The ZONE genre worldwide books movies
the science fiction
fantasy horror &
mystery website
 
 
home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email

Absolution Gap
Alastair Reynolds
Gollancz paperback £6.99

review by Eric Turowski

First, I must apologise to the author and publisher for taking so long to review this novel. Both the style and plot grab your attention, with vast, epic settings thrown in to keep a reader enthralled. The problem, for me, lay in the strange dumps of exposition and sudden character introductions that litter the tome. I found myself thumbing backward through the book a number of times, trying to pick up the last time a plot thread surfaced or a character was introduced - and found that they never had. Add to this a strange sense of déjà vu whenever major characters were introduced, and I found myself struggling to keep all the elements straight.

Then, toward the end of the book, I happened upon the list of Reynolds previous works with titles that referred directly to references in the text, and, alas, it became clear. Absolution Gap is part of a series, and worse, the latter part of a series. Slap my head and call me foolish.

It's difficult to recommend a book that's far along in a series (and given the ending, it seems the series should continue); more difficult to recommend a series I haven't read. While maybe 80 percent of this work stands alone, it turns out that one of the main character's existence and importance hinge on aspects and scenarios from a separate title - yet that is an assumption on my part, based on Reynolds' skill as an author. Initially, a long-winded explanation about where a character came from, while making sense, really lacked impact in the overall novel. Two such expository introductions especially caused some confusion, as both served as heavy frames to hang the plot upon.

That said; Absolution Gap is a grandiose work of hard-science technology combined with enough action to avoid the yawn-factor. Memorable characters populate the book (even though sorting out which faction each belongs to requires a bit of patience as the plot comes full circle), especially Scorpio, a genetically enhanced pig or perhaps a human-pig hybrid. Regardless, the rough-and-tumble little brawler, short in the forethought but excelling in loyalty and determination overcomes obstacles inherent in his species to become a strong, successful leader.

Absolution Gap spans about a century of time, focusing on two worlds: Ararat, an ocean planet inhabited by strange aquatic life forms as well as a band of human and pig refugees; and Hela, a frozen, airless moon orbiting the gas giant Haldora. Hela, discovered and named by Quaiche, becomes a place of worship after the discoverer witnesses the disappearance of Haldora. This incident, along with the death of his lover, drives Quaiche over the edge. Utterly mad, he occupies a mobile cathedral that walks slowly across the surface of Hela keeping Haldora constantly at zenith. His surgeon-general, Grelier, has devised ways for Quaiche to never look away, including a device that painfully keeps his eyes open and an alteration in his physiology that banishes sleep. To top it off, Quaiche had been infected with a virus that makes him religious, and strains of this virus are injected into Quaiche's followers by the creepy surgeon-general.

On Ararat, in the p Eridani A system, the crash landing of a space vehicle sparks a crisis for the refugees, who include Scorpio, Clavain (a leader in self-exile) and a ship that is haunted/combined with her captain. The crisis escalates as the refugees realise that the space around Ararat is the scene of a major war between the Conjoiners (enhanced humans) and the Inhibitors (blocky, mechanical agents of destruction). In response to the action in space, Infinity for Nostalgia, the ship grounded in the muck of Ararat, begins to come to life. Decades later, Rashmika Els, a teenage girl living in the Hela badlands, begins a quest to the mobile cathedrals to find out what happened to her brother, who was employed by one of the cathedrals. But it becomes evident that her quest, unknown to her, was for a different matter entirely.

The time threads don't join until near the end of the book; keeping the plots nearly separate and so wildly unrelated that reading becomes more and more compelling. So much happens that I don't have the space to divulge more, nor do I want to spoil the reading. However, the prologue and epilogue, even after completing the novel, still didn't come across as making a whole bunch of sense. Either the series must continue in order to shore up the dangle of a few plot threads, or they were answered already in an earlier novel. Again, this displays the inability for Absolution Gap to stand on its own.

In the mix is also the use of vastly different technologies for weapons and space travel, much of the understanding lost by the wielders over the centuries. And before you judge Reynolds as using 'we forgot' as an excuse for sloppy science, he also throws in recent theories about brane universes, superstrings and gravity. In order to recommend the novel, I would have to recommend the series. While I enjoy the sprawling space opera format, I can't see taking the time to read the series in its entirety (especially with Absolution Gap weighing in at 662 pages in an extra-wide mass paperback edition). However, for the fan of awe-inspiring tales of space adventure, Absolution Gap, and Reynolds in general, is a must.
Absolution Gap

Please support this
website - buy stuff
using these links:
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com
Send it
W.H. Smith






other books by
Alastair Reynolds:

Redemption Ark

Chasm City

home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email
copyright © 2001 - 2005 Pigasus Press