ABSOLUTION GAP – Alastair Reynolds (2003)

Absolution GapAbsolution Gap, the third and final book of the Revelation Space-trilogy, is a stunning conclusion to a stunning series. This is SF at its best: big ideas, highly imaginative, exciting, even poetic at times. It’s filled with interesting characters, and the book is a page turner as well. It might have been a bit shorter, but not by much. Most of its 695 pages are fun & engaging, and the attention to detail pays off.

While the first book focused on Ultras (augmented humans living on trade ships, crusing lonely between the stars), and the second book on Conjoiners (hyperevolved humans living a hive-like society, not lonely at all), this book has a bit of everything, including surprising roles for the Pattern Jugglers (an alien race that looks like sea weed) and a pig bred for its organs. The connections I formed with some of the recurring cast also made this the most emotional part of the series. Star of this book is the Nostalgia for Infinity, the ship that also played a role in the previous books, and turns out to be the main character of the entire series.

As a testimony to Reynolds’ abilities, the 3 books are pretty different: they are not just one long novel split in 3 parts, but they tell 3 distinct stories, that succeed each other logically and chronologically. While the end of the first book felt a bit rushed at times, the ending to the series is breathtaking and action packed, yet it remains focussed on the characters themselves – the Big Conclusion to the battle with the Inhibitors takes second place, as an afterthought.

What Reynolds manages to do exceptionally well is build a believable story of us humans being among the stars in a few centuries, very realistic yet totally weird and fantastic at the same time, with science that might come to pass, and weird and fantastic too.

On top of all that, Reynolds’ language is often beautiful in this book, using well chosen, original metaphors.

Fans of Banks, Herbert and Stephenson should not hesitate, and start Revelation Space, the first book. As a series, this is among the best SF I have read. As a book, this probably is the best of the trilogy. I can’t wait to start reading Reynolds’ other books set in the same universe. It’s a crying shame most of Reynolds’ later books don’t hold up like these.

originally written on the 15th of November, 2014

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