For my thirty third book of the year, I returned to hard SF in the form of the third book in Alistair Reynolds’ Inhibitor novels, Redemption Ark
The first two novels, Revelation Space and Chasm City hinted at the powerful Cojoiners, makers of space drives, one of the most powerful factions amongst the many that make up this future. Redemption Ark puts them center stage.
Nevil Clavain, the Butcher of Tharsis, who became a Conjoiner centuries ago unwillingly, is our entree into the strange joined minds of this transhumanist group, and he drives the novel. The Inhibitors, a machine intelligence designed to wipe out intelligent life which undertakes interstellar travel, are on the move. The Cojoiners have a plan, one that, once Clavain learns of it, decides is not the best one for humanity.
Arrayed with him are a number of other characters, both Conjoiner and otherwise. From Antionette Bax, spaceship pilot, to the uplifted pig Scorpio, Reynolds shows a variety of different types of 26th century humanity as the threat of the Inhibitors comes to bear on the planet Resurgam. Petty differences, old grudges, and misunderstandings all are still part of humanity, and these character flaws are as important as the overarching threat to the plot.
While I highly enjoyed the hard SF in the book (which I haven’t read for a while), a few nits bugged me. I think the book takes too long to get going. When it does, it goes very well until the last coda of the book, but the slowness of the beginning is a bit off putting. Too, some of the character interactions are a bit melodramatic for my taste.
The ending is a slingshot, but I think its a bit too abrupt of one. It could have been written somewhat better and more smoothly.
Still, the driving force of Nevil Clavain is a potent one, and it was enough that I have borrowed his name for an RPG character. For its faults, I still liked Redemption Ark. I wouldn’t personally start here, I would start with Revelation Space (although Chasm City could be skipped since it stands alone) and then read this one.
I fully intend to pick up and read the next book in the Inhibitor sequence, Absolution Gap, at some point.