2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A great introduction to Alistair Reynolds.,
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This review is from: The Prefect (GOLLANCZ S.F.) (Paperback)
The Prefect was my first foray into the realm of Revelation Space and reading out of sequence doesn't seem to have had an impact on my understanding and enjoyment one bit. The book has bags of pace and focuses on a small set of characters which helps keep the narrative punchy and uncluttered. This is a much better book than 'Century Rain' ( a non-Revelation Space work ), hanging together more satisfyingly.
Fundamentally, The Prefect is a Detective story set in space, overlain with a rich tapestry of interesting technological and philosophical threads. The narrative centres around Field Prefect Tom Dreyfus ( a kind of cop ) who works for Panoply, an emasculated pseudo police force that protects the voting rights of the residents of the Glitter Band ( a collection of ten thousand habitats which orbit the planet Yellowstone four hundred years or so in the future ).
The story kicks of when a habitat is attacked resulting in the death of all of its inhabitants. Panoply sends one of their best agents to investigate and in classic detective tradition, Tom Dreyfus refuses to rest until the mystery is solved and the Glitter Band is saved from what seems to be inevitable destruction. Although set in a fantastical future, Reynolds encourages us to build allegiances with the citizens of the Glitter Band ( the democracy fixated Demarchists ) to such an extent that he is able to portray the enigmatic Conjoiners as the exotic "aliens".
The book didn't take long to read at all, but before I'd reached halfway I went and ordered a batch of Reynolds's other work. In terms of scope and ideational innovation, comparisons with Banks are valid, however, Reynolds is far more accessible, far less literary - this is in turn, both for the better and for the worse. I'd sooner read Reynolds on a beach, but Banks will satisfy the inner literary snob more completely.
There are a couple of one dimensional characters such as Senior Prefect Gaffney, a classic misguided "bad guy" who might have been "good" under other circumstances, but I can forgive the lack of convincing character development and exposition of motive because of the basic, old fashioned entertainment factor. Likewise, the artificial intelligences don't grip the imagination and elicit sympathy like Jane in Orson Scott Card's Enders series for example, but this weakness is made up for by the more modern treatment. Indeed, as a programmer, the ending made me chuckle a little inappropriately ( in a way only a geek can ). Remember, the first law of distributed programming is don't distribute!