Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds

a review by Ant, in the genre(s) Science Fiction, Space Opera . Book published by Gollancz in January 2018

Elysium Fire is the sequel to Aurora Rising (also known as The Prefect), set in Reynold's Revelation Space universe but before events of his previous novels. Like Aurora Rising, it can be read as a stand-alone novel.

It's the 25th century (with no Buck Rogers in sight) and humanity has, in many ways, moved on significantly from the Trumpocalypse / raging commercialism of the 21st century. The Glitter Band is a collection of ten-thousand habitats orbiting the planet Yellowstone. Within them 100 million people living in a working egalitarian society that shares decisions on policy through a voting system run through a system wide network connected via a neural implant.

The network also provides access to an advanced Augmented Reality system. Voting, people and network are policed by The Panoply. Tom Dreyfus, a Prefect (sort of investigator) of the Panoply, has a new emergency on his hands, when an increasing number of unexplained deaths begin happening across the Glitter Band. These deaths are seemingly caused by a malfunction of the neural implant that every one of the 100 million inhabitants have.

As if that wasn't enough, popular, well connected habitant Devon Garlin is leading a growing movement for independence. Despite keeping the cause of these deaths secret, Devin seems to know just what is going on and also knows just how to push Dreyfus' buttons.

With the frequency of these random deaths increasing, Dreyfus and his colleagues Thalia Ng and Sparver (a genetically engineered "hyper pig") must solve the mystery before the stability of the entire region is put at risk.

It's been ten years since Reynolds introduced us to Dreyfus and wrote what I consider to be an almost prefectly executed detective science fiction novel. Elysium Fire continues this trend, this time with more emphasis placed on the characters Thalia and Spaver. The characters have grown during this time, and the years have not been wasted by the author either. If anything the prose is even smoother and characterisation better.

It's also somewhat topical what with Brexit and all, the growing movement for indepenence offering a close parallel - people wanting to leave an almost utopian society making as much sense as Brexit does. While it's not needed to have read Aurora Rising, events from that book have had an effect on this book and impact on the story.

If you have read any of Reynolds other works you'll notice some wonderful connections here, touching on future events from other novels and short stories in the Revelation Space universe. The wonderful character of Aurora makes a welcome return too.

The plot is well paced and inventive, with three primary strands. The increasing deaths by brain melt investigation is interspaced with flasbacks to 30 years prior, following the events of two siblings. Then there is the Brexit / Independence affair. Of course these threads are connected, but not in the way you might expect.

The blend of detective / mystery with that of science fiction is nothing short of brilliant, the pieces of the escalating deaths puzzle dropping slowly into space against a backdrop of advanced artificial intelligence, simulations of dead people, a sea of biotech modified humanity and a AI-imbedded snake-like tool that can seemingly do almost anything.

Elysium Fire is a triumph, it's fun and clever with a wonderfully rich and complex plot. It's filled with characters you can almost reach out and touch and technology that astounds without being outlandish. It sucks you in right from the start and doesn't let you go until the end when the mystery is explained to everyone in the style of most popular murder mystery stories.

If you haven't ready of Reynold's novels, or even much science fiction, this is a great place to start. Either way, this is unmissable, fantastic fiction.

Written on Wednesday 24th January 2018 by .

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Elysium Fire, a novel by Alastair Reynolds

Book Details

  • Elysium Fire
  • Publisher: Gollancz
  • ISBN: 978-0575090583
  • Published:
  • Pages: 416
  • Format reviewed: Paperback
  • Review date: January, 2018
  • Language: English
  • Age Range: