Bewildering Stories

Alastair Reynolds
Century Rain

reviewed by Jerry Wright

Century Rain
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Publisher: ACE
Hardcover Price: $24.95
Length: 506 Pages
I've read Chasm City and Revelation Space, and although I liked Chasm City quite a bit, and Alistair Reynolds is on my "obtain when possible" list, I thought he was pretty good, but not really my cup of tea, or whatever. However, his latest, Century Rain was a wonderful mixture of semi-noirish mystery novel taking place in what seems to be an alternative 1950s, and an SF adventure novel taking place some 300 years in the future after the "Nanocaust".

The primary problem with runaway nanotechnology this time is using smart nano to control the weather. After this month's hurricane, who's to say that if some smart guy said, "Look, we can stop hurricanes. All we need to do is put THIS stuff in the atmosphere, and voila!" And the government, tired of looking like incompetent boobs (although they are...) would jump at it.

Only the nano decided they wanted to do things their way, and became "the furies". And any humans foolish enough to come down to the surface of Earth without proper protection end up dead. But that is just background.

The novel starts in a 1950s Paris where World War Two died aborning:

The river flowing sluggishly under Pont de la Concorde was flat and grey, like worn-out linoleum. It was October and the authorities were having one of their periodic crackdowns on contraband. They had set up their periodic lightning checkpoint at the far end of the bridge, backing traffic all the way across to the Right Bank.

'One thing I've never got straight,' Custine said. 'Are we musicians supplementing our income with a little detective work on the side, or is it the other way round?'

Floyd glanced into the rearview mirror...

Wendell Floyd, musician and private eye, is asked to prove that an accident is really a murder. But in Chapter 2 we jump to Verity Auger, an archeologist of the 2400s, searching a devastated Paris looking for data from the 21st, also known as the Void Century.

Reynolds has written a wonderful romp in a very strange future universe. Of course, Auger and Floyd meet, in a way you will marvel at, and you will learn of the two surviving cultures -- the Threshers, living on the threshold, and the perhaps post-human Slashers (based on (are you ready) a 20th century Internet-based community who grab hold of all technology with great gusto...)

Sadly, a lot of the reviews give away way too much of the plot, but as I hadn't read any of them, what I read came as the twist and surprise Reynolds was aiming for. Reynolds is a top of the line SF writer, but his characterizations still need a bit of work. I liked Floyd quite a bit, but Verity Auger, as his love-interest, needed some work.

However, all-in-all, I really enjoyed this book and stayed glued to it until the end. Does this book need a sequel? Well, yes, if for no other other reason than to explain WHY the universe is as is. The story of Verity and Floyd is over, but the strange world of Thresher and Slasher has room for many more stories.

Copyright © 2005 by Jerry Wright

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