Late Review : Elysium Fire

*I received an E-ARC from Netgalley for an honest review*

I’ve never read the REVELATION SPACE series, and I wish I had before. As a fan of fantasy more than science-fiction, I picked up ELYSIUM FIRE on a sheer whim, intrigued by my love of noir. ELYSIUM FIRE, the second in the Prefect Dreyfus Emergency subseries, has all the makings of a future noir classic. With a solidly paced story, an interesting cast of characters, a science-fiction setting where even a utopian society faces ill problems, makes for a strong but not perfect novel.

Characters: 4/5 Breadcrusts

I knew enough from the blurb provided and didn’t need a ton of info to figure out the state of the novel’s opening. I was able to connect relationships, positions, and histories of the characters given Reynold’s quick, efficient recaps. Alastair Reynolds includes an eclectic cast of inspectors, demagogues, rogue ais, and a hyperpig with a penchant for whiphound clubs. Dutiful but weary Senior Prefect Thomas Dreyfus leads a cast, including Thalia Ng, a rising Prefect and distant apprentice of Dreyfus, Sparver, the surly but well meaning hyperpig (I’m guessing an uplifted animal, it’s a common staple of science-fiction), and my favorite character helming the entire operation, Jane Aumonier, aka Lady Jane. Along with a supporting cast of other prefects, constables and Glitter Band citizens, each one has a defined personality, if slightly muted character arc.

The other character that interested me is Julius Voi. His arc/story was actually the most interesting of all the POVs and provides one of the better insights into an antagonist’s journey and rationale I’ve seen in a while. That particular moment later in the book provides the classic crime of passion and remorse that I prefer in my antagonists.

I liked the characters, they all play their roles accordingly. Although, I found Thalia and Sparver’s POV at times too short or not expanded enough. And the antagonist’s unfortunate ending didn’t sell me on it. Some minor ending quibbles aside, the characters were solid.

Technical: 4.5/5 Breadcrusts

Alastair Reynolds’ matter of fact, crisp prose does all the lifting without drawing attention to itself. Almost every word creates a vivid image, but without Reynold’s “voice” bleeding through like that kid in the MFA program who thinks sentence fragments are the best means to tell a story. Dialogue heavy, in the way a mystery/thriller should be, there are few wasted words here.

There are important scenes where the characters reflect on the events on occasion, showing their thought process, and then ultimately, it’s back to the action. Despite this, some occasional turn of phrase notwithstanding, the writing moves at a brisk pace, few, if at any errors exist, although, some of the comma usage threw me off. I think it’s the British style of punctuation.

Plot: 4/5 Breadcrusts

I figured out the plot pretty much at well, the beginning, but then again, I’ve a read a ton of mysteries, thrillers, and I am that annoying person in the theater who already saw the plot twist coming. What could have been a by the numbers mystery/thriller, instead, ends up a near flawless classic thriller. Investigations, countermoves, riots, desperate escapes, everything works great until….

The last thirty pages are frankly, bizarre. I get the antagonist is the way he is, but for all his long con planning, it didn’t feel climatic. Not to mention the whole Bond villain monologue that felt at odds with the otherwise realistic take on a thriller, didn’t add up. There are dangling threads and POV characters who don’t necessarily get closure for this case.

But the plot is solid, kept me engaged, and turned me into a fan of Alastair Reynolds.

Worldbuilding: 4/5 Breadcrusts

Easily one of the best science-fiction universes in recent memory. While it has all the staples of classic SF, the reason I was drawn to it is because it’s the right level of gritty but with a future entirely plausible. It’s not dystopia or utopia, even though the Glitter Band is a hypothetical utopia for its citizenry. The previous antagonists and events of Aurora Rising impact and intersect with this novel, without overwhelming the current crisis. It’s less a sequel and more the next event in a long running series. And having never read any of the previous novels, I understand enough of the casual links, names, and background events that exist within the novel for longtime fans.

A solid setting.

Final Score: 4.25/5 Breadcrusts

A well written, well-paced SF thriller in a long running series. I have no real quibbles with this one and am looking forward to the next novel.

Random thoughts:

I love Aurora, I’m a fan of renegade AIs in most settings.

 

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