Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds is a big book in very many senses. The scope in the future-world is huge, stretching across centuries of human -human conflict. In contrast, the city life in alternate 1959 Paris is minutely detailed with smells, sounds, textures, and sights. The characterization is relatively strong, and tension is carried along successfully first by the gumshoe detection mystery, and then shifting to Auger’s race to prevent calamity.
Given the doubled nature of the worlds, the story takes a little time to find its momentum. The jumping time-frames felt like delay in the story starting, in the first couple-dozen pages, especially since the Paris checkpoint to cross the bridge reminded me of the restrictions on the excavation under the ice. Even after the mysteries are underway, the direction of the book is unclear for over half, at least to me. Neither Wendell Floyd the detective nor Verity Auger know what they are looking for. On the other hand, I enjoyed being along for the ride.
When Floyd and Auger join forces the momentum becomes unstoppable. At that point, though, I was a little disappointed that Floyd and Custine edged away from center stage, but it was still fun.
This is a tough one to rate – slightly less than 4 stars, but more than 3.5. This did take me days and days to read. The sheer number of strong points argues for it being a 4, yet they’re diffused through a really long book making the average level more like 3.5. So, I will rank it as both. 🙂
Echoes of other books – in a good way. The ice enclosing future, ruined Paris echoes the ice that Setebos uses in Dan Simmon’s Paris in Olympos. Is the ice blue in both cases? There is a sense of time-travel, which reminds me of Connie Willis’ time-travel themes particularly the World War Two pair, Blackout and All Clear.