Revenger review – Alastair Reynolds shows us a world of pirates and skulls, in space
Writing this review of Revenger is hard. The novel was released in September 2016 and though I am a major Alastair Reynolds fan I initially passed. I am not sure why, Revenger was hinted at by the author for a long time, but its sudden release made me worry it wasn’t that good. I need not have worried, Revenger is fantastic even if there is little to compare it with. But that is hardly a bad thing. So the story is hard to compare, it has both elements of steampunk and hard-sf. It is certainly is space opera, but trying to classify the story would do it an injustice. It is very much character driven.The closest thing I can come with as comparison is Terminal World, also authored by Alastair Reynolds. If you enjoyed that story you will definitely enjoy Revenger.
So what is Revenger all about? The story is set in a very distant future, perhaps millions of years into the future. Human civilizations have come and gone and the latest iteration has just expanded into deep space for a few generations. Arafura Ness, and her older sister Adrana, from space station / gravity well Mazarile have just discovered that they have the rare gift that allows them to communicate across the galaxy through ancient alien skulls. Both sisters escape their oppressive home and seek adventure with the crew of the Monetta’s Mourn as it travels across the galaxy looting ancient space stations and gravity wells. Sadly, the sisters get separated and the remainder of the story sets the stage for their reunion.
I think this small synopsis is enough to get you interested in the story. I must really complement Alastair Reynolds on his ability to create an engaging world. It is not just the setting, which is fantastic, it is not the plot development, which is equally fantastic. Revenger works because of its characters. Each plays a familiar role that makes it seem as though you know them from the start, but they are not bland either. There is not just the two up-start sisters seeking adventure, or just the handsome and wise captain of Monetta’s Mourn. There is immense depth to each of them. I just know Alastair Reynold has spent considerable time writing background details on each of his characters. As such each comes with its own distinct ego and history which is slowly revealed as the story progresses. Revenger reminds me a lot of Revelation Space and Chasm City in that regards.
From corsets to pirates
The story is told from the first person viewpoint, that of Arafura (or just Fura). It is not quite the same as an inner monologue as Fura tells the story as though she is writing it down decades after it occurs. The whole setup, along with the archaic language used gives it a very piraty feel. To say that Arafura changes from a corset wearing girl to swashbuckling foul-mouthed pirate similar to Elizabeth Swann wouldn’t be wrong. Perhaps Pirates of the Caribbean did serve as inspiration on an unconscious level, but that was no bad thing.
Source: Revenger at GoodReads