I had quite a bit of doubt about Alastair Reynolds’ Century Rain. Even though I had revised my opinion following the disastrous closing of the Revelation Space sequence, the prospect of a standalone timetravel-related novel wasn’t truly appealing.
How wrong I was.
Century Rain weaves together many strands. Amongst them hard science fiction, alternate history and timetravel (with a tiny smattering of detective fiction in fifties Paris for good measure).
To say more of the premise would rob readers of a genuinely juicy layered surprise, so no more on that.
The tale brims with ideas, and exposition is deliciously slow. Plenty of concepts are referred to by name only long before they get explained – a nice application of “show me, don’t tell me”-philosophy. At times I was sure I had missed something crucial when alien elements were casually almost bypassed, but the explanation followed in a more natural location.
In yet another surprise, the characters in the tale are far less cardboard-y than is the norm of the genre and the author. Their limited number and strong personalities helped a lot in this respect.
Far better than expected, and heartily recommended. It’s not as strong as the best of Reynolds’ work (Chasm City and The Prefect), but a definite sign that I should persist in picking up his later works, too.