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on 9 September 2011
Robert Reed does not think on the scale of a mere mortal.

His characters are huge, transversing time and space, transversing dimension and reality; you might find you will need a wide-angle brain. Sister Alice is an epic novel of immortality and enormous power; a book of enormous creativity and enormous dreams. Unfortunately, in the past, they have also made an enormous blunder that is revealed in fast-paced narrative.

Some parts may need to be read more than once, there are vast concepts going on here after all, but it's a book you cannot put down, literally. And it cannot be put down, critically, at least not by me. This is one of my heros of science fiction.

Step inside and you will not step outside again quite the same person.

R.P.Griffiths
Author of The W.D.P.S.
The W.D.P.S - Book One
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on 16 February 2015
I re-read this recently as I couldn't find anything as awe-inspiring in newer books. It needs to be on Kindle.

The story originally appeared in Azimov over 20 years ago. It remains as vital and immediate now as then.

Robert Reed's output is patchy. This, along with Marrow and Down the Bright Way, however,
are jewels in the Sci-Fi crown.
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on 22 June 2005
Ord is apparently the youngest child of the Chamberlain family, one of a thousand families whose members - augmented by near-immortality and quantum cyborg talents - maintain a peace within the galaxy which has lasted millions of years.
We discover early on that the Chamberlains are not a family in the normal sense. Ord is merely the latest model in a series of clones that now number more than 22,000. Rank is assigned by what number the clone is in the chain, so when the Chamberlains receive news that Alice, their number twelve (and hence only the eleventh clone to be created) is to visit after an absence of millions of years, the family begin to speculate on her motives.
Once more, Reed has produced a novel on a grand scale, its timespan covering millennia.
In some senses it can be described as a 'Romantic' novel since it eschews - and this was also a criticism aimed at 'Marrow' - the current Classical fashion for tortuous explanations of quantum mechanics and string theory. The augments of the older members of the family are powered by masses of dark matter although the exact scientific principles are avoided, in this case a refreshingly welcome change.
The premise is also a Romantic one, since one cannot imagine - in however enlightened a society - civilisation handing over its reins to a thousand carefully chosen beneficiaries and their cloned descendants.
This novel could very easily have descended into a triumph of style over content were it not for Reed's complex strands of character motives and actions.
From one viewpoint it could be argued that this is an examination of what determines personality. At one point Alice remembers herself as a child, with her 'father', Ian, the original Chamberlain. they are standing in a stairwell of their estate house and Ian has given Alice some cloned feathers. All are identical, he tells her, and asks her to drop the feathers one by one over the balcony.
Although identical in every respect, the feathers are subject to the changing forces around them and so no two fall exactly the same way. It is a device by which Ian explains to Alice why her brothers and sisters, although genetically identical, are shaped into individuals by the Universe around them.
There are questions raised as to which is the real personality when an augmented human becomes 99% computer memories and 1% flesh. Later there are ethical questions raised about the morality of creating a universe in which Life can be cultivated if the price to be paid is the destruction of entire Star Systems teeming with sentient life.
This whole debate, however, is itself subverted when the reader realises that the entire sequence of events may have been part of a plan set in motion aeons before.
There are seldom any easy endings or answers in Reed's work. There are merely consequences which directly affect the protagonists, but it is to Reed's credit that the questions raised tend to linger in the mind and niggle away at us in the wee small hours.
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on 23 May 2016
Splendid post-human story, inventive, lush prose. A gem!
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VINE VOICEon 15 November 2009
I really enjoyed this book, a page turner that kept me up late at night.

Very unusual plot and development of the theme.

I didn't see the main thrux coming as it suddenly opens up another whole story in the stars.
Well crafte and told keeping your interest going throughout, an excellent buy and read.

Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 17 August 2005
Arthur C. Clarke once said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Well this book seems to embrace Clarke's quote whole heartedly. We are throwen into the FAR future where technology might as well be magic for all that it is explained to the reader. I am used to a more classical take on future tech where the author strives to create "real" tech that can be understood by both the author and the reader. In this novel Mr Reed gives his characters tech beyond all reasonable understanding and that need to be taken on trust alone. This has created a very intresting world where anything is possible, and nothing (techwise) is explained.
Add into this an eclectic mix of characters who are also little understood, an "ancient" crime (there is no faster than light travel), lots of politics and questions and about humanity (particularly at the end of the novel, but hinted at often) and we are left in a rather intresting situation.
I think it is hard to say much about what happens in this novel without spoiling it for the reader and I wouldn't want to do that.
My only real critism about this book is that I felt it extremely hard to care about the characters as they are just a tool of the plot and seem to have nothing really to say for themselves.
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on 19 May 2003
I was a bit dubious at first as trying to convincingly portray a human society 10 million years in the future has got to be nigh on impossible.
But this author manages to portray a future that is fantastical and yet believable. It is a future where humans are immortal and have the power of gods but are still fundamentally flawed.
What do Gods get up to when the raw power of a Sun is merely a trinket in their galactic toolbox? Read this book to find out.
The only reason I haven't given _Sister Alice_ 5 stars is that I found the conclusion a bit anti-climatic. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed it and heartily recommend you go and read it. :)
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on 30 May 2003
This book is simply breathtaking in its scope and imagination. I was continually amazed by Reed's pace and ability to include so many ideas - ideas which could spawn whole chapters were throw-away comments.
It contains a lot of 'hard' scfi-fi but well written, without detracting from the story itself. The pace is fast and tight - probably because the book is a compilation of five separate instalments written over a number of years (each instalment written with discipline allowing for an overall intelligent structure).
The story runs away and takes the reader on fantastic journey asking questions along the way, just the kind I love in my sci-fi.
Just buy it.
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on 15 October 2005
After having read Marrow I was ready for the next big Robert Reed novel. However, I got extremely disappointed. I wouldn't say that Robert did any great character development in Marrow but he completely forgot about it in this novel!
Secondly, I clearly remember some Marrow reviewers who didn't like the arguably exaggerated dimensions (e.g. 15000 years later...). I can only recommend for those readers to stay away from Sister Alice as far as possible - we are now talking about 'millions of years'. I found the constant exaggeration of space and time dimensions useless and not adding anything to the story.
The antagonists and protagonists in Sister Alice have god-like powers and are capable of performing everything you would imagine from a god. However, they still haven't mastered to fly faster than light which kind of doesn't fit if you read about all their talents and deeds!
The story was incredible and full of potential, however, the delivery was rushed and also lacking the science part.
I am wondering what Peter F. Hamilton or Alastair Reynolds would have done with such a great plot...
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on 17 September 2005
After having read Marrow I was ready for the next big Robert Reed novel. However, I got extremely disappointed. I wouldn't say that Robert did any great character development in Marrow but he completely forgot about it in this novel!
Secondly, I clearly remember some Marrow reviewers who didn't like the arguable exaggerated dimensions (e.g. 15000 years later...). I can only recommend those readers to stay away from Sister Alice as far as possible - we are now talking about 'millions of years'. I found the constant exaggeration of space and time dimensions useless and not adding anything to the story.
The antagonists and protagonists in Sister Alice have god-like powers and are capable of performing everything you would imagine from a god. However, they still haven't mastered to fly faster than light which kind of doesn't fit if you read about all their talents and deeds!
The story was incredibly and full of potential, however, the delivery was rushed and also lacking the science part.
I am wondering what Peter F. Hamilton or Alastair Reynolds would have done with such a great plot...
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