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Literature: Revelation Space Series
A Hard Sci-Fi Space Opera series by Welsh author Alastair Reynolds, where 26th century humans have achieved advanced nanotechnology and slower-than-light interstellar travel and find themselves needing to discover why all the other intelligent species they find evidence of seem to have gone mysteriously extinct.

The series includes:
  • Revelation Space
  • Redemption Ark
  • Absolution Gap
  • Chasm City: A prequel to Revelation Space
  • The Prefect: A prequel to Chasm City, set before the Melding Plague.
  • Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days: a pair of novellas unrelated to the main storyline but set within the same universe
  • Galactic North: A series of short stories set in the universe.


This series provides examples of:

  • Absolute Xenophobe: The Inhibitors, though they are Wicked Cultured and Affably Evil on the rare occassion when they make direct contact with humanity.
  • Abusive Precursors: And how. But it's played with, as the survival of humanity really DID eventually doom the universe.
  • Action Girl: Ilia Volyova, Ana Khouri. Often seen as Back-to-Back Badasses. Scorpio's old friend Orca Cruz is pretty Badass as well.
  • Aerith and Bob: Names range from common (Ilia, Boris, Nevil, Dan, Tom, John, Pascale, Nils, Martin) to less common (Ana, Xavier, Antoinette, Carine, Renzo, Lyle), to downright rare (Schuyler, Galiana, Tanner) or odd (particularly among Conjoiners: Skade, Remontoire, Felka, Aura etc.). And then there are the Awesome Mc Cool Name examples (Scorpio, Lasher, Blood, Beast), used mostly by the hyperpigs or self-aware AIs with a sense of humour.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
    • While the Inhibitors never actually stray from their mission of containing spacefaring life, depending on whose narration you trust they may have either started to question themselves near the end or started to become even more traditionally evil, drifting from using minimal force to simply killing for the sake of it.
    • Also the insane hospital ship in Nightingale and the galaxy-eating Greenfly robots from Absolution Gap and Galactic North.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated: A major plot point in Absolution Gap is the mysterious bridge above the eponymous chasm on Hela, considered to be an artefact of the extinct Scuttlers. This gets subverted at the end of the novel, when we learn that the bridge actually is a human-built structure, created by a maniac Skyjack artist a few centuries ago.
  • Alien Geometries:
    • The Inhibitor "jewel" in Revelation Space, and later the weapons humanity is forced to adopt against the Inhibitors.
    • Possibly the later stages of Blood Spire in Diamond Dogs, too.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Ana Khouri. Though concerning her roots on Sky's Edge and her given name, she probably has South American ancestry. (The surname is her husband's, who is of Middle Eastern descent.)
  • Anachronic Order: Omnipresent, as Reynolds rigorously obeys the constraints of relativistic time-dilation.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • The Melding Plague. It's totally harmless if you're a baseline human, but if you have any replicating nanotech in you, it will infect it and cause it to rapidly fail and go out of control. In Chasm City, a character mentions that if you have those implants in your head, your head will explode. And it can infect advanced buildings and vehicles as well. In Chasm City, inhabitants of high-tech buildings were trapped in the walls, visibly screaming in terror. The survivors of the disaster don't know if it's possible to revive them.
    • Don't let H catch you in the act of police brutality, especially if you're already a Brain in a Jar.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • Whenever the Inhibitors detect a starfaring species, they trigger an apocalypse of Species Extinction severity on all its planets. If that fails, they can step up as far as a Physical Annihilation one. At the end of the series, we know the greenfly infestation will eventually take over the whole universe, ergo a Universal scope.
    • Also, attempting superluminary travel has been known, according to the Inhibitors, to delete entire civilizations from the timeline.
  • Asteroid Miners: The Skyjacks. Transhuman cyborg spacers with detachable limbs and a surprising affinity for industrial-themed arts.
  • Badass Grandpa / Cool Old Guy: Nevil Clavain all the way. Dan Sylveste also has his moments. Scorpio matures into one during the main trilogy.
  • Badass Normal: A lot of the main characters, but Volyova probably takes the cake: MacGyvering ? Check. Batman Gambits ? Check. Deadpan Snarker ? Check. Smoking Is Cool ? Double check.
  • Badass Longcoat: Ana Khouri wears one while on a Shadowplay assasination assignment in Chasm City. They're also popular on Sky's Edge, where she was born.
  • Base on Wheels: The "cathedrals" and "caravans" of Hela's strange local chuches from Absolution Gap. Though some of them are actually built like giant Spider Tanks, including the first and greatest, Quaiche's Lady Morwenna.
  • BFG: The Breitenbach cannon, a portable particle beam weapon similar to a light machine gun. But since the series deliberately isn't built around gun fights and actiony scenes, it makes only brief appearances.
  • Big Dumb Object: Oodles of them, virtually in every Reynold's work. And particularly in this series. Often overlaps with Forgotten Superweapon, Lost Superweapon or Lost Technology.
  • Bio Punk: The Mixmasters sect and various people attempting genetic modification.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: We don't get to see many of the aliens, but the long-extinct Scuttlers appear to have been able to freely mix and match their limbs. It's speculated that they evolved in the equivalent of a crowded lobster tank, where it was advantageous not only to be able to drop a limb for a predator to grab, but to take it back if the predator doesn't eat it—or to grab someone else's that's been dropped.
  • Body Horror:
    • The Melding Plague.
    • And the eventual fate of Colonel Jax and the protagonists in the short story Nightingale.
  • Boring, but Practical: Spaceflight and space warfare in the series in general. Although the weapons and spacecraft involved are immensely powerful, they still have to deal with the immense distances and timeframes of sub-lightspeed interstellar travel, taking years (at the very least) to travel between stars.
  • Blast Out: Averted most of the time. The only bigger shoot outs occur at the end of Revelation Space and Absolution Gap and in some parts of Chasm City. Most of the action scenes avoid gunfights altogether.
  • Blue and Orange Morality:
    • The author himself has claimed that the ending to Galactic North, with the remnants of humanity fleeing the galaxy from the Greenfly that will eventually overcome the universe is "quite optimistic, in my book" because there's some time left before the inevitable annihilation of the universe. He must have a different standard than, oh, all of us carbon-based life forms.
    • Specifically, he compares that ending to past crises humanity has faced in real life. :His perspective on the looming annihilation of the universe is optimistic because there's still some time "...before things reach a crisis point again. And humanity will survive that, as well...". Don't worry, guys, the Horde of Alien Locusts will only be here in a few thousand years! I think we can take them! That goes beyond optimism.
    • The Inhibitors, at least initially, mainly owing to their thinking on a timescale insanely longer than most sentient races. They routinely wipe out whole spacefaring civilisations for the greater good - the greater good in this case being 'to make the crisis easier to navigate when the Milky Way collides with Andromeda'. Which it will do in approximately three billion years.
  • Brain Uploading: In the Revelation Space universe, behavioral simulations of people are common and full neural simulations also exist; there's also a neutron star that acts as a giant computer and uploads the neural patterns of anyone who gets close enough to it that its gravitational stresses will kill them.
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Antoinette Bax and her father in Redemption Ark.
  • Butt Monkey / Cosmic Plaything: A lot of the main characters have to undergo struggles with physical pain, mental stress or just plain old bad luck and bad timing (leading to various misunderstandings). Clavain, Khouri, Scorpio, Quaiche, Brannigan and Volyova all qualify. And the list goes on.
  • Casual Interplanetary Travel: In developed systems like Sol and Yellowstone, planetary travel is fairly cheap.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Averted. It takes decades to get between stars, and even getting a ride on a Lighthugger is rare outside of the core planets like Yellowstone. Border worlds may have a Lighthugger drop by only after a couple decades.
  • Colony Drop: In Absolution Gap, Ararat is devastated when its moon gets blown up during a battle against the Inhibitors. Earlier, they destroyed Resurgam by turning its sun into a giant flamethrower.
  • Cool Star Ship: The Nostalgia For Infinity, Zodiacal Light and Nightshade in the Revelation Space trilogy. Heck, any starship in the series, given how rare and hard to produce they are. The picture behind the link is Reynold's official lighthugger schematics.
  • Consummate Liar: Aura/Rashmika Els in Absolution Gap
  • Continuity Porn: A lot of the backstories of the major characters from the trilogy are explored in the standalone novels and it's often really interesting how many seemingly forgetable details from works set chronologically earlier become important plot elements later on. Also, expect many an Early-Bird Cameo in the standalones of the series (e. g. Khouri in Chasm City, though she's an Anonymous Ringer there).
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Chasm City, before the Melding Plague ruined everything.
  • Cyborg:
    • A lot of the future factions of humanity have transhumanist trappings and are usualy cyborg-lite, with various brain implants. The Conjoiners are a whole society of these, while the Ultras and Demarchists often have some simpler body implants as well.
    • A more straightforward example of this trope would be captain Brannigan from Revelation Space before he became consumed by the Melding Plague. Also, Skade from Redemption Ark, who has herself willingly tranformed into one after a near-fatal accident.
    • Doctor Trintignant from Diamond Dogs is absolutely obsessed with cyborgifying anyone he can get his hands on, including himself. Badly injured people are a great opportunity for him. Reynolds highlights this with this some snarky Black Comedy quips from the "good doctor" himself.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Averted in most of Reynolds' novels, but played with in Diamond Dogs. Although in fairness, in that novella it's more along the lines of "Modifying the fundamental structure that underlies your cognitive processes may have deleterious effects on your personality"; a similar thought is explored in another book with Skade, who temporarily disables her vomit reflex while working in space to prevent the disparity between her visual and inner-ear sensory inputs from convincing her brain that she's been poisoned and triggering emesis, i.e., making her puke her guts up. She notes to herself that becasue the brain is messy and holographic, even small changes like this have decidedly peculiar knock-on effects on perception and cognition.
  • Culture Chop Suey:
    • A given, with humanity being quite a cosmopolitan mix during the events of the trilogy, especially on old and densely inhabited colony worlds like Yellowstone. Nationalities play a far lesser role than back on Earth and the main new political and social divisions are purely idelogical factions (such as the Conjoiners, the Demarchists, the Ultranauts, etc.). Some characters' names give obvious hints about a great mixing of nationalities (e.g. Pauline Sukhoi, Xavier Liu, Gillian Sluka). The Demarchist language is said to be "Canasian", a fusion of Chinese and Quebecois French.
    • Yellowstone is a cosmopolitan mix of a planet, settled mostly by American, European and East Asian colonists. Sky's Edge was settled by Latin American, Middle Eastern and Central Asian nationalities. The most interesting inhabitants are those of Turquoise, descended from people with Inuit and Thai ancestry.
  • Death by Origin Story: Calvin Sylveste and, to an extent, Carine Lefevre. Khouri's ill-fated first husband, Fazil (though by the end of Absolution Gap, it's implied that he's Back from the Dead). Yay.
  • Death World: The All Planets Are Earth-Like trope gets a major kick in the shins in this series. The most Earth-like planet mentioned is Sky's Edge, which is full of hostile life that is biologically incompatible with Earth life. Eating it will kill you (and vice versa, but the local predators haven't figured this out and will happily eat you - yes, they will die almost instantly, but that's hardly likely to be a comfort to you) or, possibly, do nothing. Then there are the Pattern Jugglers - algae-like Starfish Aliens inhabiting planets with global oceans - that usually act benign, but once in a while someone who swims with them doesn't come back, comes back wrong, or worse. Also, Yellowstone, the most important and most populated interstellar colony of humanity, has an atmosphere and surface very similar to Saturn's moon Titan, so only the giant domed settlements (like Chasm City or Loreanville) and orbital habitats are actualy populated. Pretty much all planets in the series are either uninhabitable, barely habitable (without advanced tech) or habitable, but full of Everything Trying to Kill You.
  • Death from Above: Threatened by Volyova in Revelation Space, who uses one of her ship's smallest weapons to devastating effect as a warning to the inhabitants of Resurgam. She also has access to teratonne-yield nukes and "hell class" weapons that could conceivably shatter worlds (and indeed do, on one occasion).
  • Deconstruction: A hard sci-fi decon of the Space Opera subgenre, with some liberal applying of Reconstruction here and there. For a start, there's no Casual Interstellar Travel at all and the author goes to great lenghts to examine the ramifications of this simple fact on the setting and personal fates of the characters (Khouri's tale being a prime example). The classic scifi trope of faster-than-light travel is only actually attempted once in the series, and it destroys the ship trying to use it.
  • Defector from Decadence: Nevil Clavain. He defected twice in his life: First in The Great Wall of Mars, when he joined the Conjoiners after he had learned the Coalition for Neural Purityhad lied about their nature and only wanted to destroy them. Then, centuries later (during the events of Redemption Ark), he defected from the Conjoiners once a younger and far more radical inner faction (led by Skade) had taken over and wanted to leave the rest of humanity defenceless against the Inhibitors, instead of offering help.
  • Description Porn: Reynolds loves this. It occasionally veers into near-Purple Prose territory.
  • Deus ex Machina:
    • The ending of Revelation Space does this in the case of the fate of three of the main characters. Though it's at least explained thouroughly.
    • At the end of Absolution Gap , when it is revealed that the Inhibitors were defeated with the assistance of a mysterious alien race which had been hiding behind the scenes all along.
  • Distant Finale: The last chapter in Absolution Gap ends with the Greenfly terraformers eating up entire solar systems and surrounding them with jungle habitats, slowly converting the entire universe into uninhabitable, green stars. Humanity ultimately evolves into godlike machines, but still can't defeat the Greenfly.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him:
    • Thorn (as a Bus Crash) and Felka between Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap. Also, Antoinette and Xavier in Absolution Gap.
  • Downer Ending: The epilogue of Absolution Gap suggests that there will be no happy ever afters for anyone, ever again.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Inhibitors and the Shadows.
  • Electronic Eyes: Dan Sylveste. They're made using local parts on Resurgam, which means they're really terrible. His eyes break from a flashbang like device, and then can only see greens.
  • Emergency Transformation: In the short story The Great Wall of Mars, a life-or-death situation is what finally forces the protagonist to join the Conjoiners. He later pays it forward by giving a comatose Volyova a medichine infusion despite her phobia of them in Redemption Ark.
  • Eternal English:
    • Averted. Though the stories are all in English via Translation Convention, it is clearly stated that human languages 500 years in the future have continued to further evolve. Notable examples are the two main lingua francas: Norte and Can-asian. In a throwaway comment, Volyova refers to her native language as "Russish", not "Russian".
    • Even lampshaded: During Galactic North, there is a request for a burial at C (shooting the casket forward while just before decelerating), "An old joke that only worked in a long forgotten language."
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Quaiche's tragically deceased lover Morwenna. Though bear in mind that Quaiche himself is more of an Anti-Villain.
  • Exact Words: In "Nightingale," the hospital ship Nightingale tells the narrator that she and her compatriots can leave "in one piece" after they've seen and retrieved Colonel Jax. Unfortunately, what the ship means is that the entire group will be surgically melded together into a single, monstrous whole.
  • Fantastic Religious Weirdness:
    • Revelation Space and Chasm City show a new, monastic-esque faith - the Ice Mendicants - whose clergy and members are dedicated to protecting, helping or healing people who've awakened from reefersleep after an interstellar journey (particularly those who were less lucky). They're sort of like the original version of The Knights Hospitallers during The Crusades, before they became more of a Warrior Monk order. Also, they're one of the few new religions that are closer to Saintly Church rather than Corrupt Church.
    • Also, as seen in Chasm City the various religious cults that sprang up on Sky's Edge after the life, deeds and supposed death of the colony's controversial founder, Sky Hausmann, passed into legend. Some of the more avid cults even went so far as to engineer special biomechanic nanoviruses to forcefully indoctrinate unsuspecting people or opponents into new followers of their faith. This becomes a major Chekhov's Gun in the backstory of Horris Quaiche from Absolution Gap (who founds his own bizzaro religion, based on a mishmash of old Earth faiths and his own traumatic experiences enhanced by the virus). Absolution Gap generally goes far deeper into this trope, often to the point of Deconstruction and subsequent Reconstruction.
  • Fantastic Slurs:
    • Yellowstonian Demarchists call Conjoiners "spiders" and rogue Demarchists, Skyjacks and Ultras "zombies". The "spider" nickname was also used by the Coalition for Neural Purity seen in the chronologically earliest installments of the series. Conjoiners refer to baseline humans as "the retarded".
    • In-Series Nickname: The Yellowstonians (and apparently people from other terrestrial planets as well) often refer to themselves as "Stoners".
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Theoretically possible, but very, very risky, hence the preference for the far more restrictive slower than light travel used by humanity. Skade and her crew tries to brake the light barrier in Redemption Ark thanks to some alien Applied Phlebotinum upgrades built into Nightshade. It doesn't end well...
  • Five-Man Band
    • Hard to define, but in general:
    • The Hero: Ana Khouri. In Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap onward, she and Clavain tend to alternate in being The Hero and the Deuteragonist/Supporting Protagonist.
    • The Lancer: Ilia Volyova to Khouri, Remontoire to Clavain
    • The Smart Guy: Dan Sylveste in Revelation Space, Nevil Clavain in Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap.
    • The Big Guy: Scorpio (even though he isn't physically tall or big to begin with)
    • The Chick: Ana Khouri, Pascale Sylveste, Felka
    • Sixth Ranger: Thorn, Xavier Liu, Antoinette Bax, Vasko Malinin
  • Flying Car: The volantors of pre-plague Chasm City. Appear explicitly in the opening chapter of Diamond Dogs.
  • Forgotten Superweapon:
    • The "Cache Weapons" aboard Nostalgia for Infinity.
    • A lesser example in the first Revelation Space novel, which features Powered Armor suits that are never mentioned in later books, though there are several stituations in which they would make a huge difference. Then again, they would likely have been destroyed/corrupted when the Melding Plague / The Captain took over the ship; this is plausible, since they also appear in Diamond Dogs, which is mostly set in the pre-Plague era.
  • For the Evulz: Averted by most villainous characters, but played straight by the infamous dictator of the planet Haven, mentioned in Turquoise Days.
  • Future Imperfect: Antoinette Bax mentions that the first astronaut was named Neil Gagarin. Also, various throwaway snippets about Earth history by several other characters.
  • Genius Loci: The Nostalgia for Infinity from the main trilogy, after the Captain's intelligence is spread throughout its systems by the Melding Plague. Also, many enviroments overtaken by the Melding Plague in general. A more unrelated example of this trope is Blood Spire in Diamond Dogs.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Horris Quaiche's backstory in Absolution Gap concerns his firm slip into depression and insanity after the woman he loved died by accident while he managed to survive and get rescued . This is not helped at all by the fact that he's got a special nano virus implanted into his body. It serves to pacify him via indoctrination by presenting hallucinations showing random religious imagery from Earth's history. And it always goes off in situations where he becomes overloaded by grief, anger or other negative emotions. So take a wild guess what happens to him once he finds out about the death of his significant other.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: The names of the various spacecraft. Seriously: The Pelican in Impiety, Storm Bird, Faint Memory of Hokusai, etc.
  • Grand Theft Me:
    • What the Captain did to Sajaki prior to the events of Revelation Space.
    • Also played straight and subverted by Calvin Sylveste, who had originally engineered Dan Sylveste as a clone of himself to make it easier to possibly imprint a copy of himself into Dan's brain. While he does do this near the end of the book (and already did it once), it's more of a two people/one body relationship.
    • In Chasm City this is inverted. Cahuella overwrites himself with Tanner's personality in order to dodge his enemies, though this may qualify as more of a Memory Gambit gone wrong, as he gets better, more or less.
  • Gratuitous Russian: Volyova, but only when she gets particularly frustrated or angry (so it's mostly limited to swear words or snarky comments), and with fairly bad Russian grammar at that (she doesn't seem to differentiate between singular and plural forms of her favourite cussword). It is mentioned, however, that her language, "Russish", is not the same as modern Russian.
  • Great Offscreen War: The first war between the Conjoiners and baseline humanity, on Mars, is this for most of the series. We do see a small bit of it in Galactic North though.
  • Great White Hunter: The hamadryad hunters on Sky's Edge.
  • Gun Porn: The Warchive aboard the Nostalgia for Infinity, which can reproduce any weapon from recorded human history. Volyova and Khouri make good use of it at the end of Revelation Space, when they need to arm themselves. Then they destroy it, just in case the attacking force takes control of the entire ship.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: The Greenfly. They become the Bigger Bad after the Inhibitors are defeated. Diabolus ex Machina, anyone ?
  • Human Popsicle: Most starship passengers, as it's either cryo or spend years or decades awake between stars.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Shadowplay, in which the bored, virtually immortal residents of Chasm City are hunted by professional assassins according to pre-agreed rules. The game is set up so most of the clients survive, in order that people will keep paying for the thrill-seeking experience.
  • Chekhov's Gun / Chekhov's Skill: Lots and lots in each installment of the series.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder / We Are Struggling Together: The original crew of the Nostalgia for Infinity.
  • I Thought Everyone Could Do That: Rashmika doesn't lie, because she's a Living Lie Detector and assumes everyone else is too.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • "Servitors" for robots (non-sentient worker ones, but still).
    • What is this "cryogenics" you speak of? It's called "reefersleep", dammit! And flying cars are "volantors", get it?
  • Intelligent Gerbil: Some of the less out-there alien species. A subversion, since they're few and far between and by the time starfaring humans discover them, they're usualy already extinct.
    • The Amarantin were an advanced humanoid avian species from the planet later known as Resurgam, a formerly Earth-like world orbiting Delta Pavonis. The reasons behind their disapperance and the planet turning to a barely habitable rocky wasteland drive the central mystery in Revelation Space.
    • Implied to be the original biological form of individual Inhibitors, before they transformed themselves into a completely artificial species. Their former outward appearance was seemingly canine-like, gaining them the nickname "wolves" among humans.
  • Interfaith Smoothie: Horris Quaiche from Absolution Gap and the religions founded by him after he goes mad from grief and the influence of the indoctrination virus.
  • Invisible Aliens Made necessary by the Inhibitors.
  • Jerk Ass: Dan Sylveste.
  • Little Hero, Big War: To the point that in Absolution Gap, humanity largely isn't saved by their own efforts at all, but by the abovementioned Invisible Aliens deciding that the Inhibitors have finally become weak enough for them to reveal themselves and fight them. This is revealed in passing in the epilogue - not so much part of the story as just an incidental fact of how history played out—but see the note after Deus ex Machina above for an alternate view on that point.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Clavain for Felka.
  • Living Lie Detector: Aura/Rashmika Els.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: You bet ! And due to the author's love of Anyone Can Die, the only character from the trilogy still alive by its end is Ana Khouri.
  • Mainlining the Monster: In Chasm City, an alien marooned on Yellowstone is the only source of a drug that can suppress the melding plague.
  • Man in the Machine: Disembodied brains in Conjoiner drives.
  • Meaningful Name: In-universe, Cahuella.
  • Meanwhile, in the Future: A given, with all the Time Dilation and Anachronic Order going on. A big part of the plot for the first third of Revelation Space and Absolution Gap.
  • Memory Gambit: Tanner Mirabel/Cahuella in Chasm City, and Aura in Absolution Gap.
  • Mind Virus: Features in some of the novels. Chasm City has a virus that gives it's victims dreams of a cult leader's messiah, along with slowly altering their thoughts until they are believers.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Doctor Trintignant from Diamond Dogs, Grelier from Absolution Gap.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Grelier is surprisingly loyal to Quaiche, even after he learns about what he had planned and done.
  • Mysterious Antarctica / Grim Up North: Resurgam from Revelation Space and the moon Hela from Absolution Gap are a sci-fi variation of this. Diadem from the short story Glacial starts out with a characterization like this, but it gets subverted at the end.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: "The Inhibitors", "the Shadows", "the Melding Plague" (as well as "the Uncontained" from Pushing Ice)
  • Naming Your Colony World:
    • Symbolica: Torquoise, Spindrift, Haven, Diadem, Sky's Edge, Resurgam (Latin for "I will rise again")
    • Mnemosyme: Hades, Cerberus (Greek mythology), Hela, Haldora (Norse mythology), Roc (giant bird from Persian/Oriental mythology), Zion, Ararat, Golgotha (Biblical), Fand (Irish mythology)
    • Named The Same: Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier (US National Parks), Ararat (since it's an actual mountain in the real world as well, not only mythical)
    • Planet Shout-Out: Tangerine Dream (see Shout-Out section below).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • What Dan Sylveste and the Nostalgia's crew unwillingly put into motion at the end of Revelation Space.
    • In the third book of the Revelation Space trilogy, the Inhibitors are finally wiped out; however, it is implied that their absence is what allows a swarm of von Neumann machines to eventually consume literally the entire universe. As such this also counts as an Inferred Holocaust.
  • Non-Action Guy: Dan Sylveste in Revelation Space and most of the cast in Diamond Dogs.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The Hell class weapons aboard Nostalgia for Infinity. Justified, as the weapons were built to plans received through Exordium; the Conjoiners were so scared by both what they'd created, and how they had created them, that they deliberately destroyed the plans and made no attempt to build more of them.
  • Ocean Punk:
    • Any planet inhabited by the Pattern Jugglers, particularly the ones with established human colonies, e.g. Turquoise (deliberate colonization), Ararat (colonization by necessesity). The Jugglers favour wide open oceanic enviroments, so this is pretty much a given.
    • The Subaru Commonwealth colonies in the Pleaides star cluster, glimpsed in the short story Galactic North. They're a Juggler-less example.
  • Off With Your Head:
    • Revelation Space has space suits with helmets designed to decapitate a person when the suit is breached, then cryo-freeze the head. This allows the person to be revived with prosthetics.
    • Jane Auntmonier in The Prefect, as part of a gambit to save her life. She gets better.
  • Old Shame / Creator Backlash:
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Dan Sylveste and his father, Calvin.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: The plot of Diamond Dogs is a deconstruction of this trope and the characters.
  • The Ophelia: Felka.
  • Oracular Urchin: Aura again.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: The "Denizens", who were created by genetic engineering and are thorough fusions of human and fish DNA, along with sequences to secrete antifreeze and let them breathe hydrogen sulfide instead of oxygen. They look thoroughly monstrous.
  • Path of Inspiration: The Quaicheist churches of Hela.
  • Pig Man: Hyperpigs, most notably Scorpio and Sparver.
  • Earth All Along: Looks like the "Shadows" are humanity in the far future, after the Diabolus ex Machina of the epilogue curbstomps the universe with nanotech. The brane allowed them to contact their past, yet they didn't think to warn us about the greenfly, did they? Where's the Melding Plague when you really need it? Alternatively, why didn't Exordium warn anyone? [[spoiler: Though they did try the Melding Plague. It didn't work...
  • Powered Armor: The "suits" are a very versatile example of this trope.
  • Praetorian Guard / Knight Templar / Church Militant: The Cathedral Guard in Absolution Gap.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: The first Conjoiners and Doctor Trintignant.
  • Projected Man: Many of the entoptic simulations and personal avatars.
  • Psycho for Hire: Grelier in Absolution Gap and pretty much any less than sympathetic Ultranaut or bounty hunter in the series.
  • Ragnarok-Proofing: The aversion is a major plot point of Revelation Space. In Absolution Gap, it's played straight with the Scuttlers' gravity radio (millions of years old), but averted with the Inhibitors devolving and ultimately being defeated after only a quarter of their four-billion-year mission.
  • Reality Ensues: Pretty much the reason why Applied Phlebotinum is not always an instant solution to everything. The series is generally very down to earth in what humans can achieve even with highly advanced or reverse-engineered alien tech. For instance, Khouri's entire previous life gets wrecked because of a bureaucratic mistake that puts her and her husband on two different lighthuggers. Since Casual Interstellar Travel is non-existant in the series and crossing from one system to the other can take decades (even in reefersleep), her chances of meeting him again during her lifetime have dropped to nearly zero.
  • Really 700 Years Old:
    • The Captain is very old. He is implied to have been a member of NASA, or the near-future equivalent. His middle name is Armstrong, actually.
    • Also, Nevil Clavain (born in the 22. century) is one of the oldest still living Conjoiners during the events of the main trilogy (which takes place in the 26.-28. century). When he dies in Absolution Gap and the news about his demise appears on the local TV news, Vasko Malinin notes that it's strange to see a birth and death date separated by five centuries.
    • The Ultranaut crews (and pretty much anyone who takes a lighthugger from one planetary system to the other) can live very long lives thanks to the relativistic travel speeds of interstellar spacecraft.
  • Ret Gone: This is a danger of trying to build inertia-dampening fields and similar technology. A bad enough malfunction doesn't merely vaporize you but retroactively erases you, or your entire civilization, from existence.
  • Rocks Fall Everybody Dies: In Absolution Gap , the Greenfly appears, the universe ends and the reader feels like their soul has been removed with pliers.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: Averted to virtually hilarious degrees by Volyova in Revelation Space. But even such a skilled and resourceful badass like her isn't Made of Iron, so she eventually gets hit hard by this trope in the second half of Redemption Ark (it's handled pretty subtly though).
  • Sapient Ship: Nightingale, the Nostalgia For Infinity after the melding plague takes over, and Antoinette's ship
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Inhibitors live and breathe this trope and even self-justify their ultimate goals in a Well-Intentioned Extremist type of way.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Nevil Clavain is often a tragic Anti-Hero because he selflessly sacrifices a lot (including many things dear to him) in order to help those in need, even if they're oblivious to the coming threat and don't believe him.
  • Schizo Tech: A corollary of the Used Future setting, and often a result of the Melding Plague's effect on Nano Machines. In Chasm City, the well-off inhabitants of the lower city use steam powered vehicles, despite there being laser rifles and interstellar travel. The Melding Plague apparently affects everything beyond 20th century technology. And the inhabitants of the Canopy ride around in cars that grip onto cables in the air, have laser pistols, and live in the remains of the horribly mutated buildings of Chasm City.
    • Steam Never Dies: * Lampshaded, justified and visually subverted in Chasm City, where the titular metropolis on the planet Yellowstone is connected with its outlying spaceport via a train powered by a steam locomotive. While the protagonist is a bit shocked by this fact at first, he discovers that the train's appearance and furnishings are decidedly aerodynamic, hi-tech and modern. The bullet-shaped steam locomotives only came into service because a nanotech plague devastated the city years ago, rendering a lot of sensitive electronics and electric-based equipment aboard the original types too risky to use. The steam itself is not produced by burning fuel, but is mined from the titular chasm of the planet, which wents it in large quantities, along with organic gases.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Diamond Dogs has two of them in a sequence where the protagonist's party, about to enter a lethal maze, are dream-fed similar scenarios in case they help:
    'I had the same dream,' I said, wonderingly. 'And there was another dream in which I was inside somekind- of I halted, waiting for the words to assemble in my head. 'Some kind of underground tomb. I remember being chased down a corridor by an enormous stone ball which was going to roll over me.'
    'My God, yes.' I grinned like a madman. 'I lost my hat, and I felt this ridiculous urge to rescue it!'
    • And:
    Celestine broke the silence, turning to Hirz. 'Did you have the one about the cubes, too?'
    'Christ, yes,' the infiltration specialist said, as if suddenly remembering. 'The cubes. What about you, Richard?' 'Indeed,' I answered, flinching at the memory of that one. I had been one of a party of people trapped inside an endless series of cubic rooms, many of which contained lethal surprises. 'I was cut into pieces by a trap, actually. Diced, if I remember accurately.'
    'Yeah. Not exactly on my top ten list of ways to die, either.'
    • There is also another Shout-Out implicit in the title, to David Bowie's album Diamond Dogs (which was based loosely on George Orwell's 1984).
    • It doesn't end there: Reynolds is a self-confessed fan of 70s and 80s music, and it shows... A gas giant in the same system as Yellowstone (Epsilon Eridani) is called Tangerine Dream. Pre-Plague Yellowstone's ring of orbital habitats is called The Glitter Band. And the very name of the Pattern Jugglers may be a reference to a verse from King Crimson's well-known song In The Court Of The Crimson King.
    • The name of Roland Childe and his feverish attempts to decipher the secret of Blood Spire in Diamond Dogs is a reference to a verse from King Lear: "Child Rowland to the dark tower came, His word was still 'Fie, foh, and fum, I smell the blood of a British man."
    • Chasm City refers to Ultra-supplied built-in eye night vision as "eyeshine".
  • Shown Their Work: Reynolds is a former astronomer and a former ESA employee.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Scorpio, natch. Khouri, Volyova and Bax also have their moments.
  • Space Brasilia: Averted, particularly by the shantytown-like cities on Sky's Edge. The "historical" buildings were actually often built from cargo containers and prefabricated materials and the newer ones are more natural. Most town squares in the oldest cities of Sky's Edge have a triangular shape, since they were built around the triangular atmospheric shuttles that brought the colonists to the planet's surface from the orbiting Generation Ship. Also, Chasm City on the planet Yellowstone has enough variability in its architectural history, even though it's a typical high-tech metropolis.
  • Space Does Not Work That Way: Averted all the way. Related to the Shown Their Work entry.
  • Space Elevator: On Sky's Edge in Chasm City.
  • Space Pirate: The Banshees pretty much fit the bill and are a thoroughly unromantic version of the trope. The Ultra(naut)s often have elements of this, but are not necessarily antagonistic.
  • Space Western:
    • Bizarrely, even though the setting looks generally un-westernly, there are some elements of this trope thrown in - particularly in places like the Rust Belt and the Mulch on Yellowstone (lawlesness, smugglers, organized crime), or on Resurgam and Hela in general (pioneer settlements, backwater planets, unexplored wastelands, fairly low-tech infrastructure and econonomy, trucker-like travelers and workers). In the case of Resurgam and Hela, it's a crossover between Space Western and Mysterious Antarctica: Polar Explorer Western IN SPACE !
    • Chasm City is probably the best example of this, since it's mostly set on the habitable, but commercially backwater planet of Sky's Edge, torn by politicking and territorial wars between the colonists. Though it's kinda a mixed bag there: Space Western, but crossed with a Banana Republic slash Darkest Africa kind of enviroment.... IN SPACE !
  • Spirit Advisor:
  • Stable Time Loop:
    • Implied in The Prefect Specifically, in relation to the nature of the Mademoiselle and the Melding Plague.
    • Also, possibly the origin of the Shadows, as their universe was being eaten by rogue terraformers, and at the end of Absolution Gap, the Greenfly was just starting to consume this universe.
  • Starfish Aliens: Several, most notably the Pattern Jugglers, the Shrouders, the Grubs, the Scuttlers and the Nestbuilders.
  • The Stars Are Going Out: By the end of Absolution Gap the stars are going green !
  • Stealth in Space: Humans discover a loophole in thermodynamics that they use for this. Before that, they sometimes can fake it for short periods of time by using ships with very tightly collimated thrust.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Reynolds has a rather annoying tendency to kill off a lot of the principal characters from the main trilogy in each installment. A good indicator of who will die next is when you notice they've been Demoted to Extra.
  • The Atoner: Captain John Brannigan. The only crime mentioned is that he overwrote the brain patterns of his first mate, and replaced them with his own brain patterns, effectively 'killing' the person as he was. It's implied he's done worse.
  • Time Dilation: Ubiquitous.
  • Title Drop:
    • The last words of the fourth chapter of Revelation Space.
    • Redemption Ark also has a less straightforward one in one of the end chapters. It's also a general motif for what's going on in that novel captain Brannigan slowly becoming an atoner and the Nostalgia evacuating Resurgam.
    • At the end of a chapter in Absolution Gap, when Grelier mentions the alternate name of "Ginnungagap Rift" in his internal monologue.
    • The middle of the tenth (or so) chapter of Diamond Dogs.
    • The opening quote of Turquoise Days.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Volyova and Khouri, to an extent. Khouri doesn't fit the stereotype fully, since she's an accomplished and more than capable former soldier.
  • Transhuman Treachery: Nearly always averted, but...
    • Aurora in The Prefect is an instance.
    • Often invoked in-universe by people opposed to the Conjoiners and their way of life.
  • Truly Single Parent: Calvin Sylveste in Revelation Space.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Oh, you've managed to alert the Inhibitors, ey, humanity ? Run, just RUN. And fight back as much as you can. They WILL NOT GIVE UP.
  • The Everyman / Unfazed Everyman:
    • Ana Khouri is the most ordinary of the trilogy's main cast. Unsurprisingly, she's also technically The Hero. And she's the only major character who survives throughout the entire trilogy. If you don't count the good old Nostalgia for Infinity and captain Brannigan, that is...
    • Also Vasko Malinin from Absolution Gap.
  • The Unpronounceable: A lot of Conjoiners' real names, consisting as they do of "a string of interiorised qualia" are this.
  • Unflinching Walk: At the end of Absolution Gap.
  • Uplifted Animal: The hyperpigs and hyperprimates.
  • Used Future: So very used. Let's just say that during the era in which the main trilogy is set, most of the glory days of the human interstellar colonies are only a distant memory.
  • Villain Protagonist: The short stories A Spy in Europa, Grafenwalder's Bestiary and large parts of Chasm City.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Khouri towards her daughter Aura.
  • We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future: Averted in The Great Wall of Mars.
  • What a Piece of Junk: The Nostalgia For Infinity in the Revelation Space series. It's falling to pieces, with some sections entirely exposed to vacuum or overran by corrupted or broken machines, but it's by far the most powerful and deadly ship in known space - before it gets the alien technology. The hell-class weapons it carries could presumably raze the surface of a planet.
  • What Happened to the Mouse? / Left Hanging: Several storylines in the trilogy weren't resolved at all, particularly the whole case about The Mademoiselle.
  • Wretched Hive: The crime and decay ridden lower and ground-level parts of post-Plague Chasm City, known collectively as The Mulch.
  • X Meets Y: Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri meets 2001: A Space Odyssey meets Event Horizon meets regular Space Opera.
  • Zen Survivor: Horris Quiache from Absolution Gap is a particularly dark and tragic example of this.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Airships of the blimp variety (so not actual zeppelins) are used for transport and research purposes on Turquoise and for military scouting and gunship support on Sky's Edge.

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