Sunday, 16 March 2014

Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds - book review

Alastair Reynolds is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, having really enjoyed his Revelation Space series and some of his short stories. He's written quite a few standalone novels too, but for some reason decided to go for book one in his new series this time (quite possibly because I bought it on a 99p deal last summer and it's been sat in my Kindle library ever since).

While Revelation Space was set in the undetermined future (1000 years from now maybe?), and spans the galaxy with lots of weird factions of humanity and really strange tech, Blue Remembered Earth is set only about 150 years in the future. We've expanded out from Earth, but only to the Moon, Mars and a few other moons and asteroids. While there have been various scientific advances as you'd expect, there's no faster than light travel (or even near light travel) or anything else too exotic, and humans for the most part are similar to how they are today. The main advances seem to have been in some kind of bio-neural interfaces which, among other things, allow you to 'ching' across vast distances, effectively sending either a virtual representation of yourself, or your mind can be transferred temporarily into a robot (a golem) or even another human being - with their permission of course. There's also the 'Mechanism', basically an AI type surveillance and police system that literally stops you from committing a crime...

The story centers around two siblings, Geoffrey and Sunday who are members of the Akinya clan, and grandchildren of Eunice Akinya, matriarch of the family and founder of a solar system wide dynasty and business empire. As the book opens, Eunice has just died and a strange note in her will sends Geoffrey and Sunday on a kind of treasure hunt from Earth, to the Moon, to Mars...

I liked this book. Like all of Alastair Reynolds books I've read so far it has a slow start, and things don't really start happening until later on, but it is book one in the series. The whole treasure hunt thing starts to get a bit tedious eventually, but the world building is the real star, and this allows you to really build up a picture of the way things are in the 22nd century. About three quarters of the way through things really get going, and before the end you can't wait for book two, 'On a Steel Breeze'. The book does work as a standalone novel too though.

Particular credit should be given for Reynolds making Africa the dominant economic power. This is very plausible 100-200 years in the future. It may end up being the last major area of the world to become developed, but it could well be building to its height at just the right time to take advantage of space. It would be nice to think so anyway, as it hasn't had much look so far in its recent history.

Overall a great book, 9/10.