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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

       
Chasm City

Copyright 2001 by Alastair Reynolds

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Good (2/5)

I first read this on the 8th September 2002.

Tanner Mirabel is an ex-mercenary, now a security specialist. His boss is Cahuella. a powerful arms dealer, and a very nasty man indeed. Arms dealing is a profitable business on the world of Sky's Edge, but it's also dangerous since war is endemic to the planet and alliances and loyalties shift continually.

When Cahuella is killed by an aggrieved victim of one of Chahuella's arms deals, Tanner determines to track down the killer and exact his vengeance. His quest takes him from Sky's Edge and leads his to the planet of Yellowstone in Epsilon Eridani, and to its unique Chasm City.

Infected by a malignant indoctrinal virus, bleeding from stigmata and suffering waking-nightmares, Tanner has to hold his battered personality together long enough to get the job done. And all this in Chasm City, a once magnificent marvel, now the deranged ruin that resulted from another, nanotechnological, virus attack.

Oh dear, oh dear. I enjoyed Revelation Space, good solid imaginative SF but this novel is a different kettle of fish. The first hundred or so pages were all quite reasonable. I was looking forward to seeing what happened. Tanner seemed an interesting, maybe cool, character. The flashbacks to the generation ships making the long voyage from Earth were excellent. But then it all drifts off into some Perdido Street Station mode with excessive time wasted on descriptions of just how interesting is the Chasm city architecture, plus the unnecessary introduction of unusual characters to alternatively aid or hinder Tanner in his quest.

And then there's the dialogue. When I say, in threatening tone of voice, "or I'll redecorate the car with your cranium", I get slapped around the head and told to shut up. I can't really imagine that Tanner, however tough a dude he may be, can get away with unloading this drivel on his captives, unless it's intended merely to disable them through laughter, to horizontal them with mirth. And does this dialogue really work to pick up the babes, as it appears to with Tanner, or are they just interested in his unique facial features or his muddled mind?

I got seriously bored with this novel but plodded on through hoping (vainly as it turned out) that it would all pull together at the end. It doesn't. Some of the puzzles are answered, laboriously, but the answers are just thrown away. Look at the strange plague that devastated the city - highly complex and interesting stuff - and then look at the explanation of its cause and what's done with that explanation.

There's some great writing, there's some good perceptions, but it's too long, it's confused, it's undisciplined and it's illogical. Basically Reynolds loses the plot.

What's it got? Oh, loads of stuff: big ships, big guns, dangerous virii, wildly cosmeticised gun-toting babes, aliens and very odd humans, immortality treatments and interesting sports.

Loaded on the 24th September 2002.
    
Cover of Chasm City
Cover by Chris Moore and Richard Carr

Reviews of other work by Alastair Reynolds
Revelation Space
Redemption Ark
Absolution Gap
Century Rain
Terminal World