My first novel by Reynolds, a book I approached with some trepidation being as I don't really go for space opera but also some anticipation after thoroughly enjoying the short story "Fixation" which I read in an anthology.
In line with my mixed expectations, my reactions were also mixed. What I liked about his short story was in evidence here. His deeply imaginative and evocative envisioning of future technology and it's potential applications betray his scientific background. I came away with the impression that Reynolds really knows what he is talking about, not that my knowledge was really up to a standard where I could judge. His world building is impressive too, not relying on too much exposition to do the job, but gradually being fed to the reader on a need to know basis, usually through the dialogue.
What let this book down, in my opinion, is his understanding of people. His characterisation really wasn't very convincing and I felt not able to engage with them in the way I felt the author intended. Their behaviour seemed often eratic and nonsensical, their motivations dubious. Large parts of the narrative relied on the interplay of the characters and the tension that should have arisen therein. These parts largely fell flat, especially when I compare this to something similar such as Stephen Donaldson's "Gap" series.
Consequently, this novel was far too long. Ok, I admit, I'm quite intolerant to long novels generally. A book has to do a lot to justify being longer than three hundred pages in my opinion. If the characterisation had been a lot better then, maybe, it would have justified 545 pages.
Another observation I had was that the first part of the book is quite hard work, not because it's particularly slow paced, but because it switches between the three narrative strands every page or two. This is too frequent in my opinion and makes it bitty. Later, the narrative is woven together and then splits again towards the end, at which point the frequency of narrative switching is ok because of the high level of tension as the story nears it's climax.
All in all, I am left with a generally favourable opinion of Reynolds and with the intention of trying one of his collections next as I think that will be where this author really shines.