So I’ve been sitting on my hands for the last five months, fairly disgruntled, that I didn’t have this story in my hands yet, because it was published in the UK last September and as part of that cycle, released in ebook/Kindle format. I’m pretty much a hard-copy only kind of guy. I don’t buy eBooks. I’ll read them. I just don’t buy them, because I so love seeing all of those bound blocks of paper sitting on my bookshelves at home. As Tracy Hickman refers to them (per my sometimes sketchy memory), the “physical reminders of the experience we found within them”. I guess I always have the option of importing hard copies, but that can get expensive fast, and for the most part I end up just shaking my head and dealing with it. Regardless, it’s always nice to get a new Alastair Reynolds book.
REVENGER (Amazon) is a veritable space-pirate novel set in a unique universe tens of millions of years in its future from the imagination of Alastair Reynolds, one of my favorite Science Fiction authors writing today. Empires have risen and fallen and passed into history, leaving their remains behind for the future to pillage and plunder. Their treasures are contained within a plethora of shielded mini-worlds scattered across the galaxy that occasionally open their exterior shells for short periods of time. And living within the space dictated by these “baubles” live a society of traveling space pirates looking to find a lingering trove.
The story revolves around the character of Fura Ness, a young girl living on a small but peaceable planet in the vast spread of the Congregation, the millions of worlds populated by the current occupation. She is quiet, and demure, and willing to live the life her father wants for her, but her elder sister Adrana is wild and ferocious and wants more than their life of mediocrity can provide. Adrana talks Fura into following her into a part of the city that is forbidden, and they soon discover that they have the in-born talent to “speak to the bones”, one of the major modes of long-range ship communication across the black. A ship is ready to take them on as bone readers in-training, and with news of their father’s recent financial loss, they sign on for a six-month tour with the small crew of the Monetta’s Mourn. Their job, on Captain Rackamore’s sunjammer, is to learn to manipulate the power of the ancient skull kept aboard the ship, while they travel to the numerous distant baubles, and try to harvest enough items of historical significance to make a living.
This is probably one of the most accessible novels of his that I’ve ever read. In fact, except for the high level of violence, this might have been marketed as a YA novel. The prose is simple but descriptive. The scientific ideas varied but limited. That was probably one of the things I most noticed about the novel. I’m used to reading his novels and finding amazing sf ideas just thrown into the fray all over the place, with only several-few being integral to the plot; whereas in this story, most if not all of the scientific ideas presented were needed. It was just… simpler. That doesn’t make it bad or any less awesome. Just different. Something I noticed.
I quite enjoyed the character of Fura and seeing the changes in her as she moved from introverted teenage daughter to something so much more. There is strength and fortitude in her that is borne out through her trials. In some respects, these changes seemed to happen fairly quickly, but there are some physical changes that happen to Fura along the way, and having such events transpire in ones life can certainly fast-forward character development that might otherwise take considerably longer.
There was also a good number of secondary characters that play a part. Of those, I thought that some of them were handled quite well, and others not given much more than a cursory development or single unique attribute. These were pretty much split up into two groups. One we meet early on (well-developed), and those we meet later (less so). I feel like this second group could have been used to much greater effect in the story had they been better developed, but it is what it is.
The largest difficulty I had with the novel was probably the large lack of surrounding detail. Conversations between characters had little to no contextual detail within them. I’ve heard this referred to as “talking heads”, because it’s easy to lose the picture of everyone in the scene. The story itself though was really good though, and even with this lack of detail, I found myself reading much longer than I was supposed to–not wanting to put it down– and burned through it pretty quickly.
I also really liked where the story ended up and the developmental position of Fura. Was doubly excited to see that Reynold’s is planning a sequel to this one. Will be looking forward to it. A great Reynold’s novel. Likely not one of my favorites of his, but a great book nonetheless.
- Recommended Age: 16+, pretty much for violence
- Language: Maybe one or two naughty words
- Violence: High level of death and gore
- Sex: None