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Minireview: The Prefect, by Alastair Reynolds

Right off the bat: I like Alastair Reynolds as a writer, I like his style of doing Iain M. Banks -style space opera with lots of really nifty ideas. He may not be the best character developer in the genre, but he’s not the worst either – and I feel he’s gotten better, his characters seem more 3d in these later books. His main strength remains his ideas – and oh boy, does he have those.

Anyway, I think The Prefect is one of his best books so far, along with the (also) recent book Pushing Ice. Like that book, events here start off small (well, “small” for a Reynolds book anyway) and slowly escalate into larger and more complex things. I don’t want to spoil things so I won’t elaborate much on that here. The story starts off as a police procedural: there’s the almost-burned-out (mostly) honest cop with a dark past as the protagonist, there’s the weird case that seems clear-cut but which conceals a lot of things that various parties very much want to keep hidden, there are various levels of bureaucracy that need to be navigated in order to pursue the case. And then things go south, fast, and everyone is suddenly scrambling just to keep alive.

If you like modern space opera in the style of Banks (or Reynolds, if you’ve read his other stuff), this is a highly recommended book. It fits into Reynolds’ future history, taking place in the Glitter Belt before the Plague – but it’s quite stand-alone; the links to other parts of the future history are present here mostly for flavor reasons.

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