Some time after the events in The Prefect/Aurora Rising, a new crisis is brewing in the Glitter Band. Random citizens are having their brains “fried” by their electronic implants. As Dreyfus and the other Panoply operatives investigate the links between victims, they find links to an old and very distinguished Yellowstone family.
While a solid and enjoyable novel, this one lacks the panache of “The Prefect”. The mystery feels contrived and doesn’t lead to any sort of even half-epic conclusion. That being said, Mr. Reynolds’s prose is a pleasure to read as usual, and the characters are interesting and engaging.
The Prefect was republished as Aurora Rising in order to identify it more as the beginning of its own series than as tied to the Revelation Space series. The series do share the same Universe, though this book is set in a much earlier era.
The setting is the Glitter Band, a swarm of thousands of orbital habitats around the planet Yellowstone. Tom Dreyfus is a prefect for Panoply, a police force tasked with ensuring voting rights are respected, including investigating and punishing voting fraud. The habitats of the Glitter Band are as varied as they are many, from tyrannies to utopias to all manner of strange types of government. An investigation into voting fraud leads Dreyfus and his small team to a flaw in the voting system, and then all hell breaks loose.
While the setting is hard science fiction, the plot is in large part police procedural, and the characters could have been picked from any group of archetypal police investigators and functionaries. Dreyfus himself is the stereotypical dedicated detective with a tragic past. His assistants Thalia and Sparver are, respectively, the spunky and energetic young tech whiz and the stoic, solid sidekick. His boss Aumonier is the classic experienced police chief. The trope works very well for the novel, allowing the reader to immediately grasp relationships while navigating a completely new and strange world. The plot starts as a relatively simple police mystery, but as events unfold, the magnitude of the crisis becomes vast, encompassing the entire system. The ghosts from Dreyfus’s past, and indeed society’s past, come back to haunt the present, with some clever twists.
A serial killer is on the loose in Aberdeen (the one in Scotland), and our hero Detective Sergeant Logan McRae is on the case. He is just back from leave after being badly stabbed in the belly. He is working for the constantly candy eating Detective Inspector Insch.
The afterword ends with “Aberdeen’s really not as bas as it sounds. Trust me.” I certainly hope so. It sounds like a grey, wet, frozen hellhole full of criminals and never-have-beens with no future in the book. The views into people’s seemingly hopeless, prospectless, grey lives don’t help.
This is a very competent police procedural. The characters are excellently fleshed out, colourful and quirky. Logan McRae himself is by no means perfect and does not always do the right thing. In fact he is full of insecurities. MacBride’s prose is packed with sarcastic and colorful understatement that made this reader chuckle. The one gripe I have is that there are perhaps a few too many twists. Certainly the portrayal of police work as tedious and repetitive seems much closer to the truth than the streamlined view of anything on small or big screen. Our hero’s life is dullness and mind numbing tedium, punctuated by moments of action and terror. Not to mention an amazingly unhealthy lifestyle of broken sleep and terrible eating habits.