The Prefect is a novel by Alastair Reynolds, set within his "Revelation Space" universe. Chronologically, it occurs before the main series and functions as a prequel, fleshing out the backstory of the fictional future history.It is the Belle Epoque, the peak of human society. Around the planet Yellowstone a ring of ten thousand orbital habits called "The Glitter Band" is known far and wide. Each habitat is a society unto itself, with its own rules and culture. Uniting them is the political philosophy of democratic panarchy, where the one and only universal law is that no citizen be denied the right to vote. Thus, the Glitter Band contains a myriad of possible human cultures, ranging from idyllic egalitarians who consciously limit the use of technology, Matrix-style worlds where everyone is plugged into a virtual world, and “voluntary tyrannies”, where citizens live under hellish regimes and have virtually no rights - aside, of course, from the right to vote.The closest thing to a governing agency is the Panoply, a quasi-police force whose main purpose is to investigate and prevent voting fraud. Despite having authority that’s limited by the voting will of the people, the Panoply wields enormous power in the Glitter Band, able to cut-off “abstraction” (Augmented Reality that most citizens rely on) to any habitat that decides to go rogue, neutering them. Though many Glitter Band citizens dislike the idea of the Panoply, most agree that the agency is necessary to maintain and protect the utter freedom that their democratic panarchy represents.During a sting operation on a vote-manipulating scam, Tom Dreyfus, a high-ranking Field Prefect, discovers a loophole in a habitat’s polling core logic. Realizing that other habitats could take advantage of the same loophole, he tasks his rookie partner Thalia Ng to install an emergency code fix across the Glitter Band. Meanwhile, he is dispatched to investigate the destruction of a habitat called Ruskin-Sartorious. Habitat destruction is a rare and serious occurrence, but it appears that Ruskin-Sartorious was hiding something. Something so monstrous, someone was willing to destroy the habitat to hide it.
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