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on 5 December 2014
I've read about 90% of Alastair Reynolds' books and this is my favourite. Engrossing stuff and combines some hard sci-fi with an alternate, but very similar 1930s europe, focussing mainly on Paris. It's part love story, part detective story and part space opera and it's rare to find a book capable of combining so much and doing it so well.

It's worth a try for any sci-fi fan and i could see this book making a fantastic film too.
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on 2 October 2017
Great well written read
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on 16 July 2009
This was my first Alistair Reynolds book, but definitely not my last. I was gripped from the start by its 'film noir' style exploration of 1959 alternate history Paris. Reynold's work is easy to read without being in anyway linguistically dumbed down. The first two-thirds of the book in particular were very good and the characters believable. Without wanting to give too much away and spoil the plot, I was pleased by the inventiveness of the book e.g. the Anomalous Large Sphere (ALS) idea and the swarms of Slasher nano-bots. I do have a few issues with this detective/space opera however. As a minor point I found some of the names a little twee. For example, the main groups of protagonists are called Threshers and Slashers, and you will come across beings known as war-babies ( sweet Lord!) Furthermore, the space chase sequences towards the end of the book ( although relatively short ) lack the excitement and pace of earlier chapters and the bag guy ( won't reveal his name ) becomes nothing more than an anonymous sensor blip. The ending nagged at me a bit too - it left a few too many plotlines hanging e.g. what happens to Custine and how does the ALS proceed through time. Also, I thought Floyd ( the main character ) behaves in the final sentence a bit uncharacteristically callous - maybe I just prefer a happy ending to a morally ambiguous one, maybe Reynolds actually got the ending spot on and I'm a bit too immature to accept it!

I was tempted to give the book a 3 ( 3.5 not possible unfortunately ), but I'm going to throw it a 4 because it's introduced me to a new author who I'm sure will not disappoint in future.
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VINE VOICEon 21 February 2005
The Paris detective stuff is really not bad: believable characterisation, trademark snappy dialogue and organic plot development. Genuinely page-turning stuff.
As other reviews have noted, at the half-way point it's all change. We get into an extended hi-tech chase sequence and the plot development stalls. The editor should have been harsher here. More serious is the collapse of plot credibility. Why would the "extremist slashers" want to unleash their genocidal plan on E2? Both revenge and the quest for real-estate are equally implausible as motivations. And the ending is scrappy.
A shame really - this had potential for audience crossover, but SF folk will like it, even those who hang out at /.
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on 25 April 2013
With this book, I discovered another interesting British science fiction author, Alastair Reynolds. And what a find! He, like Hamilton, embodies my perfect author of such books as his novels fall under the space opera but rich of almost plausible technology, talk about the future of humanity, are pretty long and complex, but also really imaginative. Oh yes, because Reynolds has really a fantasy out of the ordinary. Not everyone can conceive of a story like that of "Century Rain".
I'll try to define the main points of the plot without spoiling it.
"Century Rain" is set in a future where Earth has been destroyed by nanotechnology. On scary nanotechnology I had recently read "Prey" by Crichton, however, the main theme here is something else. I do not like at all post-apocalyptic stories, but the so-called nanocaust spoken of in this book is just a detail of the plot and defines the environment in which the story moves.
Human survivors live in space stations orbiting the planet. Among them is the main female character, Verity Auger, an archaeologist expert in Paris, which is now just a ghost town. Auger is involved in a very special mission. On Phobos (one of the satellites of Mars) a wormhole was discovered that connects two distant parts of the galaxy. At the other end they found a huge sphere, inside which is a "functioning" replica of Earth, as it was in 1959. An alien species (undefined) has created many replicas of our planet, including this one that you can access. But the timeline in which these humans live in ignorance is a bit different from that of the true twentieth century.
These are the premises. The story is located somewhere between space opera, hard sci-fi, thriller, espionage and time travel, although you do not really travel in time. The way in which it is built is really intriguing, with well-defined characters. The book is very long, because so many things happen, which are difficult to predict, and this makes it very entertaining.
Yet even in this case, I stopped at four stars. The reason is simple: in the end the author, in my opinion, did not play his cards right. Being British, I would have expected something outside the box and instead Reynolds seems to have lost himself in the thick of it. Apart from the fact that the love story between the protagonists develops too abruptly and is not at all credible, perhaps because of that a bit too cold, but above all unnatural, look given to the female protagonist by the author (as it often happens when a male author moves a female protagonist), and then that story ends just as suddenly. Even if its end could be explained by a too fast start, two inconsistencies put together, however, do not generate a realistic event, but instead make things worse. For if you forgive the first one, you cannot do the same for the second one.
But the worst is right at the end. In this regard, suffice it to say that the characters, after all they've been through, find themselves exactly to the starting point. She seems to have learned nothing. He grew up, instead, but in fact he finds himself again in the condition in which he "lived" at the beginning of the story. Despite the beautiful prose and the poetic image of the last scene, I was disappointed. An author of this kind, capable of conceiving a story like that, should be more daring.
As a justification for the author I must, however, say that the ending is left quite open, allowing readers to imagine how it could continue, perhaps with a better ending.
Despite all this, then, I highly recommend reading this book to science fiction lovers who at the same time do not disdain some vintage vibe.

Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, author of Red Desert - Point of No Return
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on 13 July 2011
As a die-hard Reynolds fan, there was little doubt that I would enjoy Century Rain. I was not disappointed; it is a masterly novel combining his unique vision of a hard sci-fi universe fused with a lovely film-noir alternative 1959 Paris. In classic Reynolds fashion, the storylines merge into a complex, thrilling and unpredictable plot woven around the conflict between opposing human ideologies with a healthy smattering of incomprehensible alien technology thrown in. The only criticism is that the Slasher/Thresher ideologies are very similar to the familiar Demarchist/Conjoiner differences in the Revelation universe. That not withstanding, the whole book rolls along magnificently and the ending (occasionally Reynolds' weakest point) is both atmospheric and poignant.

There is really not much more to say in praise of this book and other reviewers have already described the plot and main characters. Inevitably, there are those who did not enjoy this book, but the world would be a very dull place if we all liked the same thing.
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on 16 August 2006
Its an interesting mix of genres. The noirish scenes in the alternate Paris provide a sharp counterpoint to the sleek silver and white world of the Threshers and Slashers, expecially in the earlier part of the book where the chapters alternate between the two worlds. I quite liked the way the true nature of the threshers and slashers wasn't revealed until towards the end of the book. It was an extra twist in the tale for me.

Century Rain is a book you'll easily get sucked into. THe storytelling is well paced and the action exciting. We are close enough to developing some of the concepts and technology Reynolds uses to make this book very accessible to someone who is just dipping their toes into sci fi but theres enough far reaching implications to keep the more hard core fan happy.
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on 11 October 2011
Reynolds' Revelation Space universe was an excellent foray into a deep, broad and rich universe with intricate detail, wondrous technology yet with unrealistic dialogue. How does this compare to Century Rain, which does not take place in the Revelation Space universe? It actually manages succeeds where Revelation failed yet failed where Revelation triumphed.

The entire novel feels like it has the loose structure of a Golden Age SF novel and many points of the plot reflect this quaintness. If the novel were to be condensed to only 200 pages rather than 600, the special Golden Age effect would have been complete, but we all know that modern British SF can't limit itself to anything less than 500 pages (bless them for it, too). The predictive nature of the novel, too, reflects the poor structure of Century Rain. I was able to predict (with lucky guesses or with my vast intelligence, who knows) about 80% of the unfolding of the plot. Even then, the one or two big swings were mildly surprising. I was never "wowed" by any plot twist or happening.

If Revelation failed in the dialogue category, Century Rain definitely revels in the art of sly humor and deceptive circular logic. His characters can spin words which will leave your own head spinning with impression. It's all believable and without the over drama in which Revelation tended to revel in. It's kept neat and clean when it needs to be but it can also be long and descriptive at the proper plot points.

Historical facts and insights are a key value of Century. The living memory of a non-existent 50s Paris is sharp and livid. It's a tried and true alternate universe where WW2 never happened and Reynolds does a surprising decent take on a world where science has taken the back burner to modern jazz. It's a captivating scene for an alternate universe plot and really resonates with the Verity, the traveler/scientist. Her observances of alternate 50's Paris to our real 50's Paris are our lens into the entire plot which Verity and Floyd find themselves tangled in.

This should be an excellent novel for some people or a dull one for others. For me it struck right in the middle between mediocrity, finesse and reminiscence. No reason to stop reading the rest of Reynolds' bibliography however!
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I am an avid reader of science fiction. I have a small library at home of around 1000 books of which around 80% are sci-fi.

This is the fifth Alastair Reynolds book that I have read and excluding Absolution Gap (see my review), they just keep getting better and better.

This book is not set in the familiar "Revelation Space" universe, but is a totally standalone novel.

The story is primarily a detective story set in a beautifully created film noir version of late 1950s Paris and in the year 2266 where a battle for control of a ruined Earth is raging between two competing human factions.

Strong characterization, some lovely technology, and above all a well crafted storyline.

My main criticism of the previous books I have read by Alastair Reynolds would be that they are great stories with not so great endings, but I cannot criticise the ending of this one!

I enjoyed every page of this book, from a fascinating opening paragraph to the closing lines. A very strong storyline with a satisfying conclusion - but please read the last few lines carefully!
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on 21 January 2005
Unlike most of the reviewers on this page, I found Reynolds' new book to be quite fascinating and really an enjoyable read. The mere fact that the author is able to weave threads of mystery, horror, suspense and good old SF into a strong story line with living and breathing characters should be noted as a significant achievement.
I found that there is a tremendous amount of imaginative substance to this novel. The plotting is rather meticulous and certainly kept me hooked until the final page.
For those readers who would condemn Reynolds for not sticking to his usual style, I can only say "give the guy a break". Writers need to cut loose and experiment now and again. And there is nothing wrong with having some fun in the process.
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