The Revelation Space universe is a fictional universe which was created by Alastair Reynolds and used as the setting for a number of his novels and stories. Its fictional history follows the human species through various conflicts from the relatively near future (roughly 2200) to approximately 40,000 AD (all the novels to date are set between 2427 and 2727, although certain stories extend beyond this period). It takes its name from Revelation Space (2000), which was the first published novel set in the universe.
The name "Revelation Space universe" has been used by Alastair Reynolds in both the introductory text in the collections Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days and Galactic North, and also on several editions of the novels set in the universe. He considered calling it the 'Exordium universe' after a key plot device, but found that the name was already in use.
The Revelation Space universe is set in a future version of our world, with the addition of a number of extraterrestrial species and advanced technologies that are not necessarily grounded in current science. It is, nonetheless, somewhat "harder" than most examples of space opera, relying to a considerable extent on science Reynolds believes to be possible; in particular, faster-than-light travel is largely absent. Reynolds has said he prefers to keep the science in his fiction plausible, but he will adopt science he believes to be impossible when it is necessary for the story.
While a great deal of science fiction reflects either very optimistic or dystopian visions of the human future, the Revelation Space universe is notable in that human societies have not developed to either positive or negative extremes. Instead, despite their dramatically advanced technology, they are similar to those of today in terms of their moral ambiguity and mixture of cruelty and decency, corruption and opportunity.
The Revelation Space universe contains elements of Lovecraftian horror, with one posthuman entity stating explicitly that some things in the universe are fundamentally beyond human or transhuman understanding. Nevertheless, the main storyline is essentially optimistic, with humans continuing to survive even in a universe that seems fundamentally hostile to intelligent life.
The name "Revelation Space" appears in the novel of the same name during Philip Lascaille's account of his visit to Lascaille's Shroud, an anomalous region of the local universe. Lascaille says that "the key" to something momentous "was explained to me [. . .] while I was in Revelation Space."
The chronology of the Revelation Space universe extends to roughly one billion years into the past, when the "Dawn War" — a galaxy-spanning conflict over the availability of various natural resources — resulted in almost all sentient life in the galaxy being wiped out. One race of survivors, later termed the Inhibitors, having converted itself to machine form, predicted that the impending Andromeda–Milky Way collision, roughly 3 billion years in our future, may severely damage the capacity of either galaxy to support life. Consequently, they planned to adjust the positions of stars in order to limit the damage the collision would cause. Also central to the Inhibitor project was the eradication of all species above a certain technological level until the crisis was over, as they believed no organic species would be capable of co-operating on such a large-scale project (an in-universe solution to the Fermi paradox). Whilst they were relatively successful, certain advanced species were able to hide from Inhibitor forces, or even fight back.
In human history, during 21st and 22nd centuries numerous wars occurred, and a flotilla of generation ships were deployed to colonise a planet orbiting the star 61 Cygni (this becomes a major segment of the plot of Chasm City). The flotilla was later to reach a planet termed Sky's Edge, which was to be embroiled in war until human civilisation there was eradicated.
Meanwhile, in the Solar System in 2190, the Conjoiners emerged as a result of increased experimentation with neural implants. In response, the Coalition for Neural Purity was formed, opposed to the Conjoiners. Nevil Clavain fought on the side of the Coalition in the ensuing war, but defected later on after being betrayed. Clavain, and the Conjoiners, succeeded in escaping the Solar System and left for surrounding stars.
For the next few centuries, the so-called Belle Epoque, humanity enjoyed a period of relative peace and prosperity, with several planets being colonised. The most successful planet of all was Yellowstone, a planet orbiting the star Epsilon Eridani, site of the Glitter Band / Rust Belt and Chasm City. Technologies developed included the Conjoiner Drive, a gift from the Conjoiners (who resumed contact with humanity at an unknown time), advanced nanotechnology, and numerous other devices. With the exception of an attempted takeover of the Glitter Band, no major incidents affected humanity during this time.
The Belle Epoque was terminated by the advent of the Melding Plague in 2510, a nanotechnological virus that destroyed all other nanotechnology it came into contact with. Only the Conjoiners were unaffected by this disaster, which devastated the civilisation around Yellowstone. War between the Demarchists and Conjoiners erupted as a result of the plague.
Meanwhile, activities around a far-flung human colony on the planet Resurgam, orbiting the star Delta Pavonis, inadvertently attracted the attention of the Inhibitors. The Conjoiners, also made aware of this event, sent Clavain to recover the exceedingly powerful "Cache Weapons" from this system (said weapons having been stolen from the Conjoiners centuries before) that could be used to fend off the Inhibitors while the Conjoiners escaped. Clavain instead defected from the Conjoiners, intending to use the weapons to protect all of humanity. Skade, another Conjoiner, was sent to stop him and recover the weapons. They fought around the Resurgam system, with Clavain and his allies eventually obtaining the weapons. Clavain's ally Remontoire agreed to seek out alien assistance from the Hades Matrix, a nearby alien computer disguised as a neutron star, whilst Clavain sheltered refugees from Resurgam on another planet, later termed Ararat.
Remontoire returned in 2675, only a few days after Clavain's death at the hands of Skade, who had arrived with him. Remontoire and his allies were now at war with the Inhibitors, assisted by alien technology obtained from Hades. Even so, it was realised that the humans would not last indefinitely, and Clavain's people, now led by Scorpio decided to seek out the mysterious "Shadows", a race believed to be near a moon called Hela, site of a theocracy. Aura, daughter of Ana Khouri (an ally of Remontoire) infiltrated the theocracy under the pseudonym Rashmika Els. After considerable conflict, Scorpio and Aura realised that contacting the Shadows was inadvisable. They instead contacted the Nestbuilders, who provided them with weapons capable of defeating the Inhibitors. As such, the Inhibitors were effectively eradicated from human space, with buffer zones and frontiers established to keep them at bay.
Humanity then enjoyed a second, 400-year-long golden age. After this, however, came the Greenfly outbreak, in which human civilisation was destroyed by a rogue terraforming system of human origin that destroyed planets and converted them to millions of orbiting, vegetation-filled habitats. The Greenfly began to subsume most of human space, with all efforts to stop them failing. The storyline of the Revelation Space universe thus far concludes with humanity leaving the Milky Way galaxy in an attempt to set up a new civilisation elsewhere.
All short stories and novellas in this universe to date are collected in Galactic North and Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days, with the exception of "Monkey Suit", "The Last Log of the Lachrimosa", "Night Passage", and "Open and Shut".
|Title||Chronological Setting||First Published||Format|
|Great Wall of Mars||AD 2205||2000||Novella|
|Galactic North||AD 2303–40000 (c.)||1999||Short story|
|Night Passage||AD 2338||2018||Short story|
|A Spy in Europa||AD 2330–2340 (c.)||1997||Short story|
|The Prefect/Aurora Rising||AD 2427||2007||Novel - Prefect Dreyfus Emergency #1|
|Open and Shut||AD 2427||2018||Prefect Dreyfus Short story|
|Elysium Fire||AD 2429||2018||Novel - Prefect Dreyfus Emergency #2|
|Diamond Dogs||AD 2500–2550 (c.)||2001||Novella|
|Monkey Suit||AD 2511||2009||Short story|
|Dilation Sleep||AD 2513–2540 (c.)||1990||Short story|
|Chasm City||AD 2517–2524 (c.)||2001||Novel - standalone|
|The Last Log of the Lachrimosa||AD 2530||2014||Short story|
|Turquoise Days||AD 2539-2541||2002||Novella|
|Grafenwalder's Bestiary||AD 2550 (c.)||2006||Novella|
|Revelation Space||AD 2524–2567||2000||Novel - Inhibitor Sequence #1|
|Redemption Ark||AD 2605–2651||2002||Novel - Inhibitor Sequence #2|
|Absolution Gap||AD 2615–3125||2003||Novel - Inhibitor Sequence #3|
|Inhibitor Phase||AD 2780–??||2021||Novel - Inhibitor Sequence #4|
I prioritise story over science but not at the expense of being really stupid about it. If there's a story I absolutely cannot tell without faster than light travel then I am quite prepared to accept it — even though I don't personally believe it is possible.