April 18, 2024


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Review: Bone Silence by Alastair Reynolds

Review Bone Silence by Alastair Reynolds cover

Bone Silence is the third and last book in the Revenger Universe after Revenger and Shadow Captain. These two books introduced some interesting mysteries that hinge on a number of elements found throughout the works of Alastair Reynolds. In this series humanity lives in an altered solar system devoid of large planetary bodies. Instead there are about 20.000 worlds – large space stations – of various designs on which people live. Travel is by using the solar wind – this introduces a strong naval theme. How the solar system got to be like this and why civilization keeps on collapsing every few thousand years is the central mystery of the novels. Bone Silence provides an answer to these question, thus capping off this unexpected trilogy.

Similarities to Shadow Captain

That said, the first two novels were not without fault. Revenger put the Ness sisters on an improbable space adventure that quickly turned dark. Book two – Shadow Captain – reunited the two sisters Fura and Adrana as they purposefully attempt to uncover the repeated cycle of collapsing civilization. Yet, the Ness sisters being badass and sticking their noses were it does not belong was not as exciting as hoped for. Most of the book they travelled to Wheel Strizzardy – a wheel world – set on the outer reaches of the Congregation. What follows is somewhat improbable cat-and-mouse game. I had a hard time remembering why any of it was happening.

More character development

In Bone Silence we two Ness sisters that are a lot more mature. Fura is not hellbent on death and destruction and Adrana has learned to keep a secret or two. Yet there is a similar situation to Shadow Captain. It takes nearly 250 pages to reach Trevenza Reach. Along the way they are hunted by a squadron of privateers whose backers may have more to do with the story’s mysteries than first glance might suggest.

The crew of Revenger are expanded with that of the Merry Mare The latter had the misfortune to run into the Ness sisters and the squadron. This means the story now contains two ships and double the crew. This feels like an unnecessary extension and could have easily reduced the book by a hundred pages had it been omitted. Instead, at the beginning of Bone Silence the Ness sisters take on a Clacker as a passenger. Expanding this role would have benefitted the story a lot more.

A new villain for Bone Silence

It feels as if the author understood that some parts – certainly the first third of the book – is too slow. Picking up the passenger and much needed medicines on the world of Mulgracen is suddenly forced along with great haste. That said, this part of the novel does introduce the new villain rather effectively. The leader of the squadron is Incer Stallis and he is little more than a boy. His position he obtained because of his great aptitude at being a bone reader, as well as removing anyone that opposes him. The former in which he excels at even over the Ness sisters.

Quoins, Occupations and Clackers

Meanwhile the central mysteries of the Revenger Universe are slowly laid bare. Quoins received denomination randomization in Shadow Captain. Reynolds provides a thrilling explanation towards their nature beyond just their use as currency. This has been hinted at since Revenger, but now we learn how this relates to various the collapses of human civilization in our shattered solar system. These ebb and flows are known as Occupations and also mentioned in the authors other works.

Reynolds does play it safe and also provides various subplots. The incessant suspicions between the Ness sisters is now cooperation. Meanwhile Fura is reliant on the drugs mezophrine to keep at bay the glowy, an illness Bosa Sennen introduced into her. Of course there would be little suspense if the drugs was readily available. It isn’t, and Reynolds keeps the reader up to date on just how much of it is left. And then there is the subplot involving Lagganvor – who is in reality captain Rackamore’s brother. The twists and turns of this plot feel more like a Jane Austen novel. Despite the necessity of subplots a lot feels contrived and could have been removed to focus more on the central mysteries. Luckily we have the Clacker alien to do that.

A conclusion to Bone Silence

This series started out as a Young Adultish with definite Steampunk inspiration. I think it closely matches the theme and tone with Terminal World. If we consider just the theme then at least half a dozen other novels by the author. Yet, the series has also changed. It has become more serious. In doing so it supports some of character development better. The banking crisis caused by the random changes to Quoin denominations brings with it real consequences, not just a plot device towards the final revelation.

Yet, even Bone Silence attempts some lighthearted fun which feels out of touch with the rest of the series. At 600 pages Bone Silence is quite a read, not something that can be rushed. Yet, I did not feel the same sense of confusion as I did reading Shadow Captain. Those unfamiliar with the first two novels can still take a chance with Bone Silence. Reynolds provides all you need to know to understand the story. If you are fan of Alastair Reynolds as I am, then you should definitely this final iteration in the story of Fura and Adrana Ness.