There is no getting away from Alastair Reynolds. In the sf book discussion forums I participate in (Reddit) his name is always cropping up. I keep putting him off as I have too many books on my list, but the relentless mentions he gets is like he is tapping on my shoulder saying "When are you gonna read my stuff?"
Like a lot of space opera this one is epic in scale, races and planets live and die at the drop of a hat. What makes Revelation Space special is the author's vast imagination, the scientific details and story telling skills. What let him down a little bit is the somewhat flat characters. Initially, I felt like the characters are pancake shaped things pushing the story towards its conclusion. A few of them do develop into fairly interesting people later on, but the female protagonists tend to be of the tough as nails Ellen Riply type. Generally characters development is not a strong point of this book.
More successful is the depiction of AI and aliens. I love the fascinating speculation on the nature of consciousness, and what constitute sentience. The concept of Alpha, Beta, Gamma classes of AI is ingenious. In fact, the AI characters tend to be more interesting than the human ones for me. The aliens make more of a cameo appearance, but their strange history and mystery surrounding them (kind of Cthulhu-esque) is very interesting. The aliens are satisfyingly alien, so damn alien that people need to have their brains modified just to communicate meaningfully with them, and I also love it when zones of reality, space and time get all bendy and weird.
The prose style is functional and readable if a little prosaic, for a story of this scope there is surprisingly few characters points of view, which makes the complex story easier to follow. Initially I was concerned about the absence of humor, moments of levity is always good to balance the mood of the novel, fortunately, Mr. Reynolds sneaked some humorous moments in later, especially with some snarky AI comments.
This is a worthwhile read and I am interested to read more of Alastair Reynolds in the near future (within this epoch).
: In August 2013 I read Redemption Ark
the direct sequel to Revelation Space. It is massively better than Revelation Space, and it makes trudging through the dull bits of Revelation Space entirely worthwhile. Also worth mentioning is Chasm City
which is set in the Revelation Space universe but is a standalone novel. Again, it is a tremendous read and highly recommended.
Update: October 3, 2015
I finally read Absolution Gap
, the last volume of the Revelation Space trilogy, it is also very good, but Redemption Ark is the best of the three books.
The best Alastair Reynolds novel is (IMO) the standalone House of Suns