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A poor start, with a great finish
on 6 October 2015
The first Reynolds book I read was the sublime House of Suns, which just blew me away with the depth of the vision and the pitiless adherence to the limitations that our understanding of science (currently) puts on our celestial ambitions. Revelation Space then was a little bit of a disappointment. It starts off slow - glacial, even - with protagonists that are difficult to like. It has the same merciless hard sci-fi conventions as House of Suns, but wrapped up in a backdrop of factional in-fighting on the planets dispersed through the galaxy. Sounds great, but much of the extensive world-building that is done at the beginning turns into something of a grind. At numerous points, I was ready to just give up on it because there was so much exposition and so little progress in the plot - it seemed needlessly self indulgent. I am however glad I stuck with it, because once you get past the half-way mark the pace starts to pick up admirably. I'm not saying the world building was unnecessary, but Revelation Space seems like it could have been a shorter book and been much better for it. Towards the end, various threads start to come together in a way that is utterly beguiling - unfortunately, some of the impact of that is lost when you realise how little you'd read was actually relevant to the story.
Nonetheless, the ending was sufficiently good that I'm going to read the next one - it's a book that was very much saved by the dismount. I'd give the first half a two, and the second half a solid four.