Nostalgia for Infinity: Hard Determinism and Hard Science in Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space Sequence

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This article examines Alastair Reynolds's Revelation Space sequence (with a focus on the trilogy Revelation Space [2000], Redemption Ark [2002], and Absolution Gap [2003]) as an intricate working-through of philosophical questions associated with the implications of free will and current understandings of quantum mechanics, a series of experiments conducted through the medium of fiction by a talented novelist with a background in space science and astrophysics. It is argued that Reynolds's fiction offers readers a credible compromise between the determinism described by classical physics and the “mere randomness” implied by quantum mechanics. Specifically, the Revelation Space sequence is shown to function as a laboratory of sorts, a successful translation of complex processes and theories from the cutting edge of physics (particularly the “Closed Timelike Curves” described by physicist David Deutsch) into a rich fictional tapestry that is itself underpinned by a contentious metaphysical debate over the primacy either of intuitively felt freedom or material determinism. In the process, Reynolds is shown to combine hard (that is realistic) science with an interrogation of hard determinism (the belief that every event derives from initial conditions), as well as of the so-called hard problem of consciousness (simply put: where does consciousness come from?).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-81
Number of pages19
JournalScience Fiction Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2019


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