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Strong tea and good books

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

Absolution Gap

Absolution Gap  - Alastair Reynolds One thousand nine hundred and seventy four pages of plot development and world building. All the plot devices, all the ideas, and all the characters you introduced and developed, and you give me that for an ending. How could you.

I've had books conclude unsatisfactorily before, at least to me, I've been disappointed at endings before, but never have I felt so empty after concluding a series that I have put so much time and energy into reading as I did at the end of this book.

An antagonist, a mysterious group of machines that eradicate starfaring intelligent life in the galaxy were slowly revealed over the course of the trilogy, and humanity's discovery and subsequent struggle with these inhibitors became the driving force and main focus point of the series. These eradictors of life's purpose and reasoning was only revealed periodically, and skillfully.

They are again the focus of this third novel, and all the other plot developments and stories that intertwine in this novel are building towards an epic conclusion, to a stage where all the strands are to be tied up and a definitive ending is given to the opposing forces of humanity's right to exist and the inhibitors attempts to wipe out starfaring life. But what is the ending? It's a damp squib, it is so vague, so ill-defined and so not an ending that there should be a fourth book in the series, and yet the epilogue, all four ambiguous pages of it, prevents that.

Consequently I had to come on here and read what others felt about the novel and the series and there are a couple of paragraphs of this review that capture my feelings upon finishing the novel.

"the novel sets up all of the counter-plotting admirably, it does so very slowly to build ambiance. Very Slowly. Glacially, even. And frustratingly, there's almost no payoff for it. ... The conclusion is also a staggering cop-out. All of the preparation our characters perform, all of their investigations, new technologies, and even the Shadows and Wolves themselves, are effectively hurled into the nearest landfill, and an ending completely out of right field is bolted on as an afterthought.

I find myself in complete agreement. The Wolves/Inhibitors that have been built up over 3 books of almost 2000 pages in length are just thrown out at the end and made to appear inconsequential. The Shadows that are slowly developed in the latter half of the third novel, and which appear to be key, are also just thrown out at the end as some sort of test, that there is in fact some invisible and secret third force at play that is judging humanity. This is ill-defined by Reynolds, it is ill-conceived as well, but it just makes all of the rest of the characters and development meaningless.

It appears to me that Reynolds just did not know how to end this series, he'd set it all up for a thrilling conclusion and then just couldn't end it satisfactorily.

So Shaun is right when he states "This is probably the worst betrayal I've felt after finishing a space opera of any length. The characters' efforts are unimportant; the antagonists ultimately moot; the conclusion is only tangentially related to the rest of the novel. Reynolds invoked deus ex machina here, but did so by alluding to a circular time loop which is supposed to tie everything up in a neat, depressing little bow. Instead, it cheapens the struggles of every character introduced in the novel, reduces their travails to drab, pointless endeavors full of eloquent prose that accomplishes approximately nothing."

I feel robbed.

And yet I still liked the novel, I still liked the series, and so despite my disappointment, I can only knock off one star, although I may come back at a later point and make it two.