It is time for another review of a book that I’ve read for the Sword & Laser Book Club Podcast – in this case, Aurora Rising, by Alastair Reynolds (previously released as The Prefect) – currently my first step into his Chasm City/Revelation Space setting.
Aurora Rising is a different sort of SF police procedural. It follows Prefect Tom Dreyfus and one of his deputies, Thalia Ng, who works for Panoply, the police force of the Glitter Belt – a wide array of orbital habitats surrounding the planet Yellowstone in the Epsilon Eridani system. Most habitats have their own internal police forces and enforce their own internal laws, with the Prefects enforcing the three laws that are constant among all the habitats – the right to vote, the right to “abstraction” (a form of digital communication and virtual reality used throughout the Glitter Band), and preventing fraudulent voting. Some of the cases they take can also be violations that are extensions of those laws – they investigate murders because killing someone prevents them from voting, for example.
The book is built around two main plots – one is related to an investigation into the destruction of a habitat called Ruskin-Sartorius by a spaceship’s drive system – carried out by Dryfus, and the other related to a test install of a polling software update on four habitats – carried out by Ng – that goes very bad. Now, anyone who has read a thriller before is going to suspect that these two are most likely related, with the core narrative thrust of the book being around Prefect Dryfus finding out why they’re related, and for Ng to survive while unearthing information on her end to help thwart this sinister plan.
As far as the setting goes – in spite of not having read any of the other books in the Revelation Space setting, I never particularly found myself getting lost in the story of the universe. While concepts and technologies are introduced and not necessarily explicitly explained in an infodump, how they appear and are used was clear enough for me to intuit how they work.
That’s not to say the book is completely clear and flawless. There are a couple of bits of the book that get into head-scratching stupidity – like when a traitor to Panoply, who has killed before, but is not placed under armed guard while in the infirmary. I feel like that happened because Reynolds wanted them to be able to break out of the infirmary, but were unable to convince himself that the traitor would otherwise be able to overpower or deceive any guards.
All of that said, the book was a very enjoyable read, and while the factions involved became clear fairly quickly, the overall objectives and how those were going to be executed kept me guessing, and I’m glad I picked this one up.
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