Book Review: The Prefect (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency #1) by Alastair Reynolds

The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4 stars)
Publisher: Gollancz

I came across the short story Vainglory by Alastair Reynolds in the collection Edge of Infinity and remembered that I had a few of his novels in my TBR pile and owned them in ebook and analog. He's apparently an author whose stories I've been drawn to but hadn't actually got around to reading and I was merely collecting.

Vainglory, introduced me to a Prefect and the Glitter Band and motivated me to buy both The Prefect and Elysium Fire because I really wanted to know more about this place, it's inhabitants and legal and political structure & process (I'm a sucker for the latter two). In short, I'm sorry it took me so long because it was well worth the read.

This is the first book I've read in this universe but what I lacked in knowledge and familiarity of this place, was made up for in enthusiasm to get to know it and great description and world-building basically did the rest. Societies of all sorts are available to get a look-in here from recognizable and unrecognizable democracies, to fantastical colonies where the inhabitants have physically altered themselves to live in water or no longer have physical bodies, to de Sade level decadent where the line between hunting and predation is terrifically fine. And we get to visit these places with the Prefects, the law enforcement body in Panoply. Tom Dreyfuss and his team go from investigating polling irregularities (fascinating all on its own) to the epic destruction of a habitat with 1000 members. The investigation ensues and over the course of the story, it seems there's treachery everywhere. The AIs have as much an agenda as do various human factions and still, there are more players on the board, unseen but prime movers still. It was impressive and dizzying as the plot developed and unfurled.

I quite enjoyed the thread with Thalia as she went off and did her part of the investigative work. I also have to give points to some memorably grisly descriptions of the ways in which people have come up with to dispatch others. Admittedly, some of those will stay with me because I was shocked by the methods and impressed by the writer's breadth of imagination on the subject. Also in the harrowing and cringing category is the whip hound as an instrument of weaponry that exacts some particularly heinous damage. One character survived such an encounter but the damage to her is fairly permanent and devastating. Every time someone simply took one out to threaten use on someone, my stomach clenched and the characters also responded in kind. That's some effective writing, in my world. The big questions that societies face throughout its time are asked here and among them, my personal favourite: Which is better, Benevolent Dictatorship/Tyranny or state-collapse anarchy?

I'd definitely recommend this if you're a fan of science fiction and particularly the sort that gets deep into the structural set up of a society. Or if you like murder mystery mixed with your science fiction, this could be for you. I'll be reading Elysium Fire and it won't be years from now.

Summary:  Tom Dreyfus is a Prefect, a policeman of sorts, and one of the best. His force is Panoply, and his beat is the multi-faceted utopian society of the Glitter Band, that vast swirl of space habitats orbiting the planet Yellowstone. These days, his job is his life.
A murderous attack against a Glitter Band habitat is nasty, but it looks to be an open-and-shut case - until Dreyfus starts looking under some stones that some very powerful people would really rather stayed unturned. What he uncovers is far more serious than mere gruesome murder...

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