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Saturday, September 11, 2021

Inhibitor PhaseInhibitor Phase by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This new book by Reynolds is going to be slightly difficult to review. If you haven't read any of the previous novels in the Revelation Space universe, or the short stories or novellas, then you might have a perfectly fine time with the read.

It takes us on a long trip through time and space, letting us still feel the horror of the Melding Plague, passing through the time of Chasm City and through the ruins of Yellowstone back when it used to glitter in The Prefect and heads us right through the Wolves and the self-replicating ancient horror that is destroying all sentient life, more than touching on the events in Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap and sending us through Galactic North, as refugees and later as a kind of resistance front.

The writing is tight and the story is nearly perfect.

But. Nearly halfway through, I kept getting this nagging feeling that I had read this before. I was really enjoying everything about Glass, but just seeing Clavain return made me wonder how he was involved in all this. Mind you, I loved him in the earlier books and while I didn't read them when they came out, I did read them almost a decade ago, so maybe I was thinking that my memory was messing with me. That may still be the case, of course, and I would have to re-read the other books I mentioned again, side-by-side with this new one, to see the real differences, but I'm pretty sure that I just read a pretty extensive re-write of Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap. A lot must have been cut out and even more was tightened up, turning Inhibitor Phase into ... dare I say it ... a superior product.

Am I just imagining things? I don't think so. Of course, it could be a combination of all the short stories and novellas and novels wrapped up in my head, re-formed into THIS, a fully coherent, streamlined tale of the extras, and I'm just tripping.

Either way, I enjoyed it. Maybe less than I thought I would because so much of it seemed so damn familiar, but I still enjoyed it. After all, I enjoyed all the others, too.

Even though I spent a lot of time on this issue, I should mention that the Revelation Space series, as a whole, is something REALLY huge and amazingly detailed for any kind of SF comparison. Indeed the complicated and subtle distinctions between what we call people, be they cyborgs, half pig-half human, uploaded minds, ocean intelligences, slugs, or so much more, is perfectly offset by the pitfalls of tech, enhanced by blood-as-physical-weapons, universe-devouring nanotech, and such large-scale constructions that would have sent Niven or Clarke into conniptions.

This SF is on another scale from most. My problems or praise with it are only expressed in a comparison with Reynold's other books.

Definitely worth the read.

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