Finished The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds, the latest book in the Revelation Space series.
Didn't much like the last one, Absolution Gap, mostly for its depressing and pointless ending, but one great thing about that is that it really ratchets up the suspense for this one, since you suspect that this author might do anything after that: you really can`t be sure that the goodies are going to win.
Really liked this one though. It's classic space opera, returning to the orbital civilization of the Glitter Band in its heyday, before the plague turned it into the Rust Belt. Each of the O'Neill colonies is an independent city state, and you get to see some of the variety of civilizations there, from matrix-like dormitories of people living in virtual reality, to augmented reality anarchies, to the Voluntary Tyrannies for those who like the smack of firm government. A small police force with highly limited powers binds it together politically, and the plot concerns a crisis they have to deal with.
Has a lot of tension, a fair amount of action, and some great Iain M. Banks-like set-pieces. Highly recommended.
Plot doesn't depend very much on reading the other novels, but if you're not used to this sort of thing and this is the first one you've read, you might find the setting a bit confusing.
Went to see the free Manet to Picasso thing at the National Gallery. It's not really a special exhibition: just has their regular collection redisplayed. Some great works there, but very crowded. Not that many kids but seemed to be mostly tourists. Lots of French ones which I suppose makes sense for an exhibition of French artists, but it's still only a miniscule sliver compared to what's in the big Parisian galleries.
Also tried to have a look at some of the Dutch and Flemish masters in preparation for my possible trip, but I'd forgotten just how much of that there is there. I remembered a few small rooms of elegant still lifes, but they've huge galleries of landscapes and seascapes as well.
Also popped round the corner to see the Between Worlds: Voyagers to Britain 1700 to 1850 exhibition at the National Portrait gallery: basically a round-up of the few period portraits of non-white people. Most of the big portraits are pretty dignified and sympathetic: the popular prints are more blatantly racist.
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