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An Ending... of Sorts
on 22 July 2012
So, we come to the end of Reynold's debut trilogy (or quadrilogy, I guess, if you include the side novel Chasm City), and... I'm not entirely sure how to feel about it. Indeed, I vacillated between three and four stars for quite a while, because as epic conclusions go, this one is... strangely handled.
But first, the good stuff. By this stage in the series, Reynolds is juggling quite a few characters, and there's a whole bunch more introduced in this installment. The 'main' cast, including the brutal, pragmatic pigman Scorpio, the aging Conjoiner Clavain and the living starship that used to be Captain John Brannigan, among others, are still on the watery planet Ararat, where they fetched up with their cargo of refugees last book. However, the arrival of their other allies can only mean that the Inhibitors have finally caught up with them.
Alongside this, and in a style reminiscent of the multiple time periods of the original story (Revelation Space), we also follow the discovery of a mysterious and miraculous planet, and the bizarre church that grows up around it. Longtime readers will know that the two storylines are destined to entwine, and they do in typically cataclysmic fashion.
The author's character writing has improved with every new book, and the development of protagonists like Scorpio and new girl Rashmika is brilliantly done. There are plenty of hard moral choices to make, and both plotlines kept me turning the pages.
However, if you are thinking that it doesn't sound like much room has been left for the main Inhibitor storyline... well, you'd be right. As a standalone segment of the universe Reynolds has built up, Absolution Gap is great. But as the last act of a star-spanning saga about civilisation-killing machines? Not so much.
While the Inhibitors are present throughout the book, as vague antagonists, the resolution of their tale and whether humanity can survive is left mainly to an offscreen development, mentioned briefly in a short epilogue. It's certainly an odd writing move, and one that I feel falls somewhat flat.
So the score above was won mainly on the strength of the book's main plotline alone, because it works somewhat, and well, as a standalone science fiction tale. Those who have been anticipating a magnificent conclusion to the Inhibitor War, however, be warned that you will find no such here.