The Revelation Space universe (RSU) is the moniker traditionally given to the setting of Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space series. The Revelation Space fictional universe depicts a fictional future history of humanity, within the trappings of a space opera milieu that has a generally hard science fiction focus.
Reynolds' RS narratives are considered part of the wave of "New Space Opera" works, by mostly British science fiction authors, which began roughly in the late 1990s and continued throughout the early decades of the 21st century. The series' publication history spans some three decades, from its first short story in 1990 to its latest novel in 2018.
The series chronicles gradual human exploration and settlement of the Solar System and nearby interstellar space, as well as the technological, political and social turmoil and complexity involved in the process. Most works set in the RS universe span a timeframe from the late 22nd century to the 27th century, i.e. within the later parts of the third millennium, but some of the furthest dates explored in the series go as far as ca 40 000 AD.
History and chronology of the Revelation Space universe
Main article: Timeline
Please see the main article for more detailed information on the fictional universe's timeline of events and developments.
Lifeforms of the Revelation Space universe
- Earth-descended life
- Alien civilisations
- Alien creatures
Characters, factions and groups of the Revelation Space universe
Main overview: Characters
Main overview: Factions
Main overview: Organisations
Please see the main links for more detailed information on the fictional universe's cast of characters, factions and groups (of various species and groups, in various time periods).
Works set in the Revelation Space universe
1.) RS works by sub-series and by cast
Works set in the universe, based on which thematic subset of stories and cast of characters they focus. Some are standalone short stories and novels, others are varyingly interconnected with tighter and deeper continuity.
Arranged in chronological order.
A Prefect Dreyfus Emergency series
Description: A spinoff novel series, set on Demarchist Yellowstone and its surroundings (the Glitter Band orbital colonies, etc.) during the 25th century, at the height of the Belle Epoque, several decades before the outbreak of the Melding Plague. Written in the manner of a police procedural or crime fiction, the series focuses on a team of Panoply law enforcement officers, known as prefects. The leader of the team is prefect Tom Dreyfus, an experienced inspector of the Panoply.
- Aurora Rising (2007, novel, orig. as The Prefect)
- Open and Shut (2018, short story, bridge between the first and second novel)
- Elysium Fire (2018, novel)
Description: A standalone novel, with Yellowstone and Chasm City as its main setting. The novel also provides insight into the history, nature and society of the planet Sky's Edge (in the system 61 Cygni A). The storyline of Chasm City focuses on the quest of an antiheroic protagonist from Sky's Edge, with Yellowstone as his destination. What at first seems like a straightforward vow of avenging the killer of his close friends becomes a more complex story about individual identity and historical memory.
- Chasm City (2001, standalone novel)
Inhibitor trilogy series
Description: The original and primary novel series of the setting, the trilogy follows an evolving cast of characters, as their adventures and ultimate fates intertwine with the lighthugger starship Nostalgia for Infinity. Mysteries pertaining to the Fermi paradox are slowly uncovered, revealing unsettling new knowledge about the nature of intelligent life in the galaxy, and the far-reaching consequences for all of humanity. The trilogy is set in a greater number of planetary systems and planets.
These are mostly short stories and novellas providing side-stories or further insights into the universe. Arranged in roughly chronological order.
a.) Main overview
Galactic North (2006)
Description: A collection of short stories from the Revelation Space universe, from its earliest explored eras, to some of the most far-future periods seen in the setting to date. Most of the stories are standalone, but some have continuity with each other, or with the novels and novellas set in the same universe. Three of the short stories were first published in this anthology, five others had previously first appeared in science fiction magazines (Interzone, Spectrum SF).
- Great Wall of Mars (Spectrum SF 1, 2000)
- Glacial (Spectrum SF 5, 2001)
- A Spy in Europa (Interzone 120, 1997)
- Weather (2006)
- Dilation Sleep (Interzone 39, 1990)
- Grafenwalder's Bestiary (2006)
- Nightingale (2006)
- Galactic North (Interzone 145, 1999)
Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days (2003)
Description: A collection of two novellas from the Revelation Space universe, both first published in this anthology. Diamond Dogs is about a private reconaissance expedition to a mysterious structure on a wasteland planet, Turquoise Days tells the story of an isolated colony on an oceanic planet with an abundant presence of Pattern Jugglers.
Description: Other anthologies that have featured Reynolds' short stories and novellas from the Revelation Space universe, but were not focused solely on that setting.
- Monkey Suit (2010) - Deep Navigation anthology
- Great Wall of Mars, Weather, Diamond Dogs, The Last Log of the Lachrimosa (2016) - Beyond the Aquila Rift anthology
- Night Passage (2017) - Infinite Stars anthology
b.) Standalone short stories and novellas (overview)
These are short stories and novellas that don't have deeper continuity ties.
- Weather (short story)
- Dilation Sleep (short story)
- Nightingale (short story)
- Turquoise Days (novella)
c.) Loosely-connected short stories and novellas (overview)
Some short stories and novellas that share characters and deeper continuty (listed chronologically):
- The short stories Great Wall of Mars and Glacial offer insights into the origins and history of the Conjoiners as a faction, and share characters such as Galiana, Felka and Nevil Clavain.
- A Spy in Europa and Grafenwalder's Bestiary share some story and setting elements, though their casts of characters are unrelated.
- The shady scientist Dr. Trintignant is a major character in the novella Diamond Dogs and then in the short story Grafenwalder's Bestiary, set some time after the events of the novella.
There are three short stories that can provide further insight into the events and character backstories of the Inhibitor trilogy novels:
- Great Wall of Mars and Glacial focus on the earlier personal history and adventures of Nevil Clavain, Galiana and Felka, who become major characters in the trilogy, starting with the second novel, Redemption Ark.
- The events of the short story Galactic North partly overlap with the (particularly latter) events of the Inhibitor trilogy, especially those detailed in Absolution Gap.
It is not necessary to read the above three stories to complement the main novel trilogy, but they do add more clarification to the events, characters and situations.
1.3 Published in magazines
For the "completionist"-minded, here is an overview of the series' short stories and novellas, in order of their first publication in various magazines. (Please note that many of the RSU short fiction first appeared directly in book anthologies and was not previously published in a magazine before being published in a book.)
- Dilation Sleep - Interzone 39 (1990)
- A Spy in Europa - Interzone 120 (1997)
- Galactic North - Interzone 145 (1999)
- Great Wall of Mars - Spectrum SF 1 (2000)
- Glacial - Spectrum SF 5 (2001)
- The Last Log of the Lachrimosa - Subterranean Press Magazine's final issue (summer 2014)
2.) RS works by chronology
Some of the stories don't have strict information on the dates and years they occur in, but can be inferred by the events and situtations described.
- The Great Wall of Mars (short story)
- Glacial (short story)
- Night Passage (short story)
- A Spy in Europa (short story)
- Weather (short story)
- Galactic North (short story, earliest events)
- Aurora Rising (novel)
- Open and Shut (short story)
- Elysium Fire (novel)
- Monkey Suit (short story)
- Dilation Sleep (short story)
- Chasm City (novel)
- Diamond Dogs (novella)
- Grafenwalder's Bestiary (short story)
- Turquoise Days (novella)
- Nightingale (short story)
- Revelation Space (novel)
- The Last Log of the Lachrimosa (short story)
- Redemption Ark (novel)
- Absolution Gap (novel)
- Galactic North (short story, latest events)
Please also see the Timeline article, for more information on the chronology of the RS universe and how the individual stories fit into said chronology.
See the following articles for more detailed information.
Behind the scenes
This section offers information on the development of the fictional universe from an author's and publishing perspective.
Alastair Reynolds has detailed the origins and evolution of the Revelation Space series and its universe in a number of older and newer interviews, as well as in the Afterword of the Galactic North anthology and several other published works of the series.
Some articles from his blog that shine a light into the early development of the series are:
- Two Trunks (15 October 2013) - discussing his first two written, unpublished science fiction novels from the 1980s (A Union World and Dominant Species)
- It was twenty years ago today (5 October 2012) - discussing the history of the first drafts for what later became the novel Revelation Space
- Closing Contact (18 December 2015) - discussing the early 1990s prototype for what later became the novel Revelation Space
- Travel Time (18 February 2010) - on music listened to while writing Revelation Space
- Short stories (3 February 2011)
Other blog musings related to the series and writing in general:
- SciFi Now and other goings on (28 January 2011)
- Cryo-arithmetic engines? (7 June 2011)
- Onto book 2 (21 June 2011)
- Exhaust gases (4 October 2012)
- A compass (4 December 2012)
- Map of the Revelation Space universe (19 February 2013) - on a fan map by R. Terrett
- The same old same old (29 May 2015)
- Oh, Atlanta (23 October 2018) - how some swooping elevators in Atlanta might have inspired Volyova's elevator ride
To be expanded soon
Some of the inspirations for the tone of the series mentioned and cited by Alastair Reynolds, especially in the Afterword of Galactic North and in various articles and interviews, include:
- Arthur C. Clarke's works (especially pre-1980s) - cited as a general early influence within the context of literary science fiction, and a possible influence on Reynolds' later hard science fiction leanings after maturing as a short story and early novel writer
- Known Space book series and its universe, by Larry Niven - cited as fostering Reynolds' love for the idea of an interconnected, detailed, but varied future history; also an influence on creative alien species and civilisations
- Schismatrix (1985), novel by Bruce Sterling - the novel was a seminal work of cyberpunk-influenced space opera, with distinct themes of a future splintering of space-faring humanity along transhumanist lines; the technological outlook of the implants-focused faction of the "Mechanists" is a similar archetype to the Skyjacks and many of the Ultranauts, while the "Shaper" faction has some rough similarities with the Mixmasters, genetic engineering specialists
- Galactic Center Saga (1977-1996), book series by Gregory Benford - cited as an influence on "much of the hard SF furniture" of the Revelation Space series (e.g. slower than light travel, cold sleep, machine intelligences), drawing on Benford's ideas and motifs
- Nova (1968), novel by Samuel R. Delany - Reynolds cites the novel as an early influence on his own "fascination with cyborg spacers, and the Baroque trappings of space opera in general"
- The Outcasts of Heaven Belt (1978), novel by Joan D. Vinge - the concept of a Demarchist polity (though utilising different sortition technology than neural implants), as well as the idea of ideologically opposed factions competing within a single planetary system (and the tensions and repercussions stemming from that)
- Vacuum Flowers (1987), novel by Michael Swanwick - Reynolds had cited a cultural group in the novel's setting, The Comprise - a human hive mind ruling Earth - as an influence on his conceptualisation of the Conjoiners; another grouping of the novel, the Dysonworlders, inhabit artificially created comets (somewhat similar to Conjoiners building home bases inside hollowed-out natural comets
- The Centauri Device (1975) by M. John Harrison - though the whimsical spacecraft names of the Revelation Space series are often suspected to be an Iain M. Banks influence (via the whimsical ship names of his famous The Culture series), Reynolds has cited Harrison's 1970s novel, with its peculiar spaceship names, as a more direct influence ("pinching it" from Harrison's novel, with names such as Driftwood of Decadence)
- Star Trek's Borg - semi-jokingly cited as what some of the more radically modified Ultras would look like, "if the Borg took an unhealthy interest in Goth subculture"
- The Millennial Project (1992/1994), non-fiction by Marshall T. Savage - some of the ideas for the appearance of lighthugger starships were loosely inspired by reading this book
To be expanded soon
- A. Reynolds' official website articles on the setting:
- Wikipedia articles on the setting:
- Podcast reviews of Revelation Space works
- Aurora Rising audio review at The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast
- Aurora Rising audio review (revisited) at The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast
- Elysium Fire audio review at The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast
- Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days audio review at The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast
- Chasm City audio review at The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast
- Revelation Space audio review at The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast
- Redemption Ark audio review at The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast
- Official site of the Revelation Space E-Book collection (e-book omnibus of 7 books) at Gollancz.co.uk
|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)
(standalone novel, 2001)
(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
Diamond Dogs | Turquoise Days
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)
BEHIND THE SCENES / RELATED ARTICLES
| Revelation Space universe | Alastair Reynolds | Websites |
Cultural and scientific references | Adaptations | Translations
Book cover art | Fan art