I found the following riddle which describes a series of award-winning hard SF novels by a still-living British author:

Born on the first soil, aiming for the next
Stolen as replacement, his life a lie
To be loved, serve but never die
Death came in a flash, lost mother
Hideous rictus, fear and darkness
Insanity lurking in the water
A mirror to his own madness
Four were in fact five
Then five were four again
To be the first, leave none alive
Now only war will reign
Burning sacrifice, deceptive bait
To live on the edge for a century wait
A ghost to be revealed, reborn on the second soil

Now technically this is a riddle, but it can also work as a story-ID question. This site has the SF story experts, so I'm sure one of you will recognise this series even from the slightly cryptic description.

What hard SF series is being described here?

  • Ooh this is a good one. I would have said the Forever War series by Joe Haldeman, but he's American. Hmmm.... Jun 9, 2018 at 0:43
  • I think this kind of question should be off topic.
    – user14111
    Jun 9, 2018 at 5:51
  • @user14111 Well, you can always vote to close it and see if others agree, or even start a meta discussion about it. I realised it might be a bit scope-stretching, but on balance I thought it should be on-topic. We already accept questions like "I heard a story described [in another story | on a web forum | by my father]; based on the description, what story is it?"
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jun 9, 2018 at 15:56
  • votes to migrate to Puzzling.SE ;)
    – Mithical
    Jun 9, 2018 at 21:04

1 Answer 1


This a cryptic description of Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space novels. More particularly it's describing Sky Haussmann, protagonist/antagonist of "Chasm City", but the last few lines refer to:

his cameo appearance a century later in "Redemption Ark".

The first four lines:

Born on the first soil, aiming for the next

Sky Haussmann is on a generation ship fleet heading for another planet.

Stolen as replacement, his life a lie

Ostensibly Titus Haussman's son, it's later revealed that he was secretly adopted after the real son died.

To be loved, serve but never die

He's ships crew and immortal.

Death came in a flash, lost mother

One of the generation ships blew up, killing his mother.

Etc etc

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