Absolution Gap (spoilers!)

Warning: this page has many spoilers for Revelation Space, Chasm City, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap by Alastair Reynolds. If you haven't read them you probably don't want to read this page yet.

By the end of Absolution Gap, the war between the humans an Inhibitors has run its course, and new dangers have arisen. How does it all fit together?

The Evidence

Who Are The Shadows?

The Shadows only information available about the Shadows comes from themselevs, and should not be considered particularly reliable. Let's consider their claim to be fleeing something identical to the Greenfly first.

I think the third is the most likely. The Shadows are humans, Nestbuilders, Grubs, Jumper Clowns (or even, intriguingly, the Greenfly themselves). If they are "a lot like us" then from that set they were probably humans, successful in the war against the Inhibitors but unable to defeat the Greenfly. Aura wanders in AG epilogue how the Greenfly will react to the Pattern Jugglers; the evidence from the Shadows suggests that, depressingly, they make no difference.

If the Shadows are humans then it is beyond coincidence that Haldora is in the right place for human to find it: for some reason it has to be pre-Greenfly era humans who open the gate. The Scuttlers were useful for building the divine machinery, but if they'd let the Shadows through that would have been a bonus and nothing more.

Nestbuilders And Grubs

These seem to be in loose coalition (also with the Jumper Clowns). Why do they object to the Shadows? Possibly they know what the Shadows really want, perhaps from messages from their own descendants at the time the Shadows are signalling the Scuttlers or others (and know that it would be bad in some way). Some possibilities might be:

It is possible that the Exordium messages were transmitted using the same technology (or even the same implementation) as underlies the Grubs' instant communications system.

The Greenfly

Why can't these be defeated by the Shadows? It's suggested that the Inhibitors suppress them, yet the humans can't deal with the Greenfly (who are apparently relatively low-tech in origin) even after pushing back the Inhibitors. The suppression suggests a possible solution - make a deal with the Inhibitors which involves them eliminating the Greenfly (they'd probably be up for it).

The Shadows report that the weapons they tried against the Greenfly were worse than nothing - perhaps by the time the Greenfly got going they simply had too much of a head start. Or this could be a lie: perhaps the Shadows prefer the Greenfly-modified universe, but have used it up and need to start somewhere else. (Their own past seems a poor choice, however.)

Or perhaps the Shadows are the Greenfly, and are attempting to go back in time in order to avert impending defeat by the humans or others. I'm not quite convinced by this suggestion but it's an interesting idea.


However all is not lost. The Exordium discussion implies that there were several forks of the war between the humans and the Inhibitors, the first with the humans lacking even the Conjoiner drive, and the last seeing their eventual success. The same technique might be applied to the struggle against the Greenfly.

Further Information

Colin Dancer says I should read Galactic North from Interzone 415 to find out more about the Greenfly plague. More here when I've done so, perhaps...

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