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The Prefect
Alastair Reynolds
Narrated by John Lee, unabridged
Tantor Audio, 19 hours

The Prefect
Alastair Reynolds
Alastair Reynolds was born in 1966 in Barry, South Wales. He spent his early years in Cornwall, moved back to Wales and on to university in Newcastle, doing Physics and Astronomy. Then it was on to a PhD in St Andrews, Scotland. In 1991, he moved to Holland, where he met his partner Josette, and worked as ESA Research Fellow before his post-doctoral work at Utrecht University.

Alastair Reynolds Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Terminal World
SF Site Review: Terminal World
SF Site Review: Thousandth Night and Minla's Flowers
SF Site Review: Revelation Space
SF Site Review: House of Suns
SF Site Review: House of Suns
SF Site Review: Galactic North
SF Site Review: The Prefect
SF Site Review: Zima Blue and Other Stories
SF Site Review: Pushing Ice
SF Site Review: Pushing Ice
SF Site Review: Century Rain
SF Site Review: Century Rain
SF Site Review: Absolution Gap
SF Site Review: Turquoise Days
SF Site Review: Redemption Ark
SF Site Review: Revelation Space
SF Site Review: Chasm City
SF Site Review: Revelation Space

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dale Darlage

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Alastair Reynolds's The Prefect is a hard-boiled detective novel set in a future in which mankind has moved to new worlds far away from Earth and created any number of new technologies. But people still find themselves confronted by age-old problems that come from within humanity itself. In the end, despite all of the glitz of spaceships and high tech weaponry, this is really a book about freedom vs. tyranny, redemption, revenge, justice, and honor.

Set in the year 2427, The Prefect is the fifth novel in the Revelation Space series. Chronologically, it is the first novel (there are short stories and novellas in the series as well) and it can be read as a stand-alone novel. It takes place in the Glitter Band, a group of 10,000 space stations (called habitats) with a total population of 100 million. They're all in orbit around a planet called Yellowstone about 10 light years from Earth. The Glitter Band is ruled by a single government but internally each space station is independent from the other ones and offer many radically different lifestyles. The Glitter Band is highly democratic -- every citizen gets to vote on numerous policy items every day using internal implants and an advanced form of the Internet called Abstraction.

Tom Dreyfus is a Prefect, an agent of Panoply, a group tasked with protecting the external security of the Glitter Band and the voting rights of all of its citizens. The group also protects the right of every citizen to have access to Abstraction. Dreyfus is like many officers in police procedurals -- adhering to his own personal rigid code, scarred from a hidden past and leading a team of talented rejects. The other two members of his team are Sparver, a genetically modified pig (known as hyperpigs) who bears the brunt of racial taunts and assumptions with much dignity and Thalia NG, the daughter of a Panoply agent turned traitor who now feels the need to redeem her family name.

Dreyfus and his team are sent to investigate the complete destruction of Ruskin-Sartorius, a relatively small habitat of 960 people. All are dead and the evidence points to an attack by the Ultras, a group of humans that live outside of the mainstream human society of the Glitter Band and specialize in modifying their bodies in a series of human/mechanical physical blends. The Glitter Band and the Ultras have an uneasy truce and clearly do not understand one another's cultures or technology. Rising tension between the Ultras and the Glitter Band threatens to become an open war.

Dreyfus suspects that the Ultras are not guilty but were instead framed by a very clever entity that may be attempting to take advantage of the chaos and destruction of a war in order to seize control of the entire Glitter Band. Dreyfus bucks the system and follows his own hunch. Soon, he and his team find more trouble than they had imagined. For Drefyus, this includes a frightening look into that hidden part of himself that makes him the tough detective that he is.

At first, The Prefect is a difficult book. For the first two hours, I found myself on a mental roller coaster, alternating between outright confusion and fascination with the vivid mental pictures Reynolds creates in his little universe of the Glitter Band. Reynolds does little to overtly explain the technology or the politics in this book. He assumes (correctly) that, eventually, the reader will catch on to what is going on in the story. So, it took me about two hours to start catching on. By the end, I was well versed and navigating through Glitter Band technology and politics like an old pro.

John Lee, a winner of the AudioFile Golden Voice Award, does an expert job of not just reading a text with a staggering number of characters and accents, but also delivering those voices with an overlay of emotion that does nothing but enhance the story.

Copyright © 2011 Dale Darlage

Dale Darlage is a public school teacher and a proud lifelong resident of the Hoosier state. He and his wife are also proud to have passed on a love of books to their children (and to the family dog that knows some books are quite tasty). His reviews on all sorts of books are posted at dwdsreviews.blogspot.com.


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