Century Rain

By Alastair Reynolds

Rating: 5 stars

Verity Auger is an archaeologist searching for artefacts in the ruins of a post-Nanocaust Earth when a mistake nearly costs the life of a young boy. Her boss uses this as leverage to get her involved in a secret project that involves illicit travel through an ancient alien hyperspace transit network controlled by a different faction of Humanity.

At the other end of the transit wormhole is an unpolluted Earth of three hundred years ago, except that in that world, the Second World War never happened. Auger must find the papers left behind by her predecessor, Susan White, who appears to have been murdered, and with a tenacious private detective and some seriously freaky children on her tail, that’s not going to be easy.

I really enjoyed this part space-opera and part alternative history novel. Despite (or perhaps because of) her prejudices, Auger is an interesting character, and I enjoyed some of the back story of the book, including the splitting into two factions: the Threshers, who reject nanotech and prefer to stay on the “threshold” of advanced technology; and the Slashers, who have gone whole hog and are now surrounded by a cloud of nanotech, surrounding and enhancing them at all times. Seeing Auger cope with an alternative 1950s France is fun, and the jazz-loving private detective, Wendell Floyd is a great character too.

There’s perhaps some comparison with NausicaƤ (which I’ve been reading recently) too, with Auger’s Earth being a warning of what can happen when Humanity tinkers too much with nature (the Nanocaust was caused by nanotech released into the atmosphere to control the weather that got out of control and eventually consumed every living creature on the planet). The story was tightly told with information being dripped out at just the right rate to avoid being infodump or getting too frustrating. An enjoyable book.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575076914
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
Year of publication: 2004

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