Alastair Reynolds is a step above most other sci-fi authors when it comes to one thing: making the extraordinary look mundane. While others make up ludicrous excuses for bypassing laws of physics, Reynolds’ loyalty to science (with a little artistic license) lends them believability – even when there are immense, super-sentient whale gods swimming around ocean planets involved.
So that’s why in Revenger, Reynolds conjures up a world of juxtapositions, like so often before. In following the young adventure-seeking sisters of Arafura and Adrana, desperately seeking escape from their over-protected, boring upper-class lives, we’re taken into space (or the Empty) on a part-solar-powered, part-ion-drive ship of amazing innovation, setting out to find lost treasures and uncover secrets of abandoned worlds.
And they find adventure, danger, wondrous discoveries, some signature Reynolds mundanity and, erm, pirates – at least that’s rather the closest approximation applicable to most of the characters we encounter on Rackamore’s Sunjammer, as well as its enemy, Bosa’s Nightjammer.
Revenger stars a fascinating hero in Fura, one with quite a character arc, and it has some stirring prose, often at its most potent and emotional at the story’s bloodiest and darkest moments. Against this, the throwback element of ‘bone-reading’, treasure-hunting, occult-exploring and swashbuckling to a level stopping just short of inserting an actual ‘yarr’ somewhere just doesn’t mix as well as Reynolds wants it to.
Looking past that, the world of Revenger is undeniably fascinating, and with Reynolds as your storyteller, a journey into it is definitely worthwhile.