Absolution gap, by Alastair Reynolds (2003).
Score: A very suitable ending for the saga.
***SPOILERS FOR CHASM CITY, REVELATION SPACE AND REDEMPTION ARK***
The last installment of the Revelation Space trilogy comes back to the crew of the Nostalgia for Infinity and the Resurgam refugees 23 years after they land on the Pattern Juggler planet they named Ararat. Clavain has left the main settlement to live as a hermit, but Scorpio and young native Vasko Malinin reach out to him to inform that a probe has fallen into Ararat. They suspect it might contain Remontoire or Skade and ask Clavain to regain leadership of the colony.
Sixty years before that, the lighthugger Gnostic Ascension is approaching 107 Piscium in hopes of scavenging something valuable. Baseline human Quaiche is sent to the system to find some treasure for Queen Jasmina, who is fed up with Quaiche’s failures and is giving him one last chance.
The last arc concerns Rashmika Els, a teenager that runs away from home to find out what happened to her missing brother. Rashmika lives on Hela, the moon of a gas giant, where an extinct alien race one dwelt, and where now there is a cult to the gas giant Haldora… which has a tendency to disappear for a few milliseconds every now and then.
Absolution gap is about as long as the previous novels and has similar pacing. The three arcs are developed quite slowly and describe characters and environments with quite a lot of detail. This is the one I liked most after Chasm City, mostly because of its inventiveness. The cult of Haldora I found very interesting and well-developed, as well as the Scuttlers. The pacing is all right in the beginning, stalls a bit in the middle and then is much too fast in the end. The epilogue was almost like a sick joke in how much it explained in so few lines. All the twists and turns were nice, especially towards the end, though sometimes you wonder what narrative purpose some of them serve. All in all it feels a bit too long and the suspense is not as well evened out as in the other novels, saving too many of the surprises for the end.
All the new characters in the Ararat arc are minor, with the most interesting new characters in the Hela arc. The Dean and Grelier are greatly developed, as well as all the cult around Haldora, justified by an indoctrinal virus and a fatal flaw in character. Definitely some of the most interesting passages in the book.
Let’s not forget that Reynolds is a physicist. Virtually all the science in this is factually right, and this is some of the hardest science fiction you can put your hands on. He uses his knowledge of cosmological hypothesis and general physics with great dexterity to serve his plot, and it works great.
Even with these minor things that would benefit of some tinkering around, this is a great book and closes what is so far my favourite space opera saga. Definitely worth the time.