It takes a while to get going but around page 50 or so it had sucked me in and I had great difficulty in putting the book down. By about page 200, I started looking to buy the sequels Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap on Alibris.com.
The main idea of the Revelation Space universe is that there is something, which eventually gets named the Inhibitors, that eliminates sentient species soon after they have demonstrated the ability to travel between stars. Once they have demonstrated that they can travel significant fractions of the speed of light, something completely annihilates the species and they become extinct. This explains why spacefaring humans have discovered the remains, fossils and artefacts of nearly a dozen technological species, but never a live alien. It's an intriguing premise, but it merely serves as background to the central storylines which are more character-driven.
Here is a great summary of the characters in Revelation Space written by Ryan Anderson at The Martian Chronicles blog
The main character, Dan Sylveste is a scientist studying that civilization, driven by an unstoppable compulsion to solve the mystery of what happened to the Amarantin. Meanwhile, Ana Khouri is an assassin who has been hired by the mysterious “Mademoiselle” to kill Sylveste and prevent him from discovering the answer. A third main character, Volyova, is one of only a handful of surviving crewmembers on a starship that holds some of the most powerful weapons ever concieved. The ship is gradually being consumed by a virus emanating from their captain, who is kept frozen in stasis to slow the spread of the infection.I think it is pretty significant that the two of the main characters are female. Some reviewers have complained that none of the main characters are very likable, but there is no question that they are interesting and intriguing.
I really liked seeing the world through the eyes of Irina Volyova and Anna Khouri. Dan Sylveste is the most important character in terms of the Revelation Space universe, but he was not the character that most appealed to me.
The book itself is paced pretty slowly, but is well worth the time invested to unwrap the intricate, overlapping plots. It is a great introduction to the gripping, very hard sci-fi universe of Alastair Reynolds, a place any fa of real space opera will enjoy.
Author: Alastair Reynolds.
Title: Revelation Space.
Length: 592 pages.
Date: May 28, 2002.
OVERALL GRADE: B+/A- (3.5/4.0).