Alastair Reynolds' Blue Remembered Earth, the first installment in a new trilogy of a very different flavour to his Revelation Space universe, is a very unusual science fiction novel, especially in the context of a modern understanding of science fiction that, unlike Asimov and Clarke, revolves less around ideas and more around a violence-imbued plot.  Poseidon's Children, in fact, might be argued to be an answer to Walton's discussion of the universality of violence in SF on Tor.com, if it continues in this vein.  Blue Remembered Earth is a very unusual science fiction novel; optimistic (beyond simply the idea that we'll survive and spread, which as Reynolds has pointed out is itself optimistic) and thoughtful, it's got some really deeply concepts, and its Africo-centric view is a rarity, especially in Western SF.

The plot of Blue Remembered Earth is intimately tied in with the world that Reynolds creates in the 22nd century.  Augmented reality, a near-universal super-intellect that ensures that all on Earth and much of the inhabited Moon can't come to harm, Martian colonisation and economic utilisation of the Kuiper Belt, corporate wealth and post-global warming stability of the climate, African prosperity (seemingly on a post-scarcity level), easy space travel, and other elements which make the world of Poseidon's Children not a utopia, but a eutopia; it's not perfect, but it is good.  We're limited to the near-Earth parts of the Solar System, and the plot of the novel takes us over much of that area; interludes on Mars, Phobos and the Moon all happen in the wake of our African opening.  The novel follows members of the Akinya family tracing the footsteps of their pioneering matriarch Eunice, who was one of the earliest explorers of Mars and Phobos, and a settler on the Moon, before becoming a recluse in her personal atmospheric space station.  Geoffrey and Sunday, brother and sister and Eunice's grandchildren, have taken themselves out of Akinya affairs but Geoffrey is brought back in by Hector and Lucas in order to follow up an anomaly in Eunice's affairs, brought to light in the wake of her funeral; and that anomaly is what leads to the travels and complexity that ensue in Blue Remembered Earth.  Not a short novel, this is occasionally a little slow - Reynolds' need to explain some of the ideas behind his world do slow the novel - but it does keep the reader very much engaged, through an exciting and thought-provoking rather than action-filled plot, and by taking us around so much of the world; as well as with engaging, interesting characters.

Blue Remembered Earth's greatest strength may well be Reynolds' thoughtful characterisation.  Geoffrey, our main viewpoint character, has removed himself from the Akinya family business and become a researcher or conservator of elephants - which one isn't wholly clear, but then, the distinction isn't clear even now.  He's not terribly interested in the world beyond those elephants, which makes the way he's drawn into it by Hector and Lucas (with the bribe of additional funding) clever but also demonstrative of his nature: fiercely loyal to and possessive of his elephants, but that's something which changes over the course of the novel, slowly and definitely as things progress, an in an organic, human way, as he's exposed to bigger issues.  Sunday is also a rebel, living on the Moon in order to escape the all-seeing and risk-removing AI of Earth: she's an artist and involved in various subversive movements, and over the course of the novel uses those connections for help and aid.  She's also a trusting figure, despite her own self-image as a hard-edged cynic; one of Reynolds' better tricks is not simply showing her as self-deluding, but placing her on a scale, more cynical than Geoffrey but still not cynical enough.  The rest of the cast, whom the focus is on much less, is similarly well-written; there are no moral blacks and whites here, only shades of grey, with everyone acting from ulterior motive, very rarely simply for self-advancement, and that makes for not only an interesting moral, but also some points in the plot where Reynolds leaves the reader wondering whether the best ideology and people have been left ahead.

That is perhaps the best way to sum up Blue Remembered Earth; optimistic, complex and thought-provoking science fiction, in a world where blacks and whites are disparaged but still all-too-common, Reynolds has written a novel entirely in greys, and it's a beautiful, brilliant, highly recommended one.

Profile

Squeaking of the GrimSqueaker....

February 2012

S M T W T F S
   1 23 4
56 7891011
12 131415 161718
19202122232425
26272829   

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 24th, 2017 07:20 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios