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Chasm City: Alastair Reynolds

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There is scant AI in Chasm City, but there is plenty of reflection on identity and the ramifications of using technology to alter one’s identity. The Melding Plague is a nano-tech plague that attacks advanced technology and morphs it into a bizarre and degenerate conflation of organic and mechanical life. Reynolds for the clarity of his writing, even without any chapter labeling the reader is never confused.

Honor to the author, no plotlines are left hanging in the air as the book nears it finale, neatly tugged in as the tales spins on. The main trilogy (Revelation Space, Redemption Ark, Absolution Gap) featured a lot of good hard SF world-building, but was heavily weighed down by clunky characters, dialogue, and extremely bloated page-count. What's left is a city of great depravity where people who have lived for centuries do insane and/or immoral things just to feel alive for a moment. I first read Revelation Space nearly eight years ago and didn’t much care for it; it had some promising aspects but was weighed down by stilted dialogue, shallow characters and a bloated prose style.While the story is not epic in scale as it mainly focuses on the protagonist’s adventures it is set in a brilliantly imagined universe.

The plot was intriguing, the characters were interesting and if Chasm City wasn't fascinating enough on it's own we also get the back story of the first generation ships to leave the Solar System on a centuries long mission to colonize Journey's End or what would become more commonly known as Sky's Edge. Although numerous descriptions of technical appliances I found a little difficult to understand, and Tanner's character indeed verged to turn into obnoxious superman at times, the book will definitely keep you guessing till the very last chapter. How long would you have to live; how much good would you have to do, to compensate for one act of pure evil you'd committed as a younger man? Want some cheap, illegal, operation as a welcome gift to make sure that you don´t grey/green goo too much and make the place even slimier and grittier? CLARKE AWARD; REVELATION SPACE, ABSOLUTION GAP, DIAMOND DOGS and CENTURY RAIN were shortlisted for the BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION AWARD and CHASM CITY won the BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION AWARD.

The main character Tanner Mirabel is chasing a man who killed his best friend and the love of his life but made the mistake of leaving him alive. The first follows a security operative, Tanner Mirabel, as he hunts a fugitive through what was once humanity’s greatest and most advanced civilisation, now reduced to a tangled, twisted slum by a disease that preys on nanotechnology. In the midst of his hunt, he begins experiencing virus-induced flashbacks from the life of Sky Haussmann, the founder of his home world, Sky's Edge, who is both revered and reviled for the crimes he committed for his people.

Before the chase is done, Tanner will have to confront truths which reach back centuries, towards deep space and an atrocity history barely remembers. Much of the story is an epic chase in which Tanner gets into one dangerous situation after another as he tries to find and kill Reivich.Although it’s clearly set in the same universe as the first book, I was pleased that it felt quite tonally different.

As always with Reynolds, the finetuning is immense, no more reading horsepower could be tickled out of this beast of a book, and all of the mentioned elements, the city, second story, drugs, and protagonist´s life, are perfectly interlinked and offer a perfect combination of quick cuts, Hollywood style dialogues and action sequences, cliffhangers, epic worldbuilding, and dry wit. Normally that sort of thing doesn't sit well with me but it works much better in a dark context than in a humorous or other lighter context.

the book being written in first person makes this even worse, where i had to suffer through mirabel telling me he can Shoot Real Good From The Hip, Knows Much Combat, and how he “has a blandly handsome face”, like the one of a “moderately successful actor”. Chasm City, the largest on Yellowstone, is now a semi-post-apocalyptic ruin in which the lucky survivors (of which there are still millions) have removed their swish sci-fi implants and rely on more fundamental technology like bulky mobile phones and honest-to-god steam power. This is where Reynolds really excels across all his fiction: at creating a sci-fi mystery, a foreboding sense of horror at the unknown dangers of the big, strange galaxy. It occurred to me at some point that Al Reynolds’ works are for sci-fi literature what is ballet for dance or opera for music: exquisite, high class performance.

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