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The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds
Review by Ernest Lilley
Ace Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441015917
Date: 03 June 2008 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Tom Dreyfus is a high ranking cop in the utopian future that Reynolds's Revelation Space is set in, a collection of city-states in orbital habitats, where the most carefully guarded commodity is freedom - freedom to choose whatever society your habitat prefers - and the most egregious crime is to tamper with the democratic process. OK, killing 900 people to steal a starship drive is a pretty bad crime too, and Tom's got both infractions to refract before someone manages to take down the entire glitter band society. Reynolds rips through the future with as sharp a blade as ever.

Revelation Space Novels

* Revelation Space. London: Gollancz, 2000. ISBN 0575068752
* Chasm City. London: Gollancz, 2001. ISBN 0575068779
* Redemption Ark. London: Gollancz, 2002. ISBN 0575068795
* Absolution Gap. London: Gollancz, 2003. ISBN 0575074345
* The Prefect. London: Gollancz, 2007, ISBN 0575071666
Tom Dreyfus is the prefect of the title, a high ranking police officer of the Panolpy, investigating crimes that might unbalance the status quo of the Glitter Band, a collection of thousands of orbital habitats surrounding the planet Yellowstone, where you'll find Chasm City the subject of an earlier book in this universe. As the story opens Field Prefect Dreyfus and his two deputies, Thalia Ng and Spaver Bancal are investigating allegations of tampering with the voting system of House Perigal, one of the Glitter Band's habitats.

It's a subtle manipulation, but for this time, there are few more serious than messing with democracy. The lockdown gets done, though there are casualties and bloodshed in the process, but they asked for it. After all, they were messing with democracy.

The Glitter Band's habitats operate autonomously as city-states, and what each does internally is of no concern to the prefect, but there are limits. Those limits do not exclude tyranny, torture as an industry, societies where everyone has been reduced to heads in jars, or habitats full of professional voters who's votes are proportionally counted above the rest of the Band because history has proven them right. As we follow the characters through the story, especially Thallia Ng, who is installing a patch to the security hole found in House Perigal in four test sites, you get a very Gulliver's Travels tour of the range of societies here. Range is just what the Band allows room for, and in fact it's "the most complex, variegated human society in human history...a machine for surprising people." Even for Deputy Prefect Thallia, it does a pretty good job.

But if voting irregularities are a serious threat to the Band, the destruction of a nine hundred person habitat counts as pretty serious as well, and that's what's waiting for Dreyfus when he returns from the lockdown. Indeed, the Ruskin-Sartorious Bubble had been sliced nearly in two by what could only have been the energy in a starship drive, and only one ship had been in it's vicinity, negotiating for the purchase of a piece of artwork, a negotiation that did not go well. It seems like an open and shut case. Possibly a bit too open and shut.

Dreyfus knows that there's more here than meets the eye, but he has no idea how vast and tangled a web has been spun and what his role in the drama about to unfold is.

The Prefect is a book with a lot of complex reveals, and Dreyfus peels back the layers of this onion bit by bit until he comes face to face with the choice between unleashing his own personal nightmare on the Band, or letting it fall to the control of a force that has no regard for humanity, let alone the niceties of ballot boxes.

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