Daily Archives: Sunday, 1st May 2005

Revelation Space

When I reviewed Century Rain a while back, I mentioned that I planned to catch up on Alastair Reynolds’ earlier books. And I’ve now got round to reading the first one. Revelation Space was first published in 2000, so I’m a wee bit behind with this…
What we have here is big bold space opera, which is the kind of thing I’ve always had a soft spot for.

Dan Sylveste is virtual ruler of a small colony and leader of an archaeological expdition on an isolated planet. For reasons that are not at first clear, he is driven to discover more about the Amaranthin, the former occupiers of the planet, destroyed the best part of a million years earlier. At a crucial point, his regime is overthrown, and he is imprisoned.

Ana Khouri, formerly a soldier in the wars on a planet known as Sky’s Edge, finds herself separated from her husband and obliged to work as an assassin in Chasm City, a place damaged by a previous catastrophe on Yellowstone. She is recruited by someone known only as The Mademoiselle for a special mission. She joins the crew of a “lighthugger” ship[1] which is heading for Resurgam, where Dan Sylveste is imprisoned.

What follows is complex and rewarding. Information is delivered gradually, and hardly anything is as it first seems. As the book ends, it’s apparent that something Very Bad has been alerted to the existence of humanity. The same something that destroyed the Amaranthin, and many other civilisations. Something left over from wars in the distant past.

There’s a feeling of a huge depth to the universe Reynolds has created, with many details only hinted at here. Perhaps more will be revealed in his other books. I’ll be reviewing his second book once I’ve finished reading it.

[1] No faster-than-light stuff here.

Doctor Who – Dalek

Disclaimer: this is another one of those posts full of excessive amounts of geekiness and fan-like attitudes. If you’re looking for an objective review you’re on the wrong site.

OK, I’ve enthused about the new Doctor Who series a bit already. But that was just the prelude. Last night’s episode is what probably the majority of long-time fans were really waiting for, the one with the Dalek in it. The Daleks were the definitive enemy of the Doctor, first appearing in the second story in 1963, and returning frequently throughout the original series. For anyone not familiar with them, Dalek Links might be a good starting point. For the rest of this report, I’m going to assume you have at least a vague idea what I’m talking about.

The TARDIS materialises deep underground, having been attracted by some kind of distress signal. The Doctor and Rose find themselves in a museum of alien artefacts and relics, including the head of a Cyberman. Moments later, the fun begins as they are surrounded by armed guards employed by the owner of the underground site – Henry Van Statten, a very rich, very obnoxious man who likes to collect aliens. And he has one that’s alive, kept in a cage in the lower reaches of the base.

The Doctor is locked in the dark room and tells the unseen alien that he’s there to help. When he mentions his name, a blue glow appears and a familiar sounding voice utters the familiar word “Exterminate!”. The Doctor panics[1] until he realises that the Dalek’s weapon doesn’t work. He taunts the weakened enemy – and tells it that the rest of its race have, like the Time Lords, been destroyed in the last Time War, and that the Doctor was responsible.

Now that the Dalek has come to life, Van Statten’s men drag the Doctor away to add him to the “Collection”. The Doctor warns Van Statten that if the Dalek escapes, the consequences for humanity will be terrible.

Later, Rose and Adam, a young British scientist – “I’m a genius” – employed by Van Statten go to look at the Dalek. Rose feels sorry for it, and lays a hand on it. It immediately starts to regenerate itself and appears in all its glory. And what a lovely Dalek it is, too.

From there on, things get a lot more interesting. The Dalek does the usual Dalek thing, exterminating left, right and centre. But this Dalek is different. Quite apart from being alone, it’s absorbed Rose’s DNA, and this makes it change…

After the dust settles, Rose insists on bringing Adam along, over the Doctor’s protests.

This was a superb episode on several levels – we learned more of the dark background of the Doctor, saw more character development from Rose, and had some very basic assumptions (Daleks bad, Doctor good) questioned. Remarkable stuff, had me cheering[2] and sympathising with the poor lost Dalek.

[1] Part of the “newness” of the new series is that the Doctor seems to have been changed by some terrible events. Up till this episode, we’d heard that there had been a war which resulted in the destruction of the Time Lords.
[2] Is it wrong to cheer when a Dalek exterminates lots of people? :eek:

Ooooopsie

Not sure how that happened, but this morning’s weight was up three pounds to 206.0 pounds (14 stone 10 pounds, 93.4kg). Might be the lazy day and eating a bit yesterday, or just random wossnames. I’m sure it will go down again in a day or two, so I’m not going to worry about it.

We’ve had the decorators in again

More astute Losing it[1] readers may have noticed that we have a new look. It’s not quite finished yet, there are still a few bits and bobs[1] to tidy up, a few margins to be tweaked here and there, and the odd floorboard to be nailed down[2], but it’s in a finished enough state to be let loose on the thousands[3] of regular readers[4].

If you add any comments, you’ll see that we now support Gravatars. If you’d like your comments to be marked with your own personal image, pop over to www.gravatar.com and sign up. It’s free and mostly harmless. And can be fun :grin:

Now that’s (mostly) out of the way, we[6] can get on with catching up with the last few days’ posts!

[1] Technical expression :wink:
[2] Eh? What?
[3] Possible exaggeration
[4] And the irregular ones[5] too!
[5] Hi Twisty!!
[6] That’s an editorial “we”. As far as I know, I’m the only one here.