I was recently delighted to be granted an advance review copy of Revenger by Alastair Reynolds from netgalley.com and this is my spoiler free review of the book.
In a nutshell, this is a rollicking science fiction adventure yarn that left me wanting more.
Revenger evokes the age of sail with its port planets and solar sail-powered sunjammers, as is only appropriate given the piratical motifs of the book. Even the dialogue could have been ripped from Treasure Island but for the jargon specific to the science fiction trappings such as robots and ion engines. Crew members are called ‘Coves’. People drop letters and speak in a sort of sailor’s cant, and even breathable atmosphere is given the more evocative name ‘Lungstuff’ and the galaxy is called the ‘Swirly’.
The setting of Revenger is fascinating, and rather than telling us all about it up front, Reynolds does a good job of revealing small details that can ultimately be assembled into a compelling jigsaw. Over the course of the novel he also teases the reader with some tantalising clues as to where the story of future books might be headed.
As is common with Reynolds’s books the science is fairly hard, though some of the technologies on display operate through means that can’t be explained by modern science. Foremost among these are the Bones, alien skulls filled with technology that allow instantaneous communication at great range. They’re essentially ansibles with a skull motif, no doubt designed that way to reinforce the book’s piratical sensibilities.
The storyline is neatly put together, satisfying, and clips along at a nice pace. Nothing gets old or outstays its welcome and I found the development of the central characters over the course of the novel to be highly satisfying. At times there’s a bit of a Firefly vibe to the interactions of the characters, and even the peripheral characters are well-drawn enough to make them individually memorable. Reynolds does a great job of using mannerisms, speech tics, and habitual expressions to distinguish them from one another.
This is not a criticism for me, but some readers may find the characters of Revenger a little less sympathetic than they would like. As long as you don’t go into the book expecting everyone to be a lovable rogue with a heart of gold, but rather a more nuanced and complex character, you should be fine.
In conclusion, Alastair Reynolds has done it again. He has built a fascinating and intricate setting and used it to tell a highly satisfying story that leaves me wanting more.