Revelation Space

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Revelation Space
Revelation Space cover (Amazon).jpg
Author Alastair Reynolds
Cover artist Chris Moore
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Revelation Space
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Gollancz
Publication date
Media type Print (hardcover and paperback)
Pages 560 pp
ISBN 1-85798-748-9
OCLC 51945804
Followed by Chasm City

Revelation Space is a 2000 science fiction space opera novel by Welsh author Alastair Reynolds. It was the first novel set in the Revelation Space universe, although the then-unnamed universe had already been established by several published short stories.

The novel reflects Reynolds's professional background: he has a PhD in astronomy and worked for many years for the European Space Agency.[1]

Revelation Space was short listed for the 2000 BSFA and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

Revelation Space starts off with three seemingly unrelated narrative strands that merge as the novel progresses. This plot structure is characteristic of many of Reynolds's works.

The first strand centers around Dan Sylveste, beginning in the year 2551. Sylveste is an archaeologist excavating the remains of the long-dead Amarantin race. Over the course of decades, Sylveste learns that the Amarantin may have become technologically sophisticated before their sun destroyed life on the planet Resurgam nearly a million years prior.

The next strand centers around Ilia Volyova aboard the Nostalgia for Infinity, a large ship capable of interstellar travel. Volyova and the other members of her skeleton crew wish to find Sylveste because they believe he can help them with their captain, who has been infected with the Melding Plague, a nanotech virus that attacks human cells and machine implants to pervert them into grotesque combinations.

The third strand focuses on Ana Khouri, an assassin living on the planet Yellowstone (in the Epsilon Eridani system). Khouri is hired by a mysterious figure known as the Mademoiselle to assassinate Sylveste.

With help from the Mademoiselle, Khouri infiltrates the crew of the Nostalgia for Infinity as it reaches orbit around Yellowstone, knowing that they will then travel to Resurgam. The Nostalgia for Infinity arrives in orbit around Resurgam in 2566. Desperate to secure Sylveste's expertise to help cure her captain, Volyova and the other two members of the ship's ruling triumvirate (Sajaki and Hegazi) threaten the defenseless Resurgam civilisation, prompting its rulers to turn Sylveste over to them.

Once aboard, however Sylveste informs the triumvirs that he has antimatter bombs hidden inside the implants in his artificial eyes that could destroy the Nostalgia for Infinity. He then agrees to attempt to cure their captain in exchange for a trip to Cerberus, a mysterious nearby planet that he believes holds the secret to the truth of Amarantin civilisation. They soon discover that Cerberus is actually a massive beacon aimed at alerting a machine sentience of the appearance of new star-faring cultures so that it can destroy them. It is this sentience, Sylveste belatedly realises, that caused the demise of the Amarantin. The beacon begins to activate and Sylveste detonates the bombs in his eyes before he can be used to trigger the alert.

Publication history[edit]

As this was Alastair Reynolds's first published hardback or hardcover fiction, and was published in a relatively small initial print run in the United Kingdom, it subsequently became a collectible first edition.


Thomas M. Wagner of SF Reviews wrote that "images and bits and pieces of the novel simply would not get out of my head. This is saying something, since, with the volume of SF and fantasy I read, I do not exactly retain an eidetic memory of everything I've read that I can call up in a second or two unless the book literally bowled me over. But in the case of Revelation Space, two and three years later I still could remember the opening scene in the archaeological dig on the lonely planet of Resurgam with remarkable clarity. The dark, eerie corridors of the vast starship Nostalgia for Infinity still brought haunting images to mind."[3]

A Dragonsworn review notes "there's plenty of beautifully scripted action sequences, and gorgeous descriptions—especially where the Nostalgia for Infinity is concerned. Reynolds paints a vivid picture of a haunting machine in decline, and a crew that may as well be ghosts."[4]

In a Blogcritics review, Nick Barrett describes Revelation Space as "black, bleak, extremely well written, with an undercurrent of menace and increasing danger, and it's a thriller to keep you turning the pages until you lose sleep."[5]

The Revelation Space Trilogy was listed in Damien Broderick's book Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Greenstreet, Rosanna (10 June 2000). "The questionnaire, Alastair Reynolds". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 October 2009. 
  2. ^ "Sci-fi metropolis wins award". BBC News Online. 18 May 2001. Retrieved 3 October 2009. 
  3. ^ "Revelation Space". SF Reviews. 2005. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  4. ^ "Revelation Space review". Dragonsworn. 2004. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  5. ^ "Revelation Space: Admirable intro to a tough 'opera'". Blogcritics. 12 January 2004. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
  6. ^ "Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010 — Nonstop Press". 2012-05-05. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 

External links[edit]