Alastair Reynolds – The Prefect (aka Aurora Rising)

Update: For reasons of, err, who the heck knows, The Prefect is being reissued under the title Aurora Rising. This may be related to the forthcoming sequel, Elysium Fire, but it’s likely to cause some confusion.
Woo hoo! Al Reynolds is back with another novel set in the Revelation Space universe. This one is set at an earlier time than most of the novels, set in the Glitter Band, a glorious gathering of thousands of artificial habitats orbiting Yellowstone, the planet that’s home to Chasm City. This is before the Melding Plague, the terrible infection that turned the Glitter Band into the Rust Belt, and made Chasm City a nightmare, and focuses on Tom Dreyfus, a Field Prefect – an agent working for Panoply, the closest thing the Glitter Band has to a police force.

As is usual with a Reynolds novel, the story is as much a mystery thriller as hard sf, and all the better for it. The trouble seems to start when a habitat is destroyed, and all its occupants are killed. The trouble gets worse when Dreyfus’s deputy, Thalia Ng runs into problems while performing what should be a routine upgrade to the voting system on another habitat. Big problems. Really big problems, in fact.

And from there it starts to get complicated. Secrets from the past, betrayals, confusion and the realisation that hardly anyone is whom they seem to be add to the fun.

To defeat a deadly enemy, Dreyfus is forced to track down and deal with something lethal from his past, something he thought had been destroyed.

Like every other Reynolds book, it’s enormous fun, and had me hooked from the start. As it approached the climax, I found myself both desperate to find out how it would end, and at the same time not wanting it to finish.

I hope it won’t be too long to wait for the next book. And I hope we’ll be seeing more of Tom Dreyfus.