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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

In my continued zeal to fill up my corner of cyberspace, I frequently summarize books here. (I do read some summaries by others, and they are sometimes very helpful.) I try to avoid giving away essential surprises in plots.

Revelation Space (New York:Ace, 2000), by Alastair Reynolds, has been called "space opera." As I understand the term, I agree. It is also "hard" science fiction, in that it deals with astrophysics to some degree, and has some passages where Reynolds uses dialog to explain some physical phenomenon. It is Reynolds' first novel. My edition is a serious read, 585 pages.

The book is set in the 2500's. The science of the time has progressed to the point that it is possible to download a personality to a computer, and such a personality has at least most of the characteristics associated with real flesh-and-blood people. It is also possible to download a personality to another person, or at least to a person who is partly a human-artificial hybrid. One of the interesting things about the book is that the characters, nor the reader, can always be sure about who really is whom, because of this aspect. (I have written an extensive web page on the topic of uploading one's soul, in which I discuss several misgivings about the possibility of doing so.) Space travel is still only at sub-light speeds, so not all of the barriers we feel ourselves have been surmounted in 4 centuries or so.

The book held my interest. Although the review that the "called" link above goes to didn't think much of Reynolds' character development, I thought it was at least adequate. Other aspects of science are explored, not just personality transfer. In fact, that is more or less a given, something accepted without exploring much of how it happens. Some of the astrophysics is explored in at least a semi-scientific fashion.

Two or three alien species play significant roles in the book.

Although it is not, by my lights, a Christian novel, it isn't anti-Christian, either, and there is at least a little mention of prayer. (See here for my last post on the topic of what makes a novel Christian.)

Thanks for reading.


Tap said...

Circuit of Heaven (Dennis Danvers) is another book about uploading souls set in the more immediate future. Although there are so-called "Constructs" made up of different personalities to be servants (or whatever), this book seems more concerned with the ethics of it all. Newman Rogers' discovery makes possible the creation of a virtual world where people can live forever, but not everyone thinks it's right. Even after most people enter "the Bin" (their bodies are destroyed), there are religious fanatics and other hold-outs who refuse because they believe that an artificial version of Eden (even though it is actually far from perfect) usurps God's authority or that it just isn't right.

You might want to check it out. There's also a sequel (End of Days, I think) which I haven't read.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Tap.