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3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 6 January 2004
This is my first online review, so will be a little ragged. Having read Revelation Space and Redemption Ark some time ago I was looking forward to Absolution Gap with eager anticipation.
Firstly, the aspect of this novel that I really enjoyed was the emphasis on the characters rather than the narrative. I felt like I was getting to know and feel for the characters better than the previous two novels.
The narrative however seems to have come under attack by one of the Inhibitor's weapons and has suffered severe damage. Reynolds has not capitalised on or expanded the story lines from the previous two installments and has introduced many plot elements that add nothing of value.
Deus Ex Machina is invoked far too liberally.
He is also rather inconsistent with his arbitrary adherence to or violation of the known laws of physics.
Having been rather negative so far I will conclude by saying that I still thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to any space opera or hard(ish) SF fan.
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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.
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on 25 June 2007
Firstly let me say that I did enjoy this book, but it really doesn't feel like the finale to such an epic series of events. Most of the book focuses entirely on the characters thoughts and feelings and very little on the continuing war with the inhibitors. Maybe the author after building the virtually unstoppable nature of the inhibitor threat over two previous books so well, the author felt unable or unwilling to put forward a credible description of the actual battle with them and thus relegates this part of the novel to "offscreen action" and infoms the reader only of the end results of these confrontations that would seem son integral to the tension of the storyline. The book finishes without dealing with most of the issues that I thought would form part of the finale and indeed seems to wrap up the entire story almost as an after thought in the space of quite literally one or two paragraphs.

I did like the character and did want to learn more about them, but not at the complete expense of the plot, especially when a lot of the actions of the main characters seem to be quite inexplicable at times and they frequently seem to jump between one mindset and other just to facilitate further twists in turns in their realtionships with one another . Thats why I have to say that while this book is an enjoyable part of the story, I can't see why the author chose to all but abandon the main thrust of the storyline in order to focus on the minutae of the characters lives, and that's why in my opinion a fourth book to deal with the outcome of the story properly would have made this book sit a whole lot better with me.
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Absolution Gap is a wonderful novel, full of big ideas beautifully executed. It's wonderfully baroque in its design, managing to marry themes as diverse as a convincingly weird religious zealot living amongst mobile cathedrals, and the slow, inexorable extinction of the human race at the hand (or mechanical claws) of relentless machine intelligences. Along the way it manages to hook into several deep, satisfying veins of narrative - the cost and prizes of redemption, insolence in the face of inevitability, loss in the face of triumph, and what it means to choose wisely when no truly wise course is obvious. It's a more coherent book than its precursors in the Revelation Space universe, coming as it does as the final capstone of a vast and satisfying operatic epic. Unlike some of the earlier books, there is almost nothing in here that seems arbitrary - nothing that seems irrelevant - nothing that seems wasteful. That is, in terms of its own internal narrative.

All that said, it's not flawless. The most significant question I had about the book as it made its way to the end is 'How can Reynolds possibly end this tale in a way that is truly satisfying?'. Spoiler - he doesn't. In fairness, I'm not sure there *was* a way to end a series like this in a way that would have left me feeling sated, but I was hoping for something a little more than the pound shop James Bond-esque theatrics that concludes it. Reynolds is at his best when he's tackling big, deep themes, and that's not really executed well in the finale. It's not enough to spoil an excellent book - it is after all the voyage, not the destination, that matters the most in fiction. It just casts the book into an odd orbit in the series - with the right ending, this would have been the crowning jewel. As it is, in terms of sheer narrative catharsis it ultimately feels - unnecessary. There is nothing wasteful in the way it tells the story, but also nothing vital in helping come to terms with the universe in which it is set.

If this sounds conflicted, then it's just an expression of how I felt at the end of it. I loved the book, but I don't feel I would have lost anything truly irreplaceable if I had stopped reading the Revelation Space series at Redemption Ark.
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on 6 August 2004
I really looked forward to this book after reading all of the previous books set in the same fiction. I was dissapointed with this one. I felt the characters were even weaker in this book than any previous novel. The characters not always being Reynolds strength at the best of times. His habit of killing off major characters might help shift the plot along but it does mean he has to reintroduce new major players every book.
The massive twist at the end of the book is so much surprising as looking like he struggled to find a good ending in time to make the publishers deadline.
The weaponary and technology are as impressive as ever definitely Reynolds strenght is in describing these and other scientific factors and making them seem plausible no matter how exotic.
Not a bad book, just not one of his best.
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on 10 January 2004
Was Reynolds rushing to finish this in time for the holiday shopping season? Completing this book brought back memories of my rush in grad school to conclude a thesis that I was losing interest in and time to complete. If I had blinked quickly I may have missed the Nestbuilders that seemed to be thrown in as a last-minute solution to what could have been a grand trilogy. I would have liked the satisfaction of actually seeing the inhibitors thrashed and ripped out of space (vice reading a synopsis in the epilogue) and of reading a plausible development of the mysterious Nestbuilders/galactic saviors. I knew I was in trouble when I held the last few pages in my fingers and felt cheated at the end to have invested so much time and, afterwards, handed a muddled unsatisfying ending. Too bad the heroes of the story failed to save the ending for the readers. I think we are all being too nice in our reviews because each of us enjoyed the previous books too much to trash the final chapter.
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on 10 April 2016
Since discovering The Prefect in 2008, I've been a big fan of Alastair Reynold's books, the Chasam City series was fantastic. However, this the last book in the Inhibitor's series, finishes in a far than satisfactory manor.

Over the series of books we have been introduced to a number of sentient species across the universe, we have got to know them in depth and what motivates the various factions, and over the course of several centuries these various species and factions have come together to try and stop the universe wide plague of Inhibitors, who's sole purpose is nothing short of wiping out all sentient life in the universe. The Inhibitors are all powerful, relentless in their aim of destroying all life, and adaptable to any challenge made against them. The greatest weapons the universe has ever know has only slowed them down, but never stopped them.

So all of this is to be wrapped up in the Absolution Gap.
Over the first few chapters of this book, as well as seeing the old familiar characters continuing their struggle against the Inhibitors, we are introduced to some new characters. These new characters are exotic, interesting, and their motives are as varied as they are devious. After a couple action packed chapters of setting the scene, the book settles down to a crawling pace as the characters go on individual journeys to discover "answers, and the book begins to examine their motives in minute detail. At first I was fine with this, after all there was going to have to be a massive payoff at the end of the book to show how sentient life survives (or not) after many centuries of being defeated time and again by a seemingly unstoppable universe wide force ... however after the first couple of chapters the book never again gets above (quite literally) walking pace. I remember realising I was getting very near the end of the book, and being surprised that nothing had happened. There was no hint of how the Inhibitors could possibly be defeated, no gearing up for a final battle, no plan amongst the factions. Surely the payoff was going to begin soon?
Then the book ended.

If the book had ended on a cliffhanger, I wouldn't have minded, sometimes getting to the pivotal point in a story and then leaving the rest to the readers imagination can be better than spelling out a long and convoluted (sometimes forced) plot twist.However this was far worse. After a whole series worth of set up, literally the last page saw characters we have known from the beginning being killed off in a single sentence and the all powerful Inhibitors being dismissed in a single very vague paragraph without any real idea of what happened. It felt as though Alastair Reynolds had set himself a page limit, got to the last page, realised he hadn't resolved anything, and so scribbled a couple vague notes to wrap it up.

The two stars are for the first couple of chapters, after that the rest of the book isn't worth the time to read. In fact I would advise stopping at the end of the previous book, at least that had a cliffhanger.
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on 22 July 2014
There's no disputing that Alistair Reynolds is one of the all-time great writers of Space Opera. All the novels leading up to this one are artfully crafted masterpieces of cybergothic storytelling, and this final novel in the series is no exception - until you get to the end.

The novel builds up nicely in much the same way as the prequels, from a set of apparently unrelated, disparate peoples and events which begin to meld together into an adventure of cosmic proportions. A strange new faction is revealed in this book - the Adventist Church. I didn't like them, I found them dull and irritating and I found the details of their history and traditions to be an unnecessary diversion from what I felt was the real story of the inhibitors. Having said this, I was quite prepared to give Reynolds the benefit of the doubt, knowing how well everything had eventually come together in his previous novels. The problem is that it doesn't. The story builds and builds - and it's a good story! The inhibitors are ancient and powerful and intent on wiping us out, this we already knew, but now there are whispers of a potential ally of even greater power. The main characters, some old and some new, strive to overcome the insanity of the church and make terrible personal sacrifices to reach these allies, and then at the crucial moment, they just change their minds and decide not to bother. And that's the end of this entire saga! 2000+ pages to get to that! Then there's an epilogue that briefly explains that some other less-powerful-but-still-more-powerful-than-us aliens showed up and helped us out with the inhibitors.

It feels like the author realised he was running out of paper and needed to wrap up the whole story with only half a page left to write on.

I did enjoy the book as a whole. Reynolds skills as a writer are quite enough to get me through 700 pages on a week. I just wish he could have thought up a better ending.
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on 15 January 2004
I like many other reviewers looked forward to the latest of the stories set in Revelation Space.
Without, hopefully, spoiling it for others I will say if you are looking for something in the mould of Chasm City you are going to be less disappointed than if you were looking for the final chapter of Revelation Space/Redemption Ark.
The key characters in the latter books hardly get a mention. On the plus side the central story is unwound in a similar manner to the second book and these sections are as enjoyable as his other work.
Its a shame the Inhibitors are dealt with in such an off-hand manner in this book; almost as if references to them and some of the other related characters were grafted onto the central story which could have been written without reference to characters we already had met. I think perhaps the book would have been better if it hadn't tried to tie the loose ends up in such an offhand way but had just stood alone.
I can only assume that either
(a) Alastair was getting fed up with the universe he created and wanted to get an already contracted book out of the way so he could move on
(b) Publishers don't apply the strict rules to sucessful authors that they do to new ones (look at the page glut of later Asimov works vs early ones ;-) and in their rush to get our money they relax some standards.
Either way... I wish this had been two books of the same high standard as the previous ones. I did enjoy it but unlike other readers I won't be pre-ordering his next book and will probably wait for the paperback.
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on 22 October 2012
Revelation Space Redemption ArkI really enjoyed this book. You need to read the preceding books to get the most out of it. The only thing I did not like was the pig. I used to keep pigs, they are more intelligent than most dogs-not my collie dog or my sadly missed Jack Russell, definitely higher IQ than the Pugs down the road. The pig in these books are gross.
I love the Alphas who live on space ships with personality and warp drives. They deserve a book of their own. The spooky nano bits that live in the dark of space, who arise to wipe out races that get to clever with space faring, are all too believable. Explains why nobody has come a calling. Although the Revelation space books are all set in the same little corner of the Galaxy and have vague sequence the books can be read alone and out of order. However unless you read the previous book you have no idea how much you should hate some characters especially the Conjoiners. The characters are well drawn and follow their own agendas which often do not fit in with the rest of the players.
My one dislike is not enough gory details of space warfare. The description of space battles are not detailed enough to portray the problems of firing anything. The physics of hitting another space ship with any kind of weapon are formidable. The use of spaceships to decimate people on a planet or orbital is far better bet, even an asteroid nudged off course toward a planet will do damage.
Like many contemporary sci fi books the space ships often have personality, not always nice personality's. This is a very punk galaxy; decimated by a plague so some of the better inventions are destroyed or warped. I would love a book about that, I do not think Absolution Gap is quite as strong as the preceding books, but still a good read.
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