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VINE VOICEon 19 July 2002
Redemption Ark is billed as a galaxy spanning hard sci-fi story but the motivations of the lead characters are very human - a love story that has lasted 400 years, a young woman who risks being a casualty of a nasty war just to bury her father in the heart of a sun and a lead character that decides to override hundreds of years of loyalty to a race of humans with a Borg like ability to share thoughts in order to retrieve ultimate weapons that might just save the human species.. If you couple that with a race called the Inhibitors that seem to regard humans who want to explore space as a menace to be surpressed then you have a book that works on both a sci-fi purists level and a personal level. I read the 500 plus pages in 3 days finsihing off at 1 a.m. and was only disappointed that it had finished - although I have to say there are at least three plot lines that could be continued.
An excellent read - one point, if you have read Revalation Space it will make this easier to read but its not essential
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on 2 July 2002
This book is sooooo frustrating, for a start its better than both Revelation Space and Chasm City, both characterisation and plotting are stronger. Half the characters will be familiar from Revelation Space, with a couple of cameos from Chasm city for good measure. The new characters are his best yet with real depth and complexity - especially Clavain and Skade. The hard science part is excellent with some intriuging concepts. The wolves/inhibitors are excellent as implacable enemies, and the conjoiners add a nice human touch.
The first 400 pages are amongst the best SF I have read, unfortunately its thrown away in the last 150 pages or so, as the author sets things up for a sequel. What should have been the climax is thrown away in a couple of lines and instead we get an epilogue who's sole purpose is to prepare us for said sequel.
This is the authors best work yet but...its crying out for a decent editor. Infact in places it looks like whole subplots were edited out (for reasons of space?) - the lighthugger theft for instance...
I dont wan't to be too negative, this is one of the best SF novels I have read this year, but unfortunately it just falls at the last hurdle and what should have been a great book, becomes just very good.
Hopefully the sequel will be the book this one could have been as the Author improves with every book he writes.
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on 8 August 2002
In "Redemption Ark" Alastair Reynolds continues his story of the impending threat to human space faring society we learn about in "Revelation Space". As the other reviewers have pointed out, this book is clearly meant to be part of a series, although I don't think it is crucial to the understanding and enjoyment of the story to have read the prequels (or in fact prequel, since "Chasm City" is more of an independent story, set in the same fictional universe). It is however obviously meant to be a stepping stone leading up to the final decisive struggle against the Inhibitors, of which we should be able to read about in early 2004 or hopefully late next year. By then you will have had plenty of time to catch up on the preceding events should you wish to, which I very much recommend since they are all hugely enjoyable and interesting. Reynolds is an astrophysicist working for the ESA in the Netherlands, and his intimate knowledge of the subject shows in his work. It's this understanding of space and possible future technologies that distinguishes him from many of his contemporaries and adds the plausible scientific backdrop to his action packed stories, giving them that sense of reality that makes them so fantastic. For anyone who's interested in Hard SF (science fiction grounded on science fact), or would like to make an excursion into this branch of SF, you can't go wrong with Alastair Reynolds, although you might as well begin with "Revelation Space" and then work your way through, or you might not forgive him the long wait to see what happens next...
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on 23 July 2016
I Generally love Alistair Reynolds, and I want to love this, but I can't quite do it. To give him credit, Redemption Ark is still better than a lot of sci-fi, but the writing itself feels a little bit under-thought.
The good: Interesting plot, the Inhibitors are a strong idea and Reynolds universe of conjoiners, spiders, the lost Amarantin and giant computers in dwarf stars - is imaginative and convincingly portrayed. The characters are strongly defined and change actions as they change moods. Equally, long-term character development is well handled. Reynolds does do a little science, but never too much, and he keeps the plot moving rather than lose page after page to explaining some point of physics.
The bad: There are two points, one I can define, the other is a little harder. First, the writing has a horrible habit of repeating itself. For example, five or six sentences will start 'She..'. - She went outside. She saw the ship. She knew it was bad. She hadn't slept for days. While not an actual extract, this gives a sense of the problem, which smacks of laziness and the repetition started to jar with me. Others are 'it neared the nuclear burning core', and then the phrase 'nuclear burning core' is used repeatedly in descriptions and in dialogue. Just 'the core' would suffice, but again, while it may sound pedantic the over-use of phrases really pulled me out of the book and began to annoy me - especially as dialogue because it sounds artificial.
The second flaw is harder to define. Maybe it's a consequence of the first flaw stopping me from becoming really immersed in the book. Whatever the cause, I found myself less gripped than I was by the first novel in this series 'Revelation Space'. I was less convinced by some characters, who's actions felt more like something useful to the plot than something the character would really do.
Overall, I still enjoyed large section of the book and will certainly read the next instalment. My gripes are minor and I would recommend this, and much of Reynolds work, to anyone who enjoys 'grand-scale' sci-fi.
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on 6 August 2002
Rather a continuation to the critically acclaimed "Revelation Space" than his second outing "Chasm City", Alastair Reynolds has successfully developed his own SF world with all the twists and turns (and more) of his original masterpiece. We learn more about the mysterious Inhibitors and of their motivations for the automated genocides, which leads to some unexpected dilemmas for some of the main characters.
The characterization is extremely well contrived and believable, adding very much to the richness of the novel. It also adds to the fun when a long lost character makes an unexpected re-appearance... Volyova's conversations with weapon 17 and the tensions surrounding the (bizarre) Captain Brannigan are brilliant.
...It is the clever working of sub-plots that lead to an unpredictable story, and as for the fact that it appears to be set up for a sequel - so what? Great I say. I can't wait to read the next installment. Get it now you will not be sorry.
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on 20 August 2013
I absolutely loved the 5 star Revelation Space, so I found this follow up a touch dissappointing. It's not that it isn't very good, it is, it is just that some of the wonder of the first book has been lost. In the first book we were thrown in at the deep end with all the competing sects and complex technology of the 25th century. We also understood very little of the threat of the Inhibitors and why they do what they do. In this book much of this is explained and unfortunately it falls a little bit flat. I guess it is just very, very hard for an author to deliver on an incredible premise. This book was still a gripping read however, and it has done enough to keep me reading the series.
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on 26 August 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed the Revelation Space series - as "hard" science fiction it managed to segue into the more outlandish science fiction quite nicely while still keeping some grounding in current understanding of physics. That being said, the ending was a complete disappointment - without giving away too much, it wraps up the story with something that seems like an afterthought at the beginning of writing the third book.
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on 3 August 2002
I loved this novel and finished it over a weekend. For those of you who have read Reynold's previous two novels, Redemption Ark seems to combine the best of both of them. It develops the intriguing ideas of Revelation Space and provides the thrills, twists and action of Chasm City.
One particularly effective aspect of Reynold's tales is his ability to make hi-tech events seem creepy in an almost haunted house sense. We saw this is Chasm City with the idea of the 'ghost ship' following Sky's flotilla. We see it in Redemption Ark with the star ship that has melded with its captain, in the strange disappearances of people in the inertia experiments and in the sinister activities of the Inhibitors. In discussing the novel with a friend they likened its ability to chill to the early scenes of the film Event Horizon.
In terms of characterisation, I enjoyed the way Reynolds reintroduced old characters, developing them further. I also felt that Clavain was a brilliant creation in his moral ambiguity and his motivation to do the 'right thing'. He is, by turns, heroic, enigmatic and terrifying.
My only disappointment with the novel was the way that it seems to gloss over certain events. I wonder whether Reynolds did this to move the story along and avoid too high a word count. It's a pity; I would have loved to have read about how the human/pig army attacked and captured the ship that takes them on their journey after the doomsday weapons.
I am a big fan of Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy, and while Redemption Ark does not have the scope of Hamilton's epic novels, I think Reynolds delivers equal thrills and deals in more intriguing hard science ideas.
Finally, a word of warning. At times I felt unsure how easy and satisfying a read this novel would be without first reading Revelation Space. Many of the complex story lines in Redemption Ark begin in this novel.
Overall, a highly recommended read, but read Revelation Space first if you want to get the most out of the story.
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VINE VOICEon 26 January 2005
First off, despite any explanatory cover blurb, please be aware that Redemption Ark is Alistair Reynolds 3rd novel, and your enjoyment of it will depend largely on having read his previous 2 novels, as this is a direct sequel to Revelation Space, while also building on some characters introduced in Chasm City. Personally I found that Revelation Space was a very encouraging debut, and dismissed the rough edges as merely a new author getting to grips with his craft, yet Chasm City - despite some good material - seemed to be a massive step backwards in quality, with Reynolds writing appearing rather ham fisted at times.
Reynolds strengths have always been in the big science fiction concepts, but what has previously let him down has been poor pacing and structure, with Chasm City being particularly guilty of employing glaring deus ex machina and having character's entirely lacking in logical motivation. The good news is that Redemption Ark is a return to form after the sloppy Chasm City, though the novel is still far from flawless.
Pacing is still a problem for Reynolds - Redemption Ark on the one hand feels too bloated at 650 pages, with the fairly slight background story of the Inhibitors being repeated over and over again, yet at the same time crucial moments in the story are glossed over. Two big set pieces come to mind especially, first the highjacking of a Lighthugger ship - supposedly something so outrageous no-one has ever attempted it before; Reynolds takes time to build up the situation and the assault crew to take over the ship - then simply cuts right past the action scene to show the ship having been captured without actually showing us how. Worse is the gutted climax, as after an interstellar chase sequence lasting at least one hundred pages Reynolds again cuts out the final confrontation between the forces of the defecting Clavain and his Conjoiner pursuers, instead opting to gloss over the events by jumping forward in time and offering a brief flashback synopsis. The impression given is that Reynolds got carried away overwriting this novel, then realised he was up against a deadline (or a word count) and frantically hacked away chunks of the text - unfortunately the excised material sounds more interesting than some of what is left.
On the positive side Redemption Ark sees some of the best characterisation yet from Reynolds, with - for the most part - characters acting logically and with clear objectives and motivations. Unfortunately there is one character that doesn't quite convince in this area, and that's Clavain himself - the novel depends on a lot of it's action due to Clavain's defection from the hive-mind Conjoiners and his quest to capture the hell-class weapons of Volyova, but in both cases Clavain overreacts to an alarming degree. His defection that kicks the novel off seemingly comes out of nowhere, and is accompanied by a surprising amount of violence towards his erstwhile friends, while his determination to capture the hell-class weapons is slightly confusing - both he and Volyova want to use the weapons to destroy the humanity-culling Inhibitor machines, but rather than offering his assistance in a peaceful manner he comes in all guns blazing. Without Clavain's actions there wouldn't be much of a novel here, but he doesn't always convince.
The only other real problem with Redemption Ark is the traditional one shared by middle books of trilogies - the set-up has already occurred, and nothing is resolved at the novels end: if you want the climax you'll have to read Absolution Gap as well. Despite it's construction flaws Chasm City did at least offer some new locations and environments compared to Revelation Space - by contrast Redemption Ark contents itself to play with the established characters and setting, so Reynolds is unable to generate any 'sense of wonder' here.
Still, while these annoying little flaws stop Reynolds from being as good an author as he continually promises to be, Redemption Ark is a generally enjoyable hard-sf space opera, and a distinct improvement on Chasm City. To put it simply, if you enjoyed Revelation Space and wanted to find out what happened to the characters next, Redemption Ark will be for you.
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on 16 July 2012
The middle part of a trilogy is often the hardest to write; you have the expectations and plotlines raised by the first book, while still having to set everything in place for the last act. Happily, I feel that Reynolds largely succeeded here.

In terms of timeline, Redemption Ark picks up not too long after Revelation Space finished, although straight away Reynolds throws a whole bunch of new characters at the reader. Luckily, they are all fascinating creations, from the hyper-evolved Conjoiners represented by the ruthless Skade and the repentant Clavain, to the young pilot Antoinette Bax and the brutal pig criminal Scorpio.

By the time we are actually reaquainted with the survivors from the first novel, Reynolds has embarked on several new plot strands, although all twine together into the over-arcing Inhibitors plot. For you see, the enemies of all advanced life have finally arrived, and a desperate race for the weapons capable of stopping them begins.

Reynolds maintains his knack for breaking up traditional space opera sequences with diversions into scientific theory or transhuman speculation, all without losing the tension he so masterfully builds up. If he has a flaw, it is that sometimes the human motivations, hopes and fears of his characters get somewhat lost amongst all the Big Ideas.

The novel leaves the story somewhat unresolved, in preparation for the final act of the trilogy; certainly there are more loose ends and unresolved plots than at the end of Revelation Space. Despite that, however, the journey to that point is both exciting and enjoyable, so I don't mind being herded towards the big climax. Here's hoping it maintains the high quality of the first two installments.
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