Reynolds’ novel certainly belongs in the company of SF classics such as Ringworld and Rama . . .
Alastair Reynolds, Orion Books
This 2004 novel by Brit sci-fi author Alastair Reynolds has recently been republished as part of the Gollancz Space Opera Collection along with other titles such as Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama, Dan Simmons’ Ilium and Larry Niven’s Ringworld amongst others.
No, we don’t know whether Rendezvous with Rama (or most of the other titles published in the series to be honest) can be classified as “space opera.” The same goes for Century Rain. There may be space battles in it, but space opera – even in the modern sense we apply the term to writers such as Ian M. Banks and Peter Hamilton – isn’t exactly the term that comes to mind when one thinks of this book. If it can be summed up it can be as part Alphaville (the B&W sci-fi / film noir movie, not the ‘Eighties pop group) and part original series Star Trek episode – don’t ask why, it just reminded us of one . . .
One thing is sure though: Reynolds’ novel certainly belongs in the company of SF classics such as Ringworld and Rama.
Dreamwatch sums it up best in a blurb used on the inside flap: “A genuinely good book . . . leaves you wishing more science fiction was this good.” The story takes place several centuries from now: the remnants of humanity are living in huge orbital stations around Earth. The planet itself is dead and uninhabitable. All organic life was destroyed two hundred years before when nanobots designed to “fix” the weather went rogue and killed all possible life forms – human, animal and plant.
Our heroine Verity Auger is an archaeologist who digs up remnants from the distant past from the now dead planet. When a field trip goes deadly wrong, she has a chance to redeem herself by partaking on a dangerous top secret mission. It seems that a perfect replica of the Earth circa 1950s have been discovered at the end of a wormhole.
Is it a window into the past, a simulation, or something else entirely? as the dust jacket has it.
A real page-turner, Reynolds’ restores that old-fashioned “sense of wonder” that one gets from reading hard SF writers such as Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. Well-researched and bursting with ideas it’ll have you greedily devouring all 567 plus pages and ruin whatever plans you might have had for the weekend!
If the book is flawed in any way it is its action movie finale, which feels written like something with a screenplay treatment in mind. Still, it would make for a great movie . . . that is, if Hollywood were into intelligent sci-fi instead of the usual dross it churns out.
Recommended. And so are most of the other titles in the Gollancz Space Opera Collection. Check them out.