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Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Prefect (audiobook) by Alastair Reynolds

19 hours, 34 minutes
Read by John Lee
Published by Tantor Audio

Alastair ReynoldsThe Prefect is a hard-boiled detective novel set in a future in which mankind has moved to new worlds far away from Earth and created any number of new technologies. But, people still find themselves confronted by age-old problems that come from within humanity itself. In the end, despite the all of the glitz of spaceships and high tech weaponry, this is really a book about freedom vs. tyranny, redemption, revenge, justice, revenge and honor.

Set in the year 2427, The Prefect is the fifth novel in the Revelation Space series. Chronologically, it is the first novel (there are short stories and novellas in the series as well) and it can be read as a stand-alone novel. The Prefect takes place in the Glitter Band, a group of 10,000 space stations (called habitats) with a total population of 100 million all in orbit around a planet called Yellowstone about 10 light years from Earth. The Glitter Band is ruled by a single government but internally each space station is independent from the other ones and offer many radically different lifestyles. The Glitter Band is highly democratic – every citizen gets to vote on numerous policy items every day using internal implants and an advanced form of the Internet called Abstraction.

Alastair Reynolds
Tom Dreyfus is a Prefect, an agent of Panoply, a group tasked with protecting the external security of the Glitter Band the voting rights of all of its citizens and protecting the right of every citizen to have access to Abstraction. Drefyus is like many officers in police procedurals – adhering to his own personal rigid code, scarred from a hidden past, leading a team of talented rejects. The other two members of his team are Sparver, a genetically modified pig (known as hyperpigs) who bears the brunt of racial taunts and assumptions with much dignity and Thalia NG, the daughter of a Panoply agent turned traitor who feels the need to redeem her family name.

Dreyfus and his team are sent to investigate the complete destruction of Ruskin-Sartorius, a relatively small habitat. 960 people are dead and all evidence points to an attack by the Ultras, a group of humans that live outside of the mainstream human society of the Glitter Band and specialize in modifying their bodies in a series of human/mechanical physical blends. The Glitter Band and the Ultras have an uneasy truce and clearly do not understand one another’s cultures or technology. Rising tension between the Ultras and the Glitter Band threatens to become open war.

Dreyfus suspects that the Ultras are not guilty but instead they were framed by a very clever entity that may be attempting to take advantage of the chaos and destruction of a war to seize control of the entire Glitter Band. Dreyfus bucks the system and follows his own hunch. Soon, he and his team find more trouble than they had bargained for.  For Drefyus, this includes a frightening look into that hidden part of himself that makes him the tough detective that he is. 

At first, The Prefect is a difficult book. For the first two hours I found myself on a mental roller coaster, alternating between outright confusion and fascination with the vivid mental pictures Reynolds creates in his little universe of the Glitter Band. Reynolds does little to overtly explain the technology or the politics in this book. He assumes (correctly) that, eventually, the reader will catch on to what is going on in the story. Like I said, it took me about two hours to start catching on. By the end, I was well versed and navigating through Glitter Band technology and politics like an old pro.

John Lee, a winner of the AudioFile Golden Voice Award, does an expert job of not just reading a text with a staggering number of characters and accents but also delivering those voices with an overlay of emotion that does nothing but enhance the story. 

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: The Prefect.

Reviewed on April 21, 2011.

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