Top critical review
The story kind of concludes but it's hardly compelling
Reviewed in the United States on February 24, 2020
I was 5-star impressed with "Revenger", the first novel in this sequence. Reynolds gave us a kind-of steampunk future that had a lot of interesting concepts, a mystery to solve, and some fish out of water protagonists to kick things along. We're into the third novel now and the gloss has come off. Indeed, it's a measure of how uninvolved I was that the Kindle version of "Bone Silence" dropped into my reading list at the end of January and I've only just finished it. And tellingly, this period included a couple of work trips where I had lots of time on my hands, time that I spent doing things other than reading this novel.
So, the basics are that the Ness sisters continue their quest to understand quoins and the repeating cycles of civilizations emerging from the ashes of prior epochs. They have a pirated pirate ship to do this in, and some determined enemies hunting them. It *should* make for a tense, taut thriller, and because it's science fiction, it *should* have a ton of engaging new concepts to capture our imagination and spirit us into our far future. But it doesn't. It's like Reynolds has run out of imaginative puff, and now we're left with a pretty pedestrian chase sequence, told almost exclusively in alternating 'one sister, the other sister' viewpoints that fail to capitalize on all the other viewpoints at play. Including some alien ones, that would have been particularly novel and its not like Reynolds can't convey sophisticated perspectives, he's certainly done that before.
The problem is that the problems Adrana and Arafura run into seem like padding. There is a HUGE mystery to solve in their little world, but it does not feel that it needs over 1,000 pages between three books, to solve it. If it's even solved. That's another niggle. I am not sure that this sequence is just a trilogy, the ending is so limp. Is another book coming?
Irrespective, I get that having set up a powerful mystery, you need a serious payoff for the reader, but it really did feel as though the big reveal was more "Hmmm" than "Wow". Which was a shame, because the hints of stranger things are pretty compelling. Quoins are clearly more than anyone expected based on the second novel, and Adrana has always had a bee in her bonnet about the crash and burn and start again that's been going on across deep time. I was keen to find out what it all meant. And I kind of did. But not really.
So, who to recommend this to. Obviously, reading "Revenger" and "Shadow Captain" is the price of admission for "Bone Silence", but should I now retrospectively suggest that if you've not read "Revenger" you shouldn't buy it? Honestly, I'm not sure. Reynolds is still a solid storyteller, but if I reflect on Peter F. Hamilton's latest, this seriously misses the mark. It is not bad science fiction. But it is not terrific either and across three books my star rating has gone five, then four, and now three. I don't think that Reynolds is dialing it in, but perhaps this sequence should have been two books instead of three and perhaps the editor could have been slashing and burning harder. Because, for me, this one has too much ho-hum narrative going on, and that's always going to be a disappointing read.