Revelation Space Wiki
Revelation Space Wiki

This article provides an overview of various cultural and scientific references in the Revelation Space universe works by Alastair Reynolds.

Musical references[]

Some of the most plentiful cultural references in the overall Revelation Space series are nods to music, including specific bands, songs, etc., many of them of British provenance.

  • Diamond Dogs - song and name of the eponymous 1974 concept album Diamond Dogs, by David Bowie
  • Glitter Band - aside from the literal meaning, this might be something of a pun, as there was a 1970s British glam rock act known as The Glitter Band
  • Hospice Idlewild - the name of this orbital habitat of the Ice Mendicants near Yellowstone might be a reference to the Scottish rock band Idlewild, from Edinburgh (though there are several possibilities behind the naming inspiration, in the area of music alone)
  • Madonna of the Wasps - a lighthugger named after "Madonna of the Wasps", a song by the British alternative rock artist Robyn Hitchcock and his band The Egyptians, from their 1988 album Queen Elvis
  • Pattern Juggler - the obscure figure of "the pattern juggler" is mentioned in the lyrics of the song "The Court of the Crimson King" by King Crimson, from their 1969 prog-rock album In the Court of the Crimson King
  • Tangerine Dream - aside from describing the rough colour of the gas giant in the Epsilon Eridani system, the name of the planet is a nod to the German electronic band Tangerine Dream (its most famous individual member being Chris Franke, who also worked as a film and television composer)
  • Turquoise Days - the name of the novella is inspired by the title and lyrics of a 1981 song by the British rock band Echo and the Bunny Men. This is even explicitly hinted at in the opening dedication of the novella, which cites a brief excerpt from the lyrics ("Set sail in those Turquoise Days").

Fine arts references[]

Film references[]

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) - jokingly referenced in Diamond Dogs, when members of the expedition to Golgotha talk about strange dreams they dreamt the previous night. Some of the expedition members dreamt about being chased by a huge boulder or trying to save their fallen hat at the last moment, all references to events in the film.
  • Cube (1997) - jokingly referenced in Diamond Dogs, when members of the expedition to Golgotha talk about strange dreams they dreamt the previous night. Some of the expediton members reference being trapped in a hi-tech maze with mysterious traps, similar to the one in the film. The novella's main driving plot, solving the nature of the Blood Spire in a deadly trial-and-error manner, also borrows elements from the premise of this film.
  • Pitch Black (2000) - aside from eyeshine being a real world adaptation in certain mammal species, the film includes "eyeshine" as a special eyes-related ability of the central antihero, convict Richard Riddick. This is virtually the same ability as the secret body modification bought by the protagonist of Chasm City, who puts it to use on at least one occassion.
  • The pseudonym 'Mr. Pink' is likely a reference to a character by the same name in the 1992 Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs.

Literary references[]

  • Case - K. C. Ng, a.k.a. "Case", is a Chasm City hermetic. The character's nickname might be Reynolds' nod to Henry Dorsett Case, the antihero protagonist of William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy of cyberpunk novels.

Religious and mythological references[]

  • Apollyon - lighthugger named after Apollyon, the Greek version of the name of Abaddon, a Biblical figure of a destroying angel of death.
  • Ararat - the planet's name references the mountains of Ararat, tied in Biblical tradition to the first landing location of Noah's Ark after the waters of the Flood receded. The Biblical mountains or Ararat reference the mountains of Urartu, a region that was also home to the ancient Kingdom of Van from antiquity, now in modern day Armenia. In-story, some crew members of the Nostalgia for Infinity, now landed on Ararat, comment on how the name began as an obvious joke by someone, but eventually stuck among the exile population.
  • Cerberus - what seems like the only natural satellite of Hades, a small neutron star in near the Delta Pavonis system, is named after Cerberus, a three-headed guardian hound of the ancient Greek underworld, often associated with the underworld's deity, Hades
  • Cockatrice - lighthugger named after a mythical creature (also popular in British and French heraldry), a blend of a small dragon and a cockerel/rooster
  • Fand - this obscure planet's name is based on a female character from Irish mythology
  • Galatea - lighthugger, named after one of several female characters from ancient Greek mythology that bore the name (either the statue brought to life by sculptor Pygmalion, a nereid in love with shepherd Acis, or the daughter of Eurytius, son of Sparton)
  • Golgotha - the planet's name is an obvious Biblical allusion, to Golgotha, the location of Christ's crucifixion, also known under the alternate name Calvary. The first name is derived from Aramaic, golgolta, "skull", and is often translated as "the place of the skull".
  • Hamadryad - for reasons apparent from its life cycle, this larger land creature from Sky's Edge was named after the hamadryads from Greek mythology, a type of dryad (wood nymph) that could shapeshift into trees and wooded plants
  • Hades - the seeming smaller star companion of Delta Pavonis is named after the Greek god of the underworld (and master of the three-headed canine guardian of the underworld, Cerberus)
  • Poseidon - lighthugger named after the ancient Greek deity of the seas, one of the Twelve Olympians
  • Roc - gas giant planet in the Delta Pavonis system, named after the giant bird of prey from Persian and Middle Eastern mythology (a rather appropriate reference, given the avian nature of the extinct Amarantin from Resurgam, in the same system)
  • Wild Pallas - lighthugger named after the epithet Pallas of ancient Greek deity Athena (often known as Pallas Athena)

Historical references[]

  • Belle Epoque - an apparent Demarchist revival of an existing term, (La) Belle Époque. This moniker is frequently used to describe the period in the history of France between 1871 (the end of the Franco-Prussian War) and 1914 (the outbreak of the First World War), when the French Third Republic experienced an almost unprecedented period of peace, economic prosperity and expansion, and a flourishing of the arts and public life. The mostly Francophone-descended Demarchist leadership intended the revived use of the term as a generally flattering comparison of Yellowstone's period of prosperity to a period of prosperity from older Earth history.
  • Clepsydra - one of a number of Conjoiner characters with names based on horological terms and concepts. A clepsydra is an ancient Greek type of water clock, its name literally meaning "water thief".
  • Cuvier - Resurgam's main base and de facto capital city is named in honour of Georges Cuvier, famous French naturalist of the 18th and 19th century and a major pioneer of the discipline of paleontology.
  • Orvieto - lighthugger named after the Italian city in the Province of Terni in southwestern Umbria, known for its historical architecture.
  • Panoply - the name of the Glitter Band's specialised police force is a nod at the ancient Greek term panoply (panoplía), which referred to a complete set of a soldier's weaponry and equipment (e.g. a hoplite's armour, helmet, shield, spear, sword, etc.). It was also used as a synonym for complete suits of armour in later periods. The choice of "Panoply" for the police force is figurative, probably referencing all the means they have at their disposal while keeping order in the habitats of the Band and investigating attempts at Demarchist voting fraud.
  • Petronel - lighthugger named after the petronel, a 16th and 17th century matchlock or wheellock firearm. Something of a compromise between a pistol and an arquebus, the petronel was a precursor to cavalry carbines.
  • Prefects - historically, the term prefect originated in the Roman Empire, where it was used for various civil and military officials in charge of precincts or districts known as prefectures. In the post-classical word, the term has been used (especially in Romance-language countries) to denote administrative or law enforcement officials. In the present day world, two French cities have a Prefecture of Police, headed by a Prefect of Police (Préfet de police): Paris and Bouches-du-Rhône. Given the Francophone cultural elements of the Revelation Space series, the prefect ranks of the Panoply might have been inspired by these historical and contemporary examples.
  • Remontoire - one of a number of Conjoiner characters with names based on horological terms and concepts. A remontoire is a small secondary mechanism in some precision-focused mechanical clocks and watches, used to run the timekeeping mechanism, with itself periodically rewound by the timepiece's main power source, such as a mainspring. Remontoires can take the form of a weight or spring.
  • Resurgam may have been named after a Victorian-era submarine, or any number of other entities sharing that name, which translates from Latin as 'I revive' -- appropriate for a planet once-devastated.


  • Ferrisville - besides being based on the name of Marco Ferris, a pioneering explorer/colonist of Yellowstone, the name of the city seems to be something of a pun. Due to the pronunciation of the city's name in English and French, the name of the city sounds remarkably similar to the term Ferris wheel. Some of the spinning orbital habitats around Yellowstone are referred to as "carousels", the term carousel being a synonym for roundabout or merry-go-round, another type of fairground ride.
  • Klausner index - in The Prefect, the Klausner index is said to be a rating for a prefect's ability to speed-read. This is briefly discussed by Thalia and Sparver. In reality, the choice of the term "Klausner" for the index is an affectionate in-joke by Reynolds, towards the late Harriet Klausner. Klausner, an American, was somewhat infamous in the 2000s and early 2010s for being the most prolific reviewer of books on the book retailer site By the time Reynolds was writing The Prefect, she had accumulated as many as 15 000 reviews for individual books, all generally positive, sometimes even 6 reviewed books a day. The in-joke is a nod to the impression that Klausner was seemingly able to read a lot of books quickly, in a short time (though there's no evidence she read all of the books reviewed by her). [1]
  • "Neil Gagarin" - in Absolution Gap, while Antoinette Bax muses about the ancient origin of captain Brannigan in an earlier era of spaceflight, she reminescents about the first known human astronaut - someone named Neil Gagarin, based on her best reckoning. The name is, of course, a misconception and a composite, based on Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space and Earth orbit, and Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the Moon.
  • Slush puppy - this is a future slang term for people freshly defrosted/woken from reefersleep. However, it already exists in the present, as Slush Puppie, a brand of ice slush beverage invented in the 1970s.
  • "Stoners" - an abbreviation or colloquialism used by Yellowstone Demarchists as a nickname for themselves. In modern slang stoners are people who engage in recreational drug use, especially cannabis and marijuana. The subculture even influenced the naming of genres such as stoner rock or stoner films. Less amusingly and more conventionally, a "stoner" is also a more archaic term for a stone quarryman.


  1. Klausnered, Teahouse on the Tracks (the older official blog of Alastair Reynolds), 23 April 2008 (archived link)

See also[]

Revelation Space series
A Prefect Dreyfus Emergency
(crime fiction series, 2007-present)
Aurora Rising (2007) | Open and Shut (short story midquel, 2018) | Elysium Fire (2018)
Chasm City
(standalone novel, 2001)
Inhibitor trilogy
(main novel series, 2000-2003)
Revelation Space (2000) | Redemption Ark (2002) | Absolution Gap (2003)

Galactic North
(2006, short stories)
Great Wall of Mars | Glacial | A Spy in Europa | Weather
Dilation Sleep | Grafenwalder's Bestiary | Nightingale | Galactic North
Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days
(2003, novellas)
Diamond Dogs | Turquoise Days
Other anthologies
Deep Navigation (2010) - Monkey Suit (2009)
Beyond the Aquila Rift (2016) - The Last Log of the Lachrimosa (2014)
Infinite Stars (2017) - Night Passage (2017)

Subterranean Press Magazine (2014, summer issue) - The Last Log of the Lachrimosa (2014)
Gollancz / Hachette UK (2018) - Open and Shut (2018)

Revelation Space universe | Alastair Reynolds | Websites
Cultural and scientific references | Adaptations | Translations
Book cover art | Fan art