Redemption Ark – Alastair Reynolds (2002)
‘Time: the early twenty-seventh century. Fifty years ago, human intervention triggered an ancient alien system designed to warn of the emergence of intelligence. For aeons the Inhibitors have waited.
Now the response is on its way…
Clavain defected to fight on the side of the Conjoiners, a feared and persecuted human faction dedicated to hive-mind consciousness. Four hundred years later, in the terminal stages of a brutal interplanetary war, something has struck terror into the Conjoiner Inner Sanctum. As the nature of the new threat becomes clear, Clavain begins to wonder if it isn’t time to defect again.
Clavain and a misfit band of allies race toward Resurgam, where a long-lost cache of Doomsday weapons has been discovered; he wants the weapons for the good of humanity. But someone else already controls the lost weapons: and Triumvir Volyova has very definite plans of her own.
And the weapons themselves are not exactly lacking in free will…’
Blurb from the 2002 Gollancz paperback edition.
Reynolds’ third novel – although linked to ‘Chasm City’ is a sequel to ‘Revelation Space’ and picks up on events long after the last novel ended.
The Inhibitors – ancient AIs whose sole purpose is to limit the spread of intelligent life in the galaxy – have awoken and are beginning to construct a device in the Resurgam system using Roc – the system’s gas giant – as raw material.
Meanwhile – in the same system – Triumvir Ilia Volyova is still in residence on ‘Nostalgia for Infinity’ whose captain has become fused with his ship due to the effects of the Melding Plague. The ship still carries a cache of mysterious ‘Hell Weapons’ which are revealed to be the property of The Conjoiners, a gestalt society of artificially conjoined minds.
Ilia and Ana Khouri plan to use ‘Nostalgia for Infinity’ as an ark to rescue as much of the population of Resurgam as possible before the Inhibitors destroy the planet.
The Conjoiners have, however, detected the signature of their weapons and want them back. They have also encountered the Inhibitors (who they call The Wolves) and are planning a mass exodus to an uncharted region of space.
The central figure is that of Clavain, an ancient Conjoiner and strategic genius. Discovering the Conjoiner plans, he defects and sets off for Resurgam to claim or destroy the weapons before Skade (a female Conjoiner who may or may not be ‘possessed’ by the consciousness of The Mademoiselle from ‘Revelation Space’) can claim them herself.
It suffers slightly from being a sequel and therefore does not have the self-contained structural integrity of the previous books. However it is a far superior novel to many written concurrently, a novel whose theme is Redemption.
In his previous books, Reynolds has explored concepts of Identity and Redemption and here once more we see characters, if not atoning for their past actions, then at least attempting to accept the fact that they are not now the people they once were.
There is also a masterful control of the concept of Time, since Reynolds not only accepts the effects of Time dilation (something which many SF authors choose to conveniently ignore), but exploits them beautifully, painting a picture of individuals who – in calendar terms – are hundreds of years old and have, by travelling between stars and experiencing time at a slower rate, seen cultures change and develop. This also imposes a bizarre timescale on this entire sequence of novels, which could possibly span hundreds if not thousands of years.