Victor Gollancz: London. 2002. First edition. The author's fourth book, following Revelation Space, Chasm City (both from the same publisher) and the novella Diamond Dogs from PS Publishing. Fine copy in a fine dustjacket. Redemption Ark is Alastair Reynolds's third hefty SF novel, a direct sequel to his debut book Revelation Space, and also linked with Chasm City, which won the British SF Association Award. Gripping high-tech action features various groups struggling for control of a cache of "hell-class weapons", while the alien Inhibitors--who stamp out space-going intelligence wherever they find it--are busy dismantling planets to build a doomsday engine of awesome size. Building on the previous books, the interstellar situation is exhilaratingly complex. Major players from Revelation Space are still at large in the solar system containing the new Inhibitor construction site, the vast old starship Nostalgia for Infinity (hideously transformed and merged with its captain by "Melding Plague"), the hell-weapons, and the colonized planet Resurgam--which may need to be evacuated at speed.

Many light years away, the mechanically enhanced human Conjoiners are fighting a space war around Yellowstone, the world of Chasm City. Although victory approaches, the Conjoiners are frantically building advanced starships and planning to run for their lives, thanks to an incredibly dangerous project that sucked information from the future--including news of the Inhibitors. The Conjoiners have their own internal factions, at least one of which isn't what it seems, and a fresh split leads to a tense relativistic race for the Resurgam system and those coveted hell-weapons. Booby-traps and deadly strategems enliven the desperate journey.

Other, non-Conjoiner humans--not to mention machine intelligences and genetically engineered man-pig chimeras--are caught up in the intrigue and violence. Many members of this large cast have inner secrets, other identities, painful relationships, long-concealed guilt. As at last they converge on the Resurgam system, there are jolting surprises.

Meanwhile, the immense past and future of Reynolds' universe becomes clearer, a cosmic tapestry with the deep-time scope of Stephen Baxter's Xeelee series, ranging from the Dawn War in the early aeons of galactic life to a cataclysmic event still three billion years in the future. A disaster which the loathed robotic Inhibitors are working patiently to minimise....

Despite minor glitches in story logic, Redemption Ark is a hugely enjoyable and ambitious interstellar epic, a must-read for fans of SF that operates on a truly colossal scale. SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR.