Skip to main content

Bone Silence (SF) - Alastair Reynolds *****

Of all the best modern SF writers, Alastair Reynolds is arguably the supreme successor to the writers of the golden age. He gives us wide-ranging vision, clever concepts and rollicking adventure - never more so than with his concluding book of the Ness sisters trilogy.

Neatly, after the first title, Revenger was written from the viewpoint of one sister, Arafura and the second, Shadow Captain, had the other sister Adrana as narrator, this book is in the third person. It neatly ties up many of the loose ends from the previous books, but also leaves vast scope for revelations to cover in the future if Reynolds decides to revisit this world (he comments in his acknowledgements 'I am, for the time being, done with the Ness sisters. Whether they are done with me remains to be seen.')

As with the previous books, the feel here is in some ways reminiscent of the excellent TV series Firefly, but with pirates rather than cowboys transported into a space setting. Set millions of years in the future, the technology is fascinating, and there are a couple of very effective twists in a narrative that has the full force of Reynolds' unparalleled ability to produce an SF page-turner. Although the book is a sequel, unlike some other series books I've read, I never felt confused by not remembering what came before - Reynolds handles the balance of updating the reader without lots of exposition masterfully. We start with the Ness sisters and their crew acting reluctantly as relatively conscientious pirates - but an encounter with another ship changes things forever, not just for them, but the whole solar system.

As before, the only two small moans are the language - it seems a little forced that they use some strange words, given they would hardly be speaking current English, to 'translate' what they say into occasional oddities - so air, for instance, becomes 'lungstuff' - they might as well refer to a ship as a 'floaty Mcboaty'. And there is never much in the way of character development - but with ideas and adventure like this, you really don't care.

A great way to finish the trilogy.

Hardback:   
Kindle 
Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Human-Centered AI - Ben Shneiderman ****

Reading some popular science books is like biting into a luscious peach. Others are more like being presented with an almond - you have to do a lot of work to get through a difficult shell to get to the bit you want. This is very much an almond of a book, but it's worth the effort. At the time of writing, two popular science topics have become so ubiquitous that it's hard to find anything new to say about them - neuroscience and artificial intelligence. Almost all the (many) AI books I've read have either been paeans to its wonders or dire warnings of how AI will take over the world or make opaque and biassed decisions that destroy lives. What is really refreshing about Ben Shneiderman's book is that it does neither of these - instead it provides an approach to benefit from AI without suffering the negative consequences. That's why it's an important piece of work. To do this, Shneiderman takes us right back to the philosophical contrast between rationalism and e

Bewilderment (SF) - Richard Powers ****

Generally speaking, I avoid anything listed for the Booker Prize as being too worthy and pretentious to be bothered with, but I'd heard good things about Bewilderment , and I have found in the past that genre books that manage to get past the literati ( Wolf Hall , for example) are far better than the average entry. The publisher would probably disagree, but the reality is that Bewilderment is science fiction. I wondered to start with if Richard Powers was dealing more in Lab Lit - fiction with a scientific context but where the science isn't the driver in how people's lives are changed - but this is pretty solid SF. Clearly the book is strongly influenced by that SF classic Flowers for Algernon - in fact, Powers does a couple of open hat tips in its direction. Although Bewilderment isn't as ground-breaking as Flowers , it follows the model of a person's brain being changed by science to deal with an issue, but here it's an emotional problem rather than an in

A Natural History of the Future - Rob Dunn *****

Many books with an ecological theme are depressingly doom-laden. The authors delight in pointing out that from a biologist's viewpoint humans are just one of a vast number of species - nothing exceptional - and that we mess with nature at our peril. To be honest, I find such books hard going. So I was surprised that, despite Rob Dunn's take on the future of nature under human influence being fairly pessimistic, I got a lot out of  A Natural History of the Future . After some initial bombardment with Rutherfordian stamp collecting, Dunn captures the imagination by telling us genuinely interesting stories both about individual studies and about the more general relationships between species populations and their environment. That sounds rather dry, but it really isn't. There are many examples, but to pick one out, I was fascinated by the idea that attempts to stop species crossing borders will result in greater evolution of new species in those regions where access is restric