Century Rain is set in Paris, but not the Paris we know of but one that exists in an alternative Earth in an alternate 1950s (no World War II). The set up is pretty ridiculous, but basically exists as a background on which Reynolds places an American-born detective in Paris (who also happens to be a part-time jazz musician), his German-speaking French ex-girlfriend/bandmate and a mysterious English-speaking woman who may be from America or another world altogether.
I think Reynolds just wanted to show that he could write a "noir science fiction alternate history mysetery novel," just like later on he wrote Terminal World to show that he could write a "steampunk" novel, which is not my favorite genre. That being said, I do like alternate history and mystery and science fiction so I was pretty much willing to buy in to the concept of Century Rain to invest the time in the book to become involved and interested in what happens to the characters. And there is still a fair amount of science fiction (aliens, sentient machines, wormholes, space ships, energy weapons and genetic modifications) for even the hard core sci-fi fan to enjoy.
Title: Century Rain.
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Length: 640 pages.
Published: May 30, 2006.
OVERALL GRADE: A-/B+ (3.50/4.0).