Sunday, April 15, 2012

Review: Blue Remembered Earth

Title: Blue Remembered Earth
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Pages: 505
ISBN: 9780575088283
Series: Poseidon's Children #1
Publisher: Gollancz
Published: January 2012
Genre: Science Fiction / Space Exploration
Source: Review copy from publisher


Buy it from:
The Book Depository
Kalahari.com

One hundred and fifty years from now, in a world where Africa is the dominant technological and economic power, and where crime, war, disease and poverty have been banished to history, Geoffrey Akinya wants only one thing: to be left in peace, so that he can continue his studies into the elephants of the Amboseli basin. But Geoffrey's family, the vast Akinya business empire, has other plans. After the death of Eunice, Geoffrey's grandmother, erstwhile space explorer and entrepreneur, something awkward has come to light on the Moon, and Geoffrey is tasked - well, blackmailed, really - to go up there and make sure the family's name stays suitably unblemished. But little does Geoffrey realise - or anyone else in the family, for that matter - what he's about to unravel.

Eunice's ashes have already have been scattered in sight of Kilimanjaro. But the secrets she died with are about to come back out into the open, and they could change everything. Or shatter this near-utopia into shards ...

Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds is the first novel in the Poseidon’s Children series and is set in a near-future utopia where constant surveillance has almost completely eradicated violent crime. Humans have spread throughout the solar system and Africa has emerged as one of the leading technological nations thanks largely to the efforts of Eunice Akinya and the family empire, Akinya Space, she created. The story kicks off shortly after Eunice’s death when her grandson and granddaughter, Geoffrey and Sunday Akinya, get drawn into a scavenger hunt, following a trail of obscure clues that Eunice has left behind. Their search takes them across the solar system where they ultimately manage to unearth the secret their grandmother kept hidden - a secret that might just change the entire course of humanity’s future.

BRE is beautifully written. Even before reaching the prologue I found a passage that made me go “Wow” and completely drew me in.
“She may have been born angry, but it was not until her mother cradled her under the stillness of a Serengeti night, beneath the cloudless spine of the Milky Way, that she began to grasp for what was forever out of reach.

All these stars, Eunice. All these tiny diamond lights. You can have them, if you want them badly enough. But first you must be patient and then you must be wise." (p 1)
It might just be that I’m a sucker for human space exploration, but that sent shivers down my spine.

The world-building is top-notch. The futuristic world is intricately crafted with different political factions and amazing technology at play. Writing a believable near-future novel is a difficult task, but Reynolds does a brilliant job at extrapolating the technology of today and crafting it into realistic marvels of the future. BRE is brimful of stunning ideas and concepts. Just as you think you’ve got a good grasp of what is going on something new and surprising is revealed.

What stood out for me is Reynolds’ ability to bring the scenery to life. It doesn’t matter if he’s describing an African sunset, the confines of the Moon, an aquatic city or the harsh reality of the Martian surface, you feel as if you are actually transported to that place and experiencing it on a firsthand basis.

Geoffrey and Sunday are interesting characters, but it is only in the latter part of the novel that I actually grew to like them. For the most part I enjoyed the setting and concepts far more than the actual characters. With one exception - the stand-out character for me was Eunice (in whichever form she took). She is the embodiment of the human need to explore. Her wanderlust, sense of wonder and unfailing bravery really appealed to me and I hope she makes a return appearance (even briefly) in the next installment.

The ending is superb and while satisfying by itself, I can’t wait to embark on the rest of the journey. If BRE is any indication it’s going to be an amazing ride.

Godspeed Eunice!

The Verdict:
If you are interested in human space exploration then you are going to love this. Blue Remembered Earth is superbly written and shares an optimistic view of humanity’s future in space. The novel is brimful of stunning ideas and believable technology that will keep you engrossed to the very last page. BRE is one of the best science fiction novels I’ve read this year. Highly recommended!

The Rating: 8.5/10 (Great)




Thanks to Andrea from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

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