Redemption Ark, by Alastair Reynolds (2002).
Score: Keeping up with the expectations.
***SPOILERS for Revelation Space and Chasm City***
The second instalment of the Revelation Space trilogy, Redemption Ark, takes off where the first book left. Ana Khouri survives entering Hades and starts to devise a way to evacuate Resurgam before the Inhibitors wipe it out. Meanwhile, the Conjoiners have encountered an alien race they call the wolves and have decided to reclaim the hell-class weapons on board of the Nostalgia for Infinity in order to face them.
The quality level stays up there where Revelation Space set it, though I think neither of them is as good as Chasm City. This particular book is mostly devoted to developing and characterising the Conjoiners, which is done in an interesting and entertaining way. As with the previous books, the narration is well-paced and the suspense and surprises are well-spaced out, not saved all for the ending. Khouri and especially Volyova are still there to make the story go ahead, and I was pleasantly surprised by the use of the Captain as an agent while fused with the spaceship by effect of the Melding Plague. Except for Skade, the new characters are not as compelling as Volyova or Sky Haussmann/Tanner/Cahuella, but at least they’re not irredeemably stupid or annoying and do their job well enough.
I found Skade to be quite well written, as well as the Inhibitors. You know I love myself some good, old-fashioned well-intentioned extremists, and Skade had an interesting dash of Radamanth Nemes ofEndymion fame. As for the Inhibitors, they are more developed and rounded-up than in the previous books (definitely more compelling than the Reapers from Mass Effect). They’re given an agenda and a positioning in the conflict, which is more than is done for a lot of villains of this magnitude. The same way as Revelation Space, it has both a closed plot in itself and is part of a longer arc that I’m guessing will be finished with Absolution Gap. This is done satisfactorily, since we’re given some sense of closure when this is finished, even though the story will continue in another book.
If you liked the previous episodes of the saga, don’t hesitate and keep reading, there’s more good stuff where it came from!
And now, for the bad things, I need the ***SPOILER TAG***
Something I dislike a lot of this series is that nobody, ever, dies. Reynolds goes to ridiculous lengths to concoct silly ways that beloved character couldn’t have died in that spectacular interstellar explosion and he always plays them straight. I was cross already at what had happened with Volyova in the first book, and at least it looks like she’s been killed off in this one, but only after having cheated death in ludicrous ways at least three times. Okay, I admit it. I’m probably the opposite of the vast majority but I actually enjoy it when important characters are killed off unexpectedly and not brought back later with lousy excuses. Because I think it’s very easy to pretend to kill off a character to create a cliffhanger, also to come up with a spectacular way in which they looked dead but weren’t. I feel killing off an important character for good and continuing your story in a way the reader wasn’t expecting is much more interesting. So you can guess how pissed I was when I read that Skade wasn’t dead, that she shot her disembodied head out of the ship because she’s just that smart and cool and knew what Clavain was going to do all along. Honestly. I get that his characters are very well fleshed-out and must be so hard to kill off, but Reynolds is terrible at this. It’s starting to look like a telenovela and it’s a shame because I know it’s not going to change over time. But well, it’s not the end of the world.