Elysium Fire. Book Review

Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds
Gollancz, h/b, 416pp, £18.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming

Two years after the Aurora Crisis and Panoply is facing another situation which threatens their continued existence. Codenamed Wildfire, citizens are dying. Without warning, their implants are overheating, killing citizens without any apparent connection. Despite all Panoply’s attempts to keep the situation contained, rumours are spreading. A revolutionary, Devon Garin, is using Wildfire and Panoply’s actions to stir civil unrest. Prefect Tom Dreyfus believes there is a connection between Garin and Wildfire. Unfortunately, the only person who can help him find the answers is Dreyfus’s nemesis; Aurora.

Elysium Fire is a superb return to the Glitter Band. The settings are characters in their own right, both unique and familiar. I felt like I was going back to a place I’d once visited.  Alistair Reynolds threads viewpoints and timelines together, revealing no more than is necessary and each one challenges all your previous assumptions.

For me, the thing which stands out in Elysium Fire is Reynolds’s focus on consequences. Every action or decision has a consequence even if it isn’t played out in the novel. Even among the prefects, there is no slack. They must abide by the law because they uphold it. Without the law, the prefects are nothing. We feel the frustration of the prefects, bound by the laws that govern their existence but questioned on every side. We understand the fears of the citizens who have witnessed the extent the prefects will go to protect them. We dread the consequences of Aurora’s interest in Dreyfus, even if we don’t know what they are yet.

Which leads me to my favourite part of this book; the ending. There is no happily ever after. There isn’t even a happy for now. There is just a resolution to the Wildfire crisis. Society has changed because of the actions taken by the prefects and their antagonists. This realism is haunting, lasting long after you’ve finished.

As much as anything, this is a book about redemption and forgiveness. Uncovering the truth behind the Wildfire Crisis leads the characters on journeys where they question everything they know and the impact of their actions. In resolving the crisis, there are opportunities for rectify past behaviours.

I am a massive fan of Alistair Reynolds and Elysium Fire didn’t disappoint. My first thought when finishing was “Is it wrong of me to start it again straight away?”

The answer is no. Like all good detective stories, the clues are there all along, but we can only appreciate them with a second reading. And a third. And a fourth.