by Alastair Reynolds
Review by Sam Lubell
Ace Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0441012906
Date: 01 June, 2005 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Verity Auger is an archeologist, exploring the ruined Earth of the far future. Floyd is a jazz musician and detective in 1959 Paris. How these two meet and what they discover together is the story of Alastair Reynolds? Century Rain (Ace Hardcover, $24.95). But no time travel is involved. Instead, Verity is recruited by her ex-husband, now a powerful government official, to travel through a wormhole into a version of Earth from the past that had been duplicated by some alien power. She is needed because another archeologist, who had been investigating this duplicated world, has been murdered, and someone must impersonate her sister to recover important papers. But Floyd has been hired to look into the murder and soon becomes suspicious that the victim and her sister Verity are both spies. Meanwhile, Verity discovers that there is a plot to destroy all the people on this peaceful Earth so that people from her time can move in. The resulting plot combines elements of space adventure, mystery, and the spy thriller to good effect.
And, it seems that a specially engineered group of Slashers are hiding on the duplicate Earth and are trying to seize the notes and papers of Verity?s ?sister? and possibly kill her and Floyd. Not knowing this, Floyd follows Verity to the subway station that connects the France end of the wormhole, and later to Germany to investigate a factory that may be used, albeit unwittingly. Gradually, Verity is forced to rely on Floyd, and, when injured, ultimately brings him into her world, right in time for a Slasher attack.
Although the background is complex, it is fairly easy for the reader to understand the plot, a necessity in a book with mystery elements. The slow exposure of what is really going on as Floyd uncovers the truth adds suspense for the reader. Another strong point of the book is how the characters seem real. They have lives and pasts beyond what is just necessary for the plot of the book. Verity has a daughter who was disappointed when Verity did not show up for her birthday. Floyd has an interest in jazz records, a partner who has problems with the police, and an ex-girlfriend who is caring for an ill aunt. In the Paris sections there is police corruption and a growing anti-foreigner movement. These details add color and authenticity to the narrative. The characters all seem well-developed with even minor characters like Floyd?s partner and his girlfriend?s aunt all having their own personalities and quirks. I did think that Floyd adjusted rather quickly to being propelled to what was, from his point of view, the far future, although that may just be because the action moved so fast that he didn't have time to develop future shock.
Alastair Reynolds? Century Rain seems to be that rarity in today?s science fiction, a complete single volume novel, although the universe is complex enough for a return visit. More can be done with the ruined Earth and how it got that way, the internal politics of the Slashers and the Threshers, and the hints at the end that there might be more of these duplicated Earths from different eras. Still, Century Rain successfully stands alone. It has plenty of action, a pronounced mystery flavor, and good characters. I strongly recommend the book and plan on seeking out Reynolds? earlier novels.