A book review from THE ZONE
Magazine Spotlight contents
Gollancz hardcover £17.99
Dan Sylveste, an archaeologist on the remote colony world, Resurgam,
is obsessed by the bird-like Amarintin, the planet's long-extinct natives.
The discovery of an ancient buried artefact leads him to suspect that
the Amarantin may have somehow caused the solar flare that destroyed them
nearly a million years before. Meanwhile a group of interstellar trader/pirates
seek Sylveste's help in curing their captain of the parasitic plague that
has infected his cybernetic implants, and elsewhere the mysterious Mademoiselle
plots Sylveste's assassination.
This book falls almost precisely into two parts. Sylveste has to endure
a revolution that sees him imprisoned until the mysteries of the Amarantin
become too much for the new administration to fathom, while the star traders
make their slow way to pick him up enjoying their own intrigues. When
Sylveste finally arrives on the ship, the action turns to speed up with
the exploration of the Neutron star and what orbits it, leading to the
inevitable, universe-shattering climax.
Reynolds' hard-SF 25th century mixes the limits of known science with
a keen sense of drama, to create a future society both credible and exciting.
Stuck with the speed of light, humanity has fragmented as it has spread
across the stars. As travel between worlds takes years of subjective time,
and decades in terms of the planets themselves. The near-immortal crews
of the ships live out their days training, adding bionic and cybernetic
mods to their bodies or whiling the time away in suspended animation and
have become tiny independent communities themselves.
The politics and infighting on the colony world Resurgam are also well
depicted, and the action in this section of the book brings to mind the
planetary romances of Jack Vance. That said, when the action leaves Resurgam,
all the fussing about with local politics loses its importance and the
reader is left with the uneasy impression that they have been treated
to an entertaining but pointless side-show.
Sylveste, is an intriguing mixture of Frankenstein, Machiavelli and Faust,
but he never really gets a chance to exhibit the theatrical, melodramatic
obsession that the other characters constantly refer. His love affair
and marriage to Pascale the daughter of his rival hired to write
a hatchet-job biography seemed a particularly pallid affair. Sylveste
comes over as quietly condescending to his (admittedly wet) wife, rather
than in love. Ilia Volyova, the star ship's weapons master, is the only
character that really comes alive. The others operate on various levels
of plot-demanded automatic pilot.
However, this doesn't detract from an enjoyable, hardcore space opera.
There's a plenty of tension, a well-mapped future and an extraordinary
alien artefact at the end. If you enjoyed the culture novels of Iain M.
Banks or the Hyperion series by Dan Simmons, then this book will definitely
appeal to you.
review by Patrick Hudson
taken from forthcoming issue #9 of The ZONE
Back to Magazine Spotlight: THE ZONE
Myths & Legends
Web Makers Tools
. Your free email: