Fiction Reviews

Blue Remembered Earth

(2012) Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, 505pp, ISBN 978-0-575-08827-6


It is the 22nd century and in Africa Geoffrey and Sunday Akinya, being the heirs to an industrial fortune (borne of asteroid mining industries now run by relatives Hector and Lucas), spend their lives indulging their interests. Sunday does hers on the Moon, while Geoffrey studies elephants at home in Africa. The novel effectively begins with the funeral of elderly family member Eunice (Geoffrey and Sunday's grandmother) and this brings the family together. After the funeral Hector and Lucas ask Geoffrey to go to the Moon to check out a bank safe-deposit box that Eunice left behind. Hector and Lucas want Geoffrey to go as he is not under scrutiny from their company's competitors, and besides he should earn his keep. Geoffrey agrees to leave studying his elephants for a while especially as a trip to the Moon will enable him to see his sister Sunday. And with this we are off on what turns out to be a tour of the Moon and Mars as well as under one of Earth's oceans to solve a puzzle that – as you would expect from Reynolds – has consequences for everyone...

Right. So the afore is the summary plot outline – I will not unpack the delights for you – but readers do not come to Reynolds for plot alone (even though he does good plots) but also for the sense-of-wonder. As with his previous books, Blue Remembered Earth is awash with sensawunda and Reynolds fans will not be disappointed. Among the joys are the enhancements most people wear that enable them to see objects identified and tagged (much in the way visual recognition of people and places are enabling pocket PCs/mobiles/cells to begin to do now and William Gibson explored back in the 1990s) and also to 'ching' (have person-to-person communication in a near Egan-esque way). And then there is the 'Mechanism' that watches over the terrestrial Earth preventing people from harming one another in a kind of benign (as far as we know) dictatorship. And of course there is everything the Moon and Mars has to offer through Reynolds' fertile imagination.

While Reynolds' regulars may be missing his Revelation Space stories (let's hope for another before too long) we already know that he can give us a number of cracking stand-alone novels and that there is not a duff one among them. Blue Remembered Earth keeps his track record unblemished. The only problem I did have with it was keeping tabs of who was who, and who was related to whom: a family tree would have been helpful and readers may want to make their own (which is what I ended up doing as I was going along).

The book comes to a neat conclusion albeit with the promise of new horizons for the protagonists, and so the novel is a complete entity in itself. Having said that, the accompanying promotional sheet (but not any blurb on the book) reveals that this is the first in a new sequence of stories. This is no bad thing in that, not only is there a plot vector to new territory but, there is detail to be explored within the data we have already been presented. Without giving anything away, I would like to know more about the war involving AI technology that took place prior to the time in which the book's narrative was set. More I am sure could be made – and Reynolds' I know is capable of giving – of the personal technology individuals carry. Then there is this whole business with the Mechanism… among other things.

And so Reynolds tortures me; I would welcome more from the Akinya family, but does this mean I'll have to wait even longer for a return to Revelation Space?

Greatly recommended amidst the frustration of impatience.

Oh, and should you wish you can Google out the book's short video trailer on-line.

Jonathan Cowie

Blue Remembered Earth has been cited by a number of the SF2 Concatenation team as one of the best science fiction books of 2012.

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