Revenger: An entertaining YA space opera

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsRevenger by Alastair Reynolds science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsRevenger by Alastair Reynolds

“If the Ness sisters had a brain cell between them, they’d be back in Mazarile, taking needlecraft lessons from a robot.”

Sisters Adrana and Fura Ness have run away from home, joining the crew of a spaceship captained by a man named Rackamore. Their job on the ship is to use a skull to listen in on chatter that gives them clues about things going on in the universe, such as the location of other ships, gossip, and information about “baubles” that are about to open. They relay these messages to the captain who takes the ship to a bauble so that others on the crew can enter it and collect ancient treasures before it closes again. Everyone on the ship apparently has some genetic affinity for their job.

What the sisters don’t know, before it’s too late, is that Captain Rackamore is being pursued by a pirate named Bosa who is the most feared person in space. She’s legendary and has been alive for over a hundred years. Most people think she isn’t real, but Rackamore knows better. Eventually Bosa catches up to their ship and that’s when tragedy strikes.

Alastair ReynoldsRevenger (2016) gets off to a promising start, but it’s really difficult to buy into Reynolds’ universe. It should be fascinating, with its alien species and collection of millions of worlds arranged in concentric circles. But the skull and baubles seem far-fetched and handwavy (kinda dumb, in fact) and it’s not clear why some people can tune into skulls or baubles while others can’t. Perhaps the characters will discover this in subsequent books in the REVENGER series. The history of the universe is a mystery, one I’d like to learn more about.

REVENGER by Alastair ReynoldsThe story is exciting and it’s fun to watch the sisters get settled into the new routines of shipboard life. Adrana, the older sister who’s 18, is more than a bit acerbic and self-focused but, fortunately, we get the story from Fura’s perspective and she’s quite likeable for the first half of the novel (but, later, not at all). Other characters are even less appealing, and not well developed, with the exception of Captain Rackamore, who’s kind and mysterious, though not completely competent.

After Bosa the pirate shows up, Revenger suddenly turns very dark. Fura and Adrana are changed by events and I had a tough time believing in Fura’s transformation as well as other characters’ willingness to follow such an inexperienced spacefarer. Among other things, I couldn’t understand why she’d choose to lie when the truth would probably serve better. And her plan to try to defeat the pirate was ridiculous. I felt a little cheated by the lack of a tighter and more clever plot, and I was furious when, like a James Bond movie, the good guys let the evil villain give a monologue instead of killing her.

Revenger is an entertaining novel, but not a very good one. I’m astonished that it won the 2017 Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel. It is not worthy. While I loved the setting, neither the characterization nor, especially, the illogical plot, met my standards. I will, however, read the sequel, Shadow Captain, because it’s a finalist for the 2019 Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel. I’m hoping for improvement.

The audiobook version of the REVENGER series is being produced by Hachette Audio. Clare Corbett does a fine job with the narration. I didn’t love all of her character voices, but I thought she did a great job with the prosody.

Published in 2016. The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilizations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives. And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them. Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded by layers of protection — and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous. Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular. Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future — a tale of space pirates, buried treasure, and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism and of vengeance…

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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