Alastair Reynolds - Chasm City (Revelation Space 2)

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Dear Newcomer,

Welcome to the Epsilon Eridani system.

Despite all that has happened, we hope your stay here will be a pleasant one. For your information we have compiled this document to explain some of the key events in our recent history. It is intended that this information will ease your transition into a culture which may be markedly different from the one you were expecting to find when you embarked at your point of origin. It is important that you realise that others have come before you. Their experiences have helped us shape this document in a manner designed to minimise the shock of cultural adjustment. We have found that attempts to gloss over or understate the truth of what happened-of what continues to happen-are ultimately harmful; that the best approach-based on a statistical study of cases such as yours-is to present the facts in as open and honest manner as possible.

We are fully aware that your initial response is likely disbelief, quickly followed by anger and then a state of protracted denial.

It is important to grasp that these are normal reactions.

It is equally important to grasp-even at this early stage-that there will come a time when you will adjust to and accept the truth. It might be days from now; it might even be weeks or months, but in all but a minority of cases it will happen. You might even look back upon this time and wish that you could have willed yourself to make the transition to acceptance quicker than you did. You will know that it is only when that process is accomplished that anything resembling happiness becomes possible.

Let us therefore begin the process of adjustment.

Due to the fundamental lightspeed limit for communication within the sphere of colonised space, news from other solar systems is inevitably out of date; often by decades or more. Your perceptions of our system's main world, Yellowstone, are almost certainly based on outdated information.

It is certainly the case that for more than two centuries-until, in fact, the very recent past-Yellowstone was in thrall to what most contemporary observers chose to term the Belle Epoque. It was an unprecedented social and technological golden age; our ideological template seen by all to be an almost perfect system of governance.

Numerous successful ventures were launched from Yellowstone, including daughter colonies in other solar systems, as well as ambitious scientific expeditions to the edge of human space. Visionary social experiments were conducted within Yellowstone and its Glitter Band, including the controversial but pioneering work of Calvin Sylveste and his disciples. Great artists, philosophers and scientists flourished in Yellowstone's atmosphere of hothouse innovation. Techniques of neural augmentation were pursued fearlessly. Other human cultures chose to treat the Conjoiners with suspicion, but we Demarchists-unafraid of the positive aspects of mind enhancement methods-established lines of rapport with the Conjoiners which enabled us to exploit their technologies to the full. Their starship drives allowed us to settle many more systems than cultures subscribing to inferior social models.

In truth, it was a glorious time. It was also the likely state of affairs which you were expecting upon your arrival.

This is unfortunately not the case.

Seven years ago something happened to our system. The exact transmission vector remains unclear even now, but it is almost certain that the plague arrived aboard a ship, perhaps in dormant form and unknown to the crew who carried it. It might even have arrived years earlier. It seems unlikely now that the truth will ever be known; too much has been destroyed or forgotten. Vast swathes of our digitally stored planetary history were erased or corrupted by the plague. In many cases only human memory remains intact . . . and human memory is not without its fallibilities.

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