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Publisher's Summary

Named one of the best novels of the year by both Locus and Science Fiction Chronicle, Alastair Reynolds's debut Revelation Space redefined the space opera. With Chasm City, Reynolds invites you to reenter the bizarre universe of his imagination as he redefines Hell.

The once-utopian Chasm City - a domed human settlement on an otherwise inhospitable planet - has been overrun by a virus known as the Melding Plague, capable of infecting any body, organic or computerized. Now, with the entire city corrupted---from the people to the very buildings they inhabit---only the most wretched sort of existence remains. For security operative Tanner Mirabel, it is the landscape of nightmares through which he searches for a lowlife postmortal killer. But the stakes are raised when his search brings him face to face with a centuries-old atrocity that history would rather forget.

©2008 Alastair Reynolds (P)2009 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Consistently startling.... Reynolds remains one of the hottest...SF writers around." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about Chasm City

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Enter Revelation Space HERE

I almost always read many audible reviews before I pick up a new audio book, but in the case of the Revelation Space series, I really wish I had read the reviews on each of the books before I started any of them. If I had I would have realized that although Audible has Chasm City listed as book 2 in the Revelation Space series, it is actually a prequel to Revelation Space and can stand alone. I would have also seen Michael's and Robert Eric Koch's reviews suggesting that you start Alastair Reynolds with this book. Although my first Reynolds was House of Suns and I think that's a great one to start with, I certainly agree with those reviewers that Chasm City would be a good place to start and I would strongly recommend that you get your first introduction to the world of Revelation Space via Chasm City rather than with Revelation Space. Although Revelation Space was published only a year earlier than Chasm City, there is an enormous improvement in Reynold's writing between the two books. Chasm City is not only much more tightly plotted and easier to follow, there is very adept use of symbolism and foreshadowing in Chasm City that adds suspense and thrills that just weren't there in Revelation Space. (Makes me want to listen again just to find all those little gems that were cluing my subconscious.)

This is a really dark, kind of creepy story and Reynolds uses such evocative language through much of the book that I was surprised a couple of times while listening to look up and realize it was a nice sunny day out - in my head I was tip-toeing through ghost spaceships, diving into the mists of Chasm City, and evading hunters on the mean streets at night. There are two story lines interwoven into the novel and both are told first person. Reynolds has done a wonderful job in pulling the listener into both stories and the plot is well organized so it is easy to follow although it is rather intricate. The first person perspective in this novel can give you the willies at times - I didn't like the decisions that one of the POV characters was making as he becomes rather megalomaniacal, but I had already so identified with him that I couldn't quite stop rooting for him even while hating him. Now, THAT is creepy-good writing!

This is a much more methodical layout of Revelation Space than you get in the debut novel and I think reading Chasm City first would make it easier to follow Revelation Space. John Lee brought his A-game to this book so the narration is great also.

Great future science, good characters, super-twisty plot, terrific writing, wonderful narration - this is a killer good audio book!

124 people found this helpful

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A Great Standalone Read Worth Your Time...

Alastair Reynolds is a fantastic writer, and often, the challenge is to pick a first read of this exceptional author. Well, this is a GREAT place to begin: Strong plot and subplots, wonderful descriptive wring that draws you in, characters with appreciable depth, and a universe that is chock full of original ideas and execution. Chasm City is, in my humble opinion, one of the author's best works.

And it's also a GREAT listen.

You've probably read the audiobook's description, and have made a general opinion. Well, stop there. You have NO IDEA how well this has been written for you, the listener.

From viruses that cause religious memories and experiences, to dna-level bio-political synchronicity, to infected nanotechnology that warps architecture, to biology and societies on a far-flung planet that went from becoming the hub of the known galaxy slowly grinding into the dregs of a forgotten but very active planet of biological and social mysteries. Place a ferocious chase between murderer and hunter in this maelstrom, and throw in a backstory involving deception on the multigenerational starships that delivered mankind to this world. It's simply engaging and listen-worthy.

AND. You can start here to get acquainted with the author's other works.

There is a challenge though, and it's keeping up with the sweeping storylines that crisscross at many points within the story. Pay attention, and you won't be disappointed.

Keep your hands in the car at all times, because this is one exhilarating roller-coaster ride.

26 people found this helpful

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A hard-edged but fascinating first-person mystery.

Another great story by Alastair Reynolds. Listened to the audio format of this one; as always, narrator John Lee does a FANTASTIC job of telling the story, keeping the characters separate with his amazing variety of voices, and adding just the right touch of emotion and intonation at all the right times. And of course it's very pleasant to listen to, I still think it sounds just like Sean Connery reading the story. In short, I wish he was the narrator of a lot more audiobooks out there.

This one was a standalone book in Alastair Reynold's "Revelation Space" universe, which with each book shows off the depth of Reynold's universe and the planning he's put into it. This one is a standalone, and a prequel to the Trilogy proper that adds a lot of backstory. A bit darker and very much like a Noir mystery, it keeps you interested, and guessing, right up until the end. There was quite a bit of language in it as one might imagine from this type of story.

I am very glad he wrote this one from first-person viewpoint. I also rather enjoy the info-dumps that Reynolds puts into a lot of his stories - a plot device not used by everyone and even reviled by some, but I think it's necessary with stories of this complexity. Besides, they always appear at just the right moments and helps to avoid the frustration of wondering what's really going on that some authors make you go through.

20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Just OK; fell short of potential

I like the style of the way this fellow writes, and he creates very interesting and engaging characters. The plot line seemed to hold a lot of potential. But, as the protagonist slips into having more and more dreams, it reminded me of Hamilton's Dreaming Void and Temporal Void novels. Feels like an easy out for the author, although I will say Reynolds' dreams at least expand the story and seem to make some sense. Both authors seemed to rely on characters having unbelievable powers to the point of being ludicrous (and another easy way out of needing more rational explanations). And, what the protagonist and almost everyone else does to the aliens in the "6th ship" behind the convoy is just downright inhuman. Of course, how those aliens ever managed to build anything given their physiology strains credulity. In the end, I felt more sympathy / empathy for the aliens and Methusala (an old fish) than I did for any of these distinctly unlikeable characters. I can't recommend this one, but I appreciated they way Reynolds and the narrator told the story, flawed though it may be. And so, I know I'll listen to another Reynolds yarn.

16 people found this helpful

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Fant-Mil-Sci-Fi

This book/series had almost universally positive reviews. The story is quite complex, with multiple time-lines and multiple story-lines that don’t come together until the very end. There are some interesting story elements and interesting ideas, yet I never got into the story and did not care about the conclusion.

This book has a combination of sub-genre which I don’t prefer. First, the characters are largely from the military-sci-fi sub-genre (even the non-military characters), with somewhat flat, military characterizations, having little of the nuances of flesh and blood characters. Second, the story is largely from the fantasy-sci-fi sub-genre, where the science is not really integrated with the story, and is instead only used to create a framework for the fantasy themes. The science does not really hang together into an integrated whole. For example there is clearly very high sensor technology available, yet some guy keeps a totally secret compartment large enough to keep a huge alien technically enhanced psychotic dolphin (and a few people) hidden on a spacecraft secret for decades.

It felt to me that the science and characterizations were very subordinate to the fantasy/mystery aspects of the story. Characters would do things modestly inconsistent with their character because the story required it. The science seemed incidental, providing whatever was necessary as a framework for the mostly fantasy story.

It seems most people find the complex fantasy/mystery aspects of this story well worth time. I did finish it, but will not go on in the series.

8 people found this helpful

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Best Of The Best, A Must Read for Any SF Fan

Any additional comments?

Alastair Reynolds is easily one of the three or four best science fiction writers working today and when it comes to hard SF, there’s really no one better. I’m convinced that Reynold’s body of work will be the standard by which both space opera and hard SF are judged for years to come. Chasm City is his best stand-alone novel (just barely nudged from the top spot imo by Redemption Ark). The novel is set within the Revelation Space universe, delving deep into the future culture in which the events of Revelation Space take place. A truly original and groundbreaking novel, Chasm City truly does redefine the space opera genre. While most space operas find convenient ways around Einstein and physics, Reynolds actually uses the physical restrictions of the real world to tell his story. The characters are relatable but just weird enough to work in the context of his universe. I highly recommend this novel for any SF fan and it works as a great introduction to Reynold’s body of work. The narration of John Lee seems, at times, a little colloquial but is otherwise fine.

7 people found this helpful

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A soldier, an arms dealer, and a psychopath--

Ex-soldier/sniper/assassin/security chief Tanner Mirabel was born on Sky's Edge, a backwater world colonized hundreds of years ago by the first and last solar-system-born flotilla of generation ships that upon reaching the target world disintegrated into a never-ending civil war. Thus when the people of Sky's Edge trade with space-living Ultranauts for advanced technologies, they eschew longevity in favor of weaponry. Other cultures like that of the planet Yellowstone's Chasm City's "post-mortal," body-modifying, and jaded aristocrats (who live in the Canopy above the Mulch-dwelling downtrodden humans and bio-engineered pigs) view Sky's Edge as a world of quaint savages. But Chasm City has its own problems, having been visited seven years ago by the Melding Plague, which mutated myriad nanotech machines, especially the "medichines" embedded throughout bodies, brains, and blood streams, and made nightmarish monstrosities like human-building hybrids. The plague is somewhat under control, thanks in part to the mysterious drug Dream Fuel--But what will happen when Tanner comes to Chasm City on a quest of revenge against Argent Reivich, a Sky's Edge aristocrat whose men shot off Tanner's foot and killed his arms dealer boss Cahuella and Cahuella's wife Gitta, on whom Tanner had a crush? And what is the meaning of Tanner's vivid "dreams" (complete with stigmata) of the life of Sky Haussmann, the man responsible for getting the flotilla to Sky's Edge but also for committing such heinous crimes that he was crucified, thereby inspiring a religion to spring up around his legend?

Alastair Reynolds' big novel Chasm City (2001), like his others, is full of sublime space opera noir replete with driven characters and flora and fauna and technologies and cultures extrapolated from particular (often extreme) environments. Tanner is no saint, having become a clinical assassin killing even his own side's soldiers without questioning the reasons for his orders, and then having gone to work as security chief for war criminal Cahuella. But he does have a knightly code whereby if you help him he'll help you, if the situation permits he won't be unnecessarily cruel or homicidal, and if he gives his word he keeps it. He is quite the tough talker, as if having stepped out of a hardboiled pulp mystery and into a space opera. Indeed, some of the dialogue is cliched or klunky, like "Gideon is extremely bad news," and "Don't even think about trying something or you'll become an interesting addition to the décor." That said, Reynolds also writes some neat lines, like "You look so out of place, Tanner, that you're in danger of starting a fashion," and "Just start the thing up, or the only composing you'll be doing is decomposing."

Anyway, Reynolds writes great, vivid, sf-strange descriptions. The giant hamadryad "snakes" of Sky's Edge and the outre denizens and buildings of Chasm City and the creepy kinky Ultras of no fixed address are all top notch. He does great space opera sublime, as in his depiction of super advanced alien maggots or grubs who've been space faring for at least 300 million years, long enough to make all human endeavor look like a veneer of dust atop a mountain. (Hey, I enjoy having my species get taken down a peg or two.) And check out this clockwork gun: "It was made completely out of carbon--diamond, mostly--but with some fullerenes for lubrication and energy-storage. There were no metals or explosives in it; no circuitry. Only intricate levers and ratches, greased by fullerene spheres. It fired spin-stabilised diamond flechettes, drawing its power from the relaxation of fullerene springs coiled almost to breaking point. You wound it up with a key, like a clockwork mouse."
(Alas, after plenty of attention, the gun plays no role in the plot.)

Reynolds writes exciting action scenes, featuring plenty of graphic violence. But he has a prudish aversion to sex, as in the only scene hinting at love making:
I pulled her to me, looking into her face.
"For today, yes."
[Here we must imagine the sexy interlude that Reynolds doesn't write.]
I woke before Zebra.

He likes to start in the middle of the action and to dole out information little by little, so that beginning his book is disorienting, but if you persevere and grasp clues, you start figuring out what's happened and caring about what will happen. (In fact, a few times in the second half of the novel he tries to be too helpful by summarizing too much information to be sure the reader keeps up to speed.)

There are plenty of compelling themes here: life and death, immortality and mortality, memory and identity, war and peace, the degree to which ethical action is essential or relative, the possibility of personal or social change, etc.

However, I have trouble with the "Life's what you make it" theme and the suggestion that hero and war criminal are just fluid definitions applied by people in power. That's probably true, but such an attitude may be used to remove responsibility for war crimes and murder. Is Reynolds advocating a let-the-past-go approach to atrocities because we're different today, as if changing into better people frees us from having to pay for past crimes?

About the audiobook. . . Although reader John Lee does a great booming Lago/Maggot, creepy Marco Ferris, and sandpapery Reivich and brings the book to life, too often he tries too hard to differentiate characters from the same class in the same culture via different accents, like Quirrenbach (German ?) and Zebra (British), both of whom are from Chasm City's Canopy, or Gomez (cockney or Celtic?) and Sky (British), both of whom are from the Santiago generation ship. And when he's not indulging in accents, many of his characters sound similar, due to his British base accent and somewhat snide dialogue delivery.

Chasm City shares the same universe as many of Reynolds' other novels, but I believe they are all stand alones. Fans of big scale hardboiled space opera should like this book.

4 people found this helpful

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The best of the Revelation Space series to date

Would you listen to Chasm City again? Why?

I've read Revelation Space, Redemption Ark, Absolution Gap, The Prefect, and now Chasm City, and I feel it's safe to say the latter is Alastair Reynold's best work. The story is great, but the thing that really makes it stand out is it's the only novel in the series written from the first person perspective. Therefore, the entire novel focuses on character development, which is done brilliantly. I don't feel like this book would diminish greatness were I to read it/listen to it several more times.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Reynolds as you expect him

Nice tie in to the other books. Great narrator, with a variety of accents that I enjoyed. A little confusing when some of the "dreams" begin, but you grow used to it. Love the story line, and Reynolds writing. Enjoyable book.

4 people found this helpful

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Start Reading Alastair Reynolds here

After reading six of his novels, I would recommend that "hard" sci-fi fans of "space opera" start here with Alastair Reynolds. Chasm City kind of blew my mind. Reynolds has done some very creative things writing in the first person, and Chasm City is my favorite example. After Chasm City, try "The Prefect" and/or "House of Suns." If you're really enjoying yourself, proceed to Revelation Space, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap or some of the others, which I can't yet comment on.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Martin
  • 07-22-13

Revelation space.

What other book might you compare Chasm City to, and why?

Chasm City is part of the revelation space series, in the timeline of that universe it comes second in the series - but on the advice of the author from his own website I listened to this 4th and I would agree that is the best way to go through the series. That said this book stands perfectly well without any of the others and does do not have an ending that requires you to read more nor does it require you to have read any of the previous books. Reads perfectly well as a stand alone.

What does John Lee bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

John Lee is for me a great Narrator, some people do not seem to get on well with his style but I personally find him very easy to listen to and I enjoy every book he reads.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It took me the best part of 2 weeks to listen to this one which for me is quite a long time. I have over indulged in the revelation space series in the last couple of months - listening to them one after the other, which is quite an undertaking in terms of time! I think I will take a short break from there now and listen to another Author - till I return for a listen to The Prefect :) Had I not been so indulgent in this series I am sure I would listened to this book in 4 or 5 sittings.

Any additional comments?

Fantastic series and for the number of Audible credits you use compared to the many hours of listening you get, the value for money is superb.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • AndyMackenzie
  • 05-08-10

chasm city

great book and loved the variety of characters. hope more in the future.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-30-11

thrilling

This is a fantastic book that kept me fumbling for an excuse to don my headphones and continue listening, Alastair manages to write twists into his novels that reveal themselves subtly and exactly when they should, I never found myself guessing them prematurely or getting lost in the plot.
His superb grasp on physics and evolutionary biology combined with his creative imagination make the whole story very credible and intriguing, I would recommend listening to "Revelation space" before this, and visiting Alastairs website to view the chronological order of all his novels as they are not clear from here.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Jake
  • 03-04-15

Hi5 Alastair Lad!

In Short an Awesome book, well read, very good story, very good characters, I'm no expert but it gets my approval.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous Coward
  • 07-24-22

Now we know where the melding plague

Came from! I love this universe, so rich and diverse, and the performance is excellent

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  • Petteri
  • 04-12-22

Confident scifi!

Thoroughly enjoyable! A nice balance between bright and dark overtones also neither too militaristic neither full of technobabble. I like this.

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  • m1lkman
  • 03-16-22

One of my personal favourites

I've listened to this a few times, love John Lee's narration and love this story. I've always felt it would make a fantastic film!

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • rbreslin@markcare.co.uk
  • 08-10-21

Not as good as the first, but will carry on

The story didn’t really rely on grand ideas that can pervade science fiction. The book is filled with grand ideas, but the story is one of (several layers) of human rivalry. So while the sci-fi ideas are big and well thought out, the story is small and ordinary. I got the feeling the book was more laying down groundwork for something bigger, so I’ll carry on the series. I did enjoy it, but for the amount of story it could have been smaller.

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  • John Cliffe
  • 08-07-21

Overall worth a read

I generally read anything narrated by John Lee. Having gone through most Peter F Hamilton, I have moved into Alistair Reynolds. I really struggled with the revelation Space, but this was more pacy, better characters and a story I could actually follow. It’s enough to keep me interested and now moving onto some of his other standalone work.

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  • Ryan Hunter
  • 07-15-21

Quality

I've read only revelation space by the same author, I'll now read the rest.

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  • Ben
  • 10-08-16

addictive

Chasm city was a story that had me consistently coming back for more, eager to uncover the next twist. the narration grew on me, and after an hour or so I couldn't have imagined a better voice for it. excellent

2 people found this helpful

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  • David Giles
  • 05-11-21

Cant keep going, narrator ruins it.

Twenty minutes in, and I can't keep going because of this narrator. I've heard that this story is excellent, but the narrator sounds like a 50s radio ad man with only a handful of ways to go about inflection, accent and other voice techniques. I honestlly can't focus on the story, that's how irritating I find this narrator.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Panayotis Geou
  • 05-07-21

Great company

A gripping tale with a few twists. Doesn't carry on from the first book, all the characters are new.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Ahmet
  • 03-02-20

Folds together, just barely.

Reynolds’ disjointed approach is at full swing again: As usual, story figments start lightyears apart, and slowly come closer, and eventually fold into a single continuum... but this time, just barely. This story lacks some of the elegant geometry of its presecessor, Revelation Space. The killing punch comes too late in the telling, and is overshadowed by much else. Still, a solid 4/5 overall. Enjoy, and keep along with the series. Definitely, worth the time invested.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-21-19

Alastair Reynolds dropped the ball before it was thrown.

This book was so disappointing. Not because it was a terrible story, but because he developed it so well and then copped out at the very last moment. He obviously didn’t realize what he had before he threw his jewel in the bin. I’m surprised that after 700+ pages of good writing he couldn’t think of anything better than a completely absurd deus-ex machina climax.

I also wish he’d had cut the over used tropes and cliches of science fiction. He has a PhD in astrophysics you think he’d be smarter and more original. He takes the horse that’s been beaten to death, revives it with fantastical futuristic technology, and then beats it some more.

On the plus side John Lees performance was superb.

1 person found this helpful

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  • johnnie
  • 05-26-15

Steam punk

Enjoyable in many ways though the story was ultimately weak. I think the author might be hoping for a film deal; steam punk blade runner. The first book is on another level. I'll read the third in the series to form a better opinion.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dan
  • 01-09-22

Keeps you hooked the whole way through

Can see why this book won awards when it came out. It should be made into a tv series (possibly suit an animated series).

Also have to say, John Lee is the best narrator in the audiobook business.

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  • Ritual
  • 01-06-22

Good but…

I actually like the story of Sky Houseman and the way it was told was interesting but the meandering way that it was exposed to the reader/listener left me a little bit frustrated with it. I do like Alistair’s writings and how he treats the future as both wonderful and advanced yet decaying and decrepit. Like I said I generally liked the book but a few things let it down. It doesn’t seem to matter that much to a lot of readers but it mattered to me.

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  • Louise Hobson
  • 06-15-21

Incredible

What a story - what an imagination- Reynolds draws you into worlds and stories that grip you to the end and beyond

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  • Kai
  • 05-22-17

Fantastic

This is, while very different in some ways, superior to Revelation Space, the first in the series. It deals with certain themes and character in extremely imaginative and spectacular ways. While not necessarily perfect, or especially close to it, it is more than worth listening to.

And of course, John Lee is still my favourite narrator. I can't fault him.