Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Review: Century Rain

Century Rain is Alastair Reynolds' time travel science fiction novel. (Yes, I'm on a Reynolds kick right now) If you want to be a hard science writer, but you want to write a time travel story, what would you do?

Reynolds' answer is to use space travel. Unfortunately, he has to resort to another artifact. Someone somewhere has made a file-system-like snapshot of Earth back in the 1930s, and hidden it behind an astronomical structure where the inhabitants can be blissfully unaware that they're not actually orbiting a star.

In the meantime, the real Earth has turned into a dystopia due to a nano-machine holocaust, and different human factions are now fighting over the ashes of the planet. Verity Auger is an archeologist, digging through the remains of old Paris to recover long lost records. When she makes a mistake and is sent to a tribunal for it, she's offered a chance to redeem herself by exploring the parallel Earth, where a previous archeologist was sent but has gone missing.

In this parallel Earth, a private detective, Floyd, is engaged by a landlord to investigate the death of a tenant that the landlord had become fond of. The two plot lines then converge and we get reveal after reveal of the various machinations that are tying together the real Earth and the parallel one.

As is usual with Reynolds' stories, the characters are wooden, and his attempts at portraying a romance is incredibly unconvincing. The world building is excellent, though it still left unanswered questions in my head --- at the end of the novel, I still felt that Reynolds had dodged a few intriguing questions that would have made the novel better if he had answered them.

All in all, this novel is pretty mediocre Reynolds, but still more than acceptable airplane material. Recommended if you can get it at a cheap price or if you check it out of the library.
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