Visions of Paradise

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Prefect

I really enjoyed Alastair Reynolds’ trilogy Revelation Space, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap, but for some reason I did not read any his other novels afterwards, only the collection Galactic North, which was equally good. So recently when The SF Book Club had a Buy One Get One Free offer, I decided to order The Prefect as one of the two books. This recent book followed much the same pattern as his earlier trilogy, being basically a thriller set within a well-developed future. Its setting is the same milieu as the Galactic North series where various human confederations banter with each other as well as with spacebound Ultras. But at the core of every Reynolds story, as in this one, are always human emotions and interactions which make his space operas more approachable than most.

Tom Dreyfus is a prefect, a police officer in the Glitter Band, which is a collection of artificial space habitats which are home to millions of humans. As the novel begins, Dreyfus is dealing with two separate issues: a space habitat whose ruler has rigged local elections, and the slaughter of nearly one thousand inhabitants of another space habitat which has been totally destroyed. The former situation seems relatively minor as the habitat has been locked down so that all its inhabitants and visitors are forbidden to leave it temporarily. The latter situation is more dire as the spaceship which seemed responsible immediately fled for the Swarm, which is under the control of the Ultras, so Dreyfus contacts the Ultras and demands the return of the ship.

Meanwhile his assistant Thalia Ng is visiting four space habitats trying to make repairs related to the lockdown when everything goes berserk on the fourth habitat. Suddenly she and Dreyfus are involved in a plot to take over the entire Glitter Band by the mind of a person who has supposedly been dead for eighty years and who is being aided by one of Dreyfus’ superiors.

Reynolds is a master of interweaving plotlines which grow and spread like an elastic octopus. He avoids many of the weaknesses of thrillers, such as he never withholds evidence from his characters to maintain the thrill level. The characters learn things regularly as the case proceeds, and they use the evidence wisely. They do not take foolish emotional actions intended only to forward the plot simplistically. And invariably when I find myself thinking that some threat should not realistically hinder them for long, it doesn’t and Reynolds moves on instead of milking one particularly scenario.

Reynolds has matured as a writer since the Revelation Space trilogy. No longer did he incorporate useless scenes of senseless horror intended to do nothing more than up the thrill ante. It was obvious while reading The Prefect that Reynolds’ characters are guided by the author’s mind, not his own emotions, and that he cares about his readers’ intelligence too much to jack up the emotional ante unrealistically.

Reynolds is also an excellent plotter, so that all the plotlines come together relatively quickly for a 400+ page novel, as well as satisfactorily. Overall, The Prefect was an even better novel than the Revelation Space trilogy, and encouraged me to read more of his recent books.


  • Reynolds is one of the authors I have on my to read pile. Reading this review has moved him up on the list. I am thinking of trying Chasm City first. I also have Galactic North, Pushing Ice, and the second 2 books in the trilogy. Once I pick up the first book, I will try the trilogy.

    By Blogger Jim Black, At 5:54 PM  

  • You might want to read Galactic North since you have it. A lot of good novellas set in the same universe as the trilogy. It can give you a feel for whether you will like the longer stuff.

    By Blogger adamosf, At 6:16 AM  

  • I'll read Galactic North as soon as I am done with my first Jack McDevitt book(A Talent for War). I understand why you like McDevitt's books. This one is very good.

    Did you see the March Analog? Vincent Di Fate does some of the illustrations. It brings back memories of Analog from the 70s.

    By Blogger Jim Black, At 5:37 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home