Okay, so I'm late for this party. . . Again. . . I know. . .
I've had this book sitting on my shelf for years. It doesn't speak well of me, but this was my first reading experience with Alastair Reynolds in long form. And as was the case with Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon last year, I should have read Chasm City years ago.
Only rarely will you find a work that will grab hold of you, capturing your imagination from the very first page, and won't let go till you reach the last page. Chasm City is one such novel. Just a few sentences into the Yellowstone introductory document, and Reynolds had me -- hook, bait, and sinker.
Chasm City delivers on basically every level, making for an awesome reading experience!
Here's the blurb:
Tanner Mirabel was a security specialist who never made a mistake - until the day a woman in his care was blown away by Argent Reivich, a vengeful young postmortal. Tanner's pursuit of Reivich takes him across light-years of space to Chasm City, the domed human settlement on the otherwise inhospitable planet of Yellowstone. But Chasm City is not what it was. The one-time high-tech utopia has become a Gothic nightmare: a nanotechnological virus has corrupted the city's inhabitants as thoroughly as it has the buildings and machines. Before the chase is done, Tanner will have to confront truths which reach back centuries, towards deep space and an atrocity history barely remembers.
The worldbuilding is top notch. Reynolds' narrative is vivid, making the different locales and characters come alive. The author's ability to create various and disparate environments is uncanny, with an imagery that leaps right off the page. So whether the action occurs on Sky's Edge, the Mendicants' habitat, Yellowstone, the Refuge, or Chasm City, Reynolds' narrative makes you feel like you are right there.
Chasm City begins with the first person POV of Tanner Mirabel. Yet once he gets infected with an indoctrinal virus, the reader goes back in time and experiences the POV of Sky Haussmann, the planet's most infamous figure. For some reason that will be unearthed near the end of the book, Mirabel begins to dream about Haussmann's past and what led to his infamy. Though a good chunk of the tale takes place in real time, there are several flashbacks to explain how and why Tanner Mirabel set out to kill Argent Reivich. The supporting cast is all right, though not truly well-defined. But that's not an issue, for the structure of the story makes it Mirabel and Haussman's tale from start to finish.
And although the novel starts off as Tanner Mirabel's story, very quickly the flashbacks become fascinating enough for the reader to actually hope that they'll take over. Soon enough, both the real time action and the flashbacks become intertwined in such a fashion that they sort of become one. Chasm City makes for compulsive reading!
One would think that a doorstopper science fiction novel like this would have its share of info-dumps and uneven pacing issues. Yet Chasm City remains a veritable page-turner. If the Sky Haussmann's episodes at the beginning of the book feel a bit weird, once that storyline nearly takes over the entire book they become an intrinsic part of the plot. Believe you me: this one is hard to put down.
Alastair Reynolds' Chasm City was cruising toward a perfect score until the very end. Something odd occurs, something that was a bit too much. It doesn't take a lot away from the overall reading experience, mind you. But it did leave me shaking my head in bewilderment. Following such an incredible journey, I felt a bit let down by the final confrontation. . .
Still, Chasm City is about as good as space opera gets. This novel deserves the highest possible recommendation.