13 July 2010

Alastair Reynolds - Chasm City

  • Author: Alastair Reynolds
  • Title: Chasm City
  • Publisher: Gollancz 2001
  • ISBN: 978 0575083158
Anyone who has read my previous posts on Alastair Reynolds will know that he is my favourite writer of SF. Reynolds writes exactly the kind of wide screen Space Opera that I love the best, and he does it without ever rehashing his earlier story lines or boring me stupid with pointless filler.

Chasm City didn't disappoint. If anything, it cemented my faith in Reynolds as a reliable source of at least 500 pages of brilliant story (634 pages in this instance). If only he would write faster, more often and direct to paper in my letterbox. I have read half of his back catalogue already, and there are only 6 books to go before I completely run out of new Reynolds to read. It's a scary thought, although I note that on his website, he says that he is going to write more Revelation Space books eventually.

This book is a standalone Revelation Space story in which Tanner Mirabel, a security specialist from Sky's Edge, chases the guy who killed his boss and his bosses girlfriend in an ambush across space and time to Yellowstone, in order to exact revenge.

The story delves into the colonisation of Sky's Edge and the cause of the war, as well as the back story of Sky Haussmann, hero and villain of Sky's Edge. It also looks at the cause of the plague on Yellowstone, the division between the Mulch and the Canopy in Chasm City, and some more information about the war of a few billion years ago with the Inhibitors. The story is set seven years after the plague strikes Yellowstone, being several years before the novel Revelation Space begins.

There are drugs & dealers, ancient weirdo's, moral crises, personality clashes and strange alliances. Exotic weapons, bioengineered humanoids of porcine origin, cyborgs and an exploding space elevator. There is a virus that causes dream visions of religious figures, bungee jumping, exotic weapons and fake passports. And we discover, at the end of it all, the origin of Shadowplay, a game in which the rich and bored volunteer to be hunted by professional assassins for a TV show, knowing that there is around a 30% chance that they will die.

Ultimately, this is a story about redemption. It poses the question "How long does a person have to live a good life before their past crimes are absolved?" It's a question of morality that challenges the idea that you can somehow redeem yourself for any act with the forfeiture of a certain period of time, whether by punishment or by repatriation.

I could write for hours on this book, and probably will at some point, but I don't want to go into spoilers just yet. If you don't read this book, you are seriously missing out. One of the greatest ever.