead keen to get stuck into this, stroking the iridescent cover artwork in anticipation (large format paperback - good aesthetics but a right wrist-acher when strap-hanging on the tube . . .). Anyway, the plot kicks off I in noirish, gangstery mood before looping off spectacularly across Space and Time as we follow anti-hero Tanner Mirabel on his strange personal odyssey. At first I have to say that I was worried by Mirabel's urbane but peculiar, almost transparent persona, feeling that a psychotic lead character would have trouble engaging my sympathy. Silly me. Mirabel's struggle with his bizarre personality quickly reveals itself as the major theme of the book, and it is cleverly elucidated via a deft dual-storytelling approach which continually offers the reader opportunities to speculate about what is really going on without actually giving the game away until right at the end. Around this central narrative Reynolds skillfully weaves a kaleidoscopic adventure, liberally strewn with death and destruction, weaponry, aliens, girls with guns and enough vivid scene-setting to keep the cinematically inclined mind's eye goggling away for hours. There are plentiful flashes of nerdic science too, to keep the 'hard' element happy, and some good jokes (funny how so many writers seem to forget how vital humour is to a balanced narrative). So a pretty well rounded package of top entertainment all round, and I for one will be strengthening my forearms in anticipation of another Reynolds opus (no pressure Alastair . . .)
on 21 June 2001
I really enjoyed Chasm City. It felt somewhat disjointed however. It was almost like 2 different stories in one book. Sky Haussman story and Tanner Mirabel story. At first Sky Haussman story intrigued me the most.It reminded me of great generation startship novel by Heinlein(its name escapes me right now). Then when doublecrosses in Tanner Mirabel story intensified, I was totally fascinated by the book as a whole. Almost great science fiction novel in my opinion. Much better than Revelation Space. His third novel, in my opinion, should be up to I.M.Banks level.
on 9 August 2001
Reynolds takes us into his fascinating universe again, with parallel stories of Tanner Mirabel in Chasm City post-Melding Plague and Sky Haussmann centuries before on a generation ship to Journey's End. Both characters are powerfully written, and this perhaps is what makes the ending less than completely satisfactory. Revelation Space was fantastic and the end lived up to the rest of the book, with Chasm City the author lets us down a little at the end, with more of a whimper than a bang, but it still rates 4 stars.
on 20 August 2001
A superb sequel and it truly goes to show that there's more inside Alastair Reynolds to share with the world.
Whilst I found it slow to get started, when it did, it simply thundered along like an express train, and it took just as long to stop, too! Put this book down? I think not!
A story of intrigue, subtle build ups and hard-hitting action scenes. If, like me, you adore fast paced drama and high-tech gadgetry in equal measure, you'll love it!