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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.

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Review by Brian Clegg

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