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 Tuesday, 14 June 2005
Tuesday, 14 June 2005 08:24:08 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )

There are days when I get quite depressed about the state of science fiction. Most of the masters of the art (Asimov, Heinlein, etc.) have passed on or they are essentially retired. There are times when it seems like no one is there to pick up the slack.

Fortunately that's just illusion. There really are some good contemporary authors out there, even for hard SF[1]. In my mind, the leader is Alastair Reynolds. He recently completed the Revelation Space trilogy:

1.      Revelation Space

2.      Redemption Ark

3.      Absolution Gap

There’s also Chasm City, a novel set in the same universe that fits nicely between Revelation Space and Redemption Ark. While it isn’t required for the trilogy, you really should read it as book 2.

These are the best books I’ve read in a while, easily ranking up there with Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep and Deepness in the Sky.

Reynolds paints an edgy, dark and dangerous future, where humanity has spread across the stars and in so doing has fragmented into competing subgroups defined by wildly varying philosophies and technology. As they spread out, humans find more and more remnants of alien civilizations, but never technologically advanced aliens. As the trilogy progresses through time, we begin to understand why there are no technologically advanced aliens and humanity itself comes under the same threat.

The story ranges across space and time, extrapolating our current understanding of physics (along with current hypotheses) and technology to create a consistent universe that feels like it is driven by hard science. At the same time, his characters are what drive the story, and his exploration of extreme social and philosophical situations make the books very compelling.


[1] “Hard SF” is typically defined as science fiction where the science is very close to our current understanding. For instance, hard SF typically eschews things like faster-than-light travel, or at least tries to map such a concept back into current (if extreme) hypothesis about physics and the nature of the universe.

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