Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Currently Reading: Alastair Reynolds and Dan Simmons

I have just completed my fourth Alastair Reynolds novel: "Absolution Gap". "Absolution" concludes the story arc begun in Revelation Space although Reynolds has written other stories set in the same universe which pad out the lives of characters from these books.

I have pretty mixed feelings about "Absolution Gap". It has the best beginning and best middle of the series in my opinion and the character development of the main protagonist (a pig named Scorpio) is terrific. Unfortunately the ending of the book is really really bad. It will take a big spoiler to tell you how bad. I am going to try an use an analogy but it is still a spoiler so please skip the next paragraph if you intend to read these books yourself.

SPOILER (Highlight to read)
To understand how bad the ending of Absolution Gap is imagine a series of books about a war between two countries (say England versus Germany). After series of gripping novels in which the advantage swings back and forth leaving you guessing as to who will triumph you finally get to the last few pages of the last chapter of the last book and it goes like this:

A new country called America (who we have never mentioned before) suddenly appears and helps the English to beat the Germans and that was the end of the war. Some time after that another new country called Russia appears and they are more powerful than either the English or the Americans and will probably wipe them out at some time in the future.

The End.

That is what the ending of "Absolution Gap is like"

The ending is awful not just because of rabbits pulled out of hats in the last few pages to resolve the plot. It is also awful because it leaves you with the feeling that everything the protagonists did up to that point is actually irrelevant to the outcome of the story.

I am going to take a break from Reynolds for a while. I have just picked up "The Terror" by Dan Simmons. Simmons's Hyperion quartet is a sublime masterwork of modern Science Fiction so I was surprised to see that this is a historical horror story targeted at a more mainstream audience. It comes with glowing reviews from the likes of Stephen King. Intriguing. I shall report back later.


plutosdad said...

I was very dissapointed with the last book as well.

Actually even the Branes threw me, since up until that point I thought the book could last awhile since there was no reliance on any "new" theories that might get disproven and make it seem dated.

mbp said...

Hi Yunk. I agree with you that it is usually a mistake when when SF tries to incorporate the latest trendy hypotheses. I strongly suspect that by the time mankind gets around to serious space faring most of today's cosmological hypotheses will be consigned to the dustbin alongside Ptolemy's epicylces. Far better for SF to be wildly speculative ala V. Vinge.

Anonymous said...

I know how you feel about the ending there. I have thoroughly enjoyed all Reynolds work so far, but the end of AG was way too easy. Pity.

There are two other books set in that universe that I recommend. Chasm City, and Diamond Dogs/Turquoise Days. Chasm City is a full length standalone novel, while DD/TD is two novellas set in the one book. Definitely worth a read if you like Reynolds stuff.

mbp said...

Hello Strop

I have read Chasm city and enjoyed it - it dovetails nicely with the main revelations pace series. Thanks for the hint about Diamond / Turquoise. I will look out for it.

I find it a bit confusing that none of the Revelation space books give the sequence in which the novels are set. It makes it hard to read the series in chronological order.