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4.1 out of 5 stars
Chasm City
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 7 August 2001
Alastair Reynolds has written another fantastic novel in "Chasm City" - it's just like "Revelation Space," except better, its hard-edged science fiction with great characters, we get the vastness of space, inner and outer. Alastair Reynolds is indeed a brilliant writer. I found it gripping, very clever, with wonderful descriptions that create a strong visual dimension as you read the story. Alastair's imagination really stretches you.
Every time I thought the story had crested, some new twist and turn kept occurring. Throughout this 524-page novel, the various story lines kept coming together, there was obviously so much more of the plot to unravel. Two-thirds into the story and I just couldn't put the book down. I just stayed up till 2 a.m. to finish "Chasm City," eagerly turning each page, drawn to each word like a caterpillar crossing a blade of grass, to see what new part of the story would be revealed.
I can't sleep as I'm still reeling from this magnificent book. Wow, what a feeling! Even after having read Alastair's first debut novel "Revelation Space," I was completely unprepared for the many wonders within "Chasm City." Parts of this novel reminded me of "The Fountains of Paradise" by Arthur C. Clarke, "Perdido Street Station" by China Mieville and "Metal Fatigue" by Sean Williams.
Tanner Mirabel was a security specialist who never made a mistake......until the day a women in his care was blown away during an attack by a vengeful young postmortal named Argent Reivich.
Tanner's pursuit of Reivich takes him away from his homeworld, across light-years of space, to Chasm City, the domed human settlement on the otherwise inhospitable planet Yellowstone. But Chasm City isn't what it used to be: the one-time high-tech utopia has become a dark, Gothic nightmare, victim of a nanotechnological virus, which has corrupted the city's inhabitants as thoroughly as it has, has the buildings. Now the city is a place of steam-driven machines, shadowy factions and deadly new games.
With only his wits to help him - not to mention the odd piece of heavy firepower - Tanner narrows the distance between himself and Reivich.
But before the chase is done, Tanner will have to confront disturbing truths, which reach back centuries, towards deep space, and an atrocity history barely remembers.
I rate this book highly, and recommend it to all science fiction fans. I cannot remember how long it has been since I discovered a new voice such as Alastair, a new writer whose vision is not only new but also exciting. Alastair Reynolds is one such writer. Beg, borrow or steal it; but read Chasm City!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 October 2003
Chasm City is the follow up to Alistar Reynolds first book Revelation Space. The book's opening pages are satisfyingly dark and tense, but unfortunately the author fails to capitalise on this and the story ends up being far lighter than the intial pages would implie.

The Canopy dwellers also seem very reminiscent of the Culture and other similarities exist between Reynolds and Ian Banks writing, but there is enough original content there to satisfy those looking for a new experience especially for those that enjoy hard science SF. That said this book is far lighter on the hard science than Revelation Space.

For those that have read his first book Chasm City returns to Yellowstone and Sky's Edge; concentrating its story around the melding plague, and revealing far more history than previously supplied. In doing so Reynolds successfully adds depth to his universe. A nice touch is that the first two books can be read in any order both giving hints at what's in the other. It also retains the same outrageously slippery plot which truly has you guessing right to the end as the original.

This is a exceedingly well written book and even with it's hard science, as a relative new comer to the genre I found it easy and compulsive reading. Well worth checking out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2001
One thing most reviewers seem to agree on is that Reynolds is more than welcome to this magnificent genre. His pace never lets up and I particularly enjoy his ability to weave multi layered plots. This is particularly evident here although you can read other reviews for details. I also believe that he has the ability to convey character motivation in a way that only a handful of others are capable of. I say this because after a few chapters I wanted to kill that bastard Reivich even thugh I didn't have a clue about the man, which now I think about it, you never do.
Why then has our young Welsh author failed to gain 5 stars? Well, it's not because I'm a tight get but instead, where the likes of Herbert, Bear, Banks and Simmons craft whole pieces of art with equal attention to each part of the story, I feel that Reynolds has yet to work out how to end a novel. The maggot part was particularly dull. Still, not bad at all for a second novel although I thought Revelation Space was better.
My advice is buy it, read it and then remember that it's still early doors because this man will only get better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 2001
The adventures of tougher-than-nails quick-witted gun-for-hire Tanner Mirabel set against the technological and biological wonders of interstellar space of the distant 25th century are truly original and amazing. Him being driven by revenge against a certain Argent Reivich, the book is actually an account of his travels from his planet Sky's Edge to Chasm City, accompanied by lots of fighting, shooting, chasing, saving and double-crossing; chapter by chapter discovering the motifs behind his own actions, layers of memories (true and fake) to be peeled off before he finally realizes who he was. But it takes more to discover who he is now. Tanner also seems to be infected by neural virus, invented by religious fanatics, reproducing in his mind the unofficial version of deeds of long time ago executed hero and despot Sky Hausmann, who brought the humankind to inhabit that part of the galaxy. The two stories develop in parallels, to be fused in the climax in the end. Honor to the author, no plotlines are left hanging in the air as the book nears it finale, neatly tugged in as the tales spins on. Although numerous descriptions of technical appliances I found a little difficult to understand, and Tanner's character indeed verged to turn into obnoxious superman at times, the book will definitely keep you guessing till the very last chapter. Definitely inventive and highly entertaining, this sci-fi thriller is a deep preview into the future of human race, with all tricks we can already predict now: perspective of limited immortality, scanning of personal experiences into computers, minuscule and gigantic machines permeating every sphere of live and bearing the seeds of mortal dangers, swapping of memories and erased personalities, brain implants, body sculpture etc feeding the hungry reader with nightmarish visions.
However, I 'd still take one star down for a too false Hollywood-ish trick the author produces in the very last chapter to deal with Tanner and his likely antagonist. I'd also like to note that although the main characters (Tanner, his former boss Cahuella, the infamous Sky Hausmann) are well drawn and motivated, it's very hard to root for any of them: the true representatives of dehumanized technical society, don't look for a hero to follow in this book. If it's not a moralizing tale you're after, otherwise a very good book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 August 2011
A deep well of masterful genius!

Imagination is stretched to the limit and beyond in this novel - to places I thought it impossible for a mind to conceiveably go and return intact.

I read this book after reading others in the series: Redemption Ark, Absolution Gap, Revelation Space (I know, start at the beginning and finish at the end - but I like to do things the hard way!), and I wanted to find out where it all started.

Although it was the first book in the series (I think), it loses none of its impact reading it out of order. The novel hits the ground running and continues at blistering pace, taking the reader across time and space, pushing the boundaries of ingenuity and illusion.

From the outset the hero struggles with his moralistic status, swinging constantly into anti-hero mode, and we never really know if we should love or hate him. Who is he really? He loses and gains friends constantly, and they in turn are discredited or killed as he thunders forward on a seemingly suicidal quest.

The novel on its way describes strange and wonderful machines and concepts which make some kind of sense, and one day may even be practical as our own world fills to bursting point. Like all good Science Fiction, it keeps its deepest roots subtly in the present and has lessons for us all.

A thoroughly rivetting read.

R.P.Griffiths
Author of The W.D.P.S.
The W.D.P.S - Book One
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 17 September 2001
This book suffers from verbosity, not so much the descriptive prose but from the mouths of characters who all seem to have an unlimited intelligence and massive vocabulary. It acts like a barrier to any empathy a reader may have with say Tanner Mirabel. Despite everything that happens to him he seems to change very little, and after reading the ending I didn't get the point of the revelation of who he really is/was. Interestingly enough the passages from Sky Hausmann's story and Tanner's past are much more interesting and seductive than what happens to Tanner in Chasm City and I wonder if that is what ultimately stops the book from being a classic. It has to end in the present and that just hasn't been anything more than a rudimetary adventure compared to the tales from the past. The 'fight' at the end is deeply, deeply unsatisfying, how many times have we seen this, and why when everything else is spectacular is this so brief and unimaginative? The 'bite' at the end is ridiculous.
This is almost a Dan Simmons novel and it borrows a fair few ideas from him, but it doesn't quite do it. Not for me anyway.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2005
I read this straight after reading Revelation Space and whilst it's not essential to have read Rev.Space first I think it helped me to get into the story as both books are set in the same "universe".
There are plenty of twists and turns and the writing style (some in 1st person, the rest in the 3rd person) is refreshing.
An excellent read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 January 2003
Unlike Reynolds first effort, Revelation Space, this grabbed me and held my attention right from the beginning. This is probably due to Reynolds getting down to business a bit quicker this time, the whole book flowing the same way as the last half of Revelation Space did. The main plot-line is a winner, cleverly weaving multiple stories into a tidy conclusion. A minor quibble is the lack of detail and motivation for the female characters, which seems strange when the fairer sex were so much better portrayed in his last book. This is just a niggle though, I judge books by their unputdownability (is that a word?!?!) and this one is definetley unputdownable.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 2 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.
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