Reviews | Written by Ed Fortune 06/02/2020

BONE SILENCE

AUTHOR: ALISTAIR REYNOLDS | PUBLISHER: GOLLANCZ | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

There are two things that tend to be a solid sign of a good time when it comes to modern sci-fi: space pirates and the name Alistair Reynolds on the cover. Bone Silence is the third act in Reynolds’ Revenger Universe series, though much of the impact is lost simply due to it being the third in a series. For those unfamiliar with the books, this is far-future sci-fi with a hard edge. It’s millions of years in the future. The current galactic ruling body is called The Congregation, a haphazard coalition of thousands of worlds. Between the stars, battles rage, trade happens, and pirates profit.

One of the appeals of the series is that it’s full of neat ideas; for example, Quoins are these weird alien artefacts that have become a de-facto currency in The Congregation. They, of course, have a sinister secret, and much of the plot of Bone Silence deals with the consequences of using weird, poorly understood things as the basis for your economy. Another is the use of strange alien skulls as communications devices.

The previous books focused on one perspective; Fura in the first book and her sister Adrana in the second. Bone Silence brings the two Ness Sisters together, and we follow both these scoundrels as they try to escape the inevitable consequences of their own actions. It wouldn’t be a story about pirates without treasure of course, and in this case, it’s an ancient thing that will either fix everything or doom everyone. It’s also nice to see how the characters have matured over the series, and yet, in many ways, haven’t changed.

They are, of course, being pursued by a dogged and intrepid enforcer of the law. Because despite this being weird far-future sci-fi, it’s also a high-seas style adventure. You can practically hear the sea shanties at times. There’s plenty of cunning deception, outright violence, and twists and turns all the away along. Alistair Reynolds guarantees damned good fun, to say the least.

It isn’t entirely smooth as a read. The change in style from the previous two books is a little jarring, and though it works well as a novel in its own right, it isn’t a strong sequel to the previous two books. Trilogies should be greater than the sum of their parts, and Bone Silence lets down the over-arcing vibe of the series. But the price it pays for this is by being a really entertaining read on its own. 

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