Alastair Reynolds ‘The Prefect’ (2007)
British Science-Fiction author Alastair Reynolds is one of those rare phenomena in the field of Sci-Fi – an actual scientist. Before taking up fulltime writing he studied physics and astronomy for a number of years, eventually working for a subsidiary of the European Space Agency (ESA). It is hardly surprising then that his name and works have become synonymous with what is commonly known as Hard SF – a branch of the genre where the emphasis is on the science and technology as much as on the story. In fact, in the hands of some lesser writers, the science and technology becomes the story. Not so with Reynolds though, who has always had a good eye for a good tale combined with a deft hand for characterization and dialogue. His commitment to scientific truth has not stopped him fibbing with the edges of reality as we now know it (or suspect it to be) and he has produced some of the most enjoyable – and certainly successful – widescreen literary space operas of recent years.
Award-wining novels like ‘Revelation Space’ (2000), ‘Chasm City’ (2001) and ‘Redemption Ark’ (2002), as well as numerous short stories and novellas, established his bona fides as a prolific writer of quality Science-Fiction. These, like the majority of his works, are set in his fictional universe, which he has dubbed ‘Revelation Space’ after his first novel: a far distant era where Humanity has moved out into deep space and split into a number of different, and at times competing, races. It is neither an optimistic nor pessimistic vision of the future, rather an extrapolation of our present circumstances onto a larger and grander scale, with a mix of the same values and moralities, politics and social systems that we see today: and a proof that though scientific and technological progress may influence and change Humanity the basic drives will probably remain the same: love, hate, sex, jealousy, cynicism, betrayal and all the rest. A playground for his incredibly inventive imagination the stories centered in the Revelation Space milieu have grown in number and complexity over the years and now represents a major body of literary work.
However, the most accessible introduction to Reynolds’ fictional universe probably remains one of his later publications, ‘The Prefect’ (2007). A stand-alone novel it tells the story of law enforcement agent Tom Dreyfus in the Glitter Band, a vast deep space sprawl of ten thousand habitats which orbit the planet Yellowstone. When one of these habitats is attacked Dreyfus and an élite team is sent to investigate and a fast moving, Sci-Fi style detective-cum-thriller ensues. It carries the distinctive traits of Reynolds writing combining inventiveness with narrative pacing, good characterization and dialogue, and a demand that the reader pays attention.
Critically acclaimed upon publication, ‘The Prefect’ is widely available and represents a good stepping stone into the works of Alastair Reynolds.