By Alastair Reynolds
First off, if you haven't read the first two books in the series, I suggest you do before starting Bone Silence. You could read it stand alone but it wouldn't make as much sense and you'd be missing the bigger picture in the ongoing story. If you need convincing that you should start this journey, then you could read our review of Revenger (which I considered one of the best books of 2016) and that of Shadow Captain (which again was one of my favourite of last year). While I will try and avoid spoilers for this book in the following review, it's nigh on impossible to avoid mention of the story so far, so fair warning.
Still with us? good.
I love the way Reynolds describes a far distant future around our Sun. Instead of eight planets, the star is now orbited by a thousand small planetoids known collectively as the Congregation. This fairly ordinary and now old and faint star has so far been witness to thirteen occupations of these rocks. Thirteen civilisations rising and falling before the next drag themselves up from the remains. This has resulted in a myriad of mysterious and ancient technology the creation (and often repair of) has been lost in the mist of time. Then there are the aliens, which are different enough to feel properly alien, creepy and somewhat insect-like. This technology of lost civilisations is used throughout the Congregation, from the currency (Quoins) to navigation around the system - through the use of long dead alien skulls that young people with a telepathic gift can jack into and somehow form a bond with. The smaller, unoccupied planetoids are known as baubles and can occasionally hold valuable lost technology. Pirates are known to loot these baubles when the opportunity presents itself.
The first two books were largely narrated from the pov of the two main protagonists, the Ness sisters - Arafura and Adrana respectively. Bone Silence widens the perspective and is mostly told through the third-person. This helps as the story broadens from a tightly focused journey to a more macroscopic view of events unfolding. That's not to say the book shifts focus from the Ness sisters but that we get to see more of the bigger picture at play. The sisters are pursued for crimes that they haven't committed, but also as a result of their actions at the end of the last book. Those pursuing them have carried out worse than they have been accused of, a murderer and all round bad guy by the name of Incer Stallis. Like the present, the future is still an unfair one, often controlled by those in power.
As far as the story itself is concerned, the end of Shadow Captain introduced a big change - which may or may not have hinted at the fall of the thirteenth occupation, along with a mysterious object that might offer some explanation to what happened perhaps even the origins of the Occupation. The underlying story in Bone Silence is the journey to this mysterious object and it's aftermath. We see how the sisters have grown into their roles as leaders and get a bit more insight into the supporting characters.
Bone Silence is, again, Reynolds on top form. Maintaining the individual journey of both Ness sisters while providing an answer to main plot elements. The ending answers most of the questions it needs to, while maintaining an air of mystery about others. This is Space Opera as it should be, big and bold ideas presented within an entertaining, rewarding journey.
Written on 13th April 2020 by Ant .