Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review - Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds

Poseidon's Children:
1. Blue Remembered Earth, 09/11/2012 * * * * *

From Goodreads:
"With his critically acclaimed Revelation Space novels, Alastair Reynolds confirmed “his place among the leaders of the hard-science space opera renaissance.” (Publishers Weekly) With Blue Remembered Earth, the award-winning author begins a new epic, tracing generations of one family across more than ten thousand years of future history—into interstellar space and the dawn of galactic society…

One hundred and fifty years from now, Africa has become the world’s dominant technological and economic power. Crime, war, disease and poverty have been eliminated. The Moon and Mars are settled, and colonies stretch all the way out to the edge of the solar system. And Ocular, the largest scientific instrument in history, is about to make an epochal discovery…

Geoffrey Akinya wants only one thing: to be left in peace, so that he can continue his long-running studies into the elephants of the Amboseli basin. But Geoffrey’s family, who control the vast Akinya business empire, has other plans for him. After the death of his grandmother Eunice—the erstwhile space explorer and entrepreneur—something awkward has come to light on the Moon, so Geoffrey is dispatched there to ensure the family name remains untarnished. But the secrets Eunice died with are about to be revealed—secrets that could change everything...or tear this near utopia apart."

My Thoughts:
Blue Remembered Earth opens a window into a future history that feels very believable.  The story traces the events in the lives of two siblings who are part of a vastly wealthy family with business ventures spanning the solar system.  Though both Sunday and Geoffrey have each turned their backs on the family business in their own ways, they remain close to each other, and when their grandmother Eunice dies, they are each drawn into the mystery of her life and death, and the clues she left behind to carefully guide her descendants to a nearly unimaginable discovery.

I haven't read much by Alastair Reynolds, but after finishing Blue Remembered Earth, I think that is something that I need to change.  Reynolds seems to have a limitless imagination and his vision of the future of humanity and its' passage into space is intriguing, fascinating, and above all, positive.

I began reading Blue Remembered Earth immediately after finishing 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (my review here), and it was impossible not to compare the two novels in my mind as I read.  Both novels have a similar scale of where the story takes place (all across the solar system), both take place in the not-too-distant future, and both authors make use of interesting, fantastic, and yet believable technology.  I gave 2312 only three stars, which was a little disappointing to me, as I had expected so much more from it.  So if the two novels seem so similar on the surface, why am I giving Blue Remembered Earth five stars?

Blue Remembered Earth feels like a very intimate story, for one thing.  The characters feel real, and have understandable reactions and feelings that I as the reader can identify with, and I felt that I was living the story with them, rather than having their stories relayed to me by a third party.  And this is something that Reynolds seem to excel at - showing and making the read feel what is happening.

You hear it all the time, if you read anything about writing, or have taken classes or workshops.  One of the cardinal rules of writing is "Show, don't Tell."  Reynolds seems to be a master at this, showing us his version of this future Earth through the eyes of his characters, rather than telling or instructing the reader.  This doesn't always work perfectly of course - characters in the story "voked an aug" several times before I finally realized what this meant, but really this just made me more curious about his world and this future, and the realization of the possibilities of these different types of neural "augmentations" was fascinating in and of itself.

Another major difference between Blue Remembered Earth and 2312 was the subtle yet powerful way that Reynolds made me care about and identify with the main characters, Geoffrey and Sunday, and even several of the lesser characters, to the extent that I found myself quite upset when Memphis---Ah! But that would be a spoiler!  Suffice it to say that the characters are real and likable, and even the unlikeable characters are still engaging.

Again, Reynolds' talent of showing the reader not only what is happening to or around his characters, but also how they feel and think is masterful to the point that I believed I could see the landscape of Mars with Sunday, or feel the loneliness that Geoffrey imagined when looking back at the tiny blue marble of Earth.

Overall, Blue Remembered Earth is well paced story of a plausible future, and a family's search for the truth.  Told with a sense of awe and wonder, and set in a series of fantastic locales, it is never preachy, and always intriguing.  As I stated above, I believe this novel deserves 5 stars, and I cannot wait to read book two!

Have you read Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds yet?  Do you plan to?  What are your thoughts?  As always, feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

1 comment:

  1. Just finished the book and left me wishing book 2 was here now, surely a.gpod sign! Agree with your review and the latter parts of the book were particularly good. Can't wait for the saga to continue.