I was delighted to be invited to be the first guest reviewer at Parmenion’s Books. The subject was Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds, a novel I have wanted to read for such a long time. Science fiction that combines elephants, starships, underwater kingdoms and the wastelands of Mars – not to mention packed settlements on the Moon, with their fancy restaurants, icy asteroids spinning around Neptune and a good, solid family mystery – is irresistible to me. Even better is knowing that this book is the first in a new series entitled Poseidon’s Children. A trilogy that will cover 11,000 years.
My review from Parmenion’s Books:
Just one look at the cover of Blue Remembered Earth was enough for me to know I had to read it – blue seas, vast space, Africa, elephants, starships. The potential problem with such an exceptional cover is that it leaves the author with a lot to do and a readership, or at least me, with high expectations. The wonderful title of the new series by Alastair Reynolds exasperates matters: Poseidon’s Children. We learn that the trilogy will trace the evolution of humanity over 11,000 years, with each novel hooked on to a particular point of that great space of time and, presumably, standing alone. This first novel is set 150 years from now at a time when mankind has expanded its reach across the solar system but has become largely confined on earth to Africa and the planet’s seas.
The focus of Blue Remembered Earth is on the powerful Akinya family at the moment when it loses its matriarch, Eunice. While one side of the family (Hector and Lucas) has continued to develop the interests of the Akinya’s business empire, their cousins Geoffrey and Sunday have taken the opposite path with Geoffrey working with elephants and Sunday scraping a living as an artist on the Moon. Sunday lives in the Descrutinized Zone, away from The Mechanism which sees all on earth, from inside the mind and from without. But nothing pulls together a family quite like a death.
When Geoffrey agrees, in return for research funds, to go to the Moon and see what his grandmother Eunice had left in a bank vault, it’s the beginning of a journey for Geoffrey and Sunday that takes them to the bottom of the seas, to Mars and even to Neptune. As they follow the breadcrumbs left by this remarkable women, her grandchildren learn that nothing or noone is what it seems.
The mystery story is intriguing and keeps pace and interest, but the real strength of Blue Remembered Earth is in its ideas and imaginings. Quite apart from the concept of the Mechanism and the ability of human beings to transfer their consciousness into machines or other people, no matter how far away, there are moments which are mesmerising. For me, the highlight, appropriately enough for the title of the series, is the people who have transformed their bodies to live in the oceans. Then there is the Evolvarium of Mars, the dangerous wasteland in which robots and machines cannibalise one another and evolve. The ideas are also large – questions of creation, the dispersal of the human race, independence, the family and so on are also debated through the behaviour of characters, some of whom have taken themselves to the extremes of humanity. Interestingly, this is a world in which Europe and America are done. Africans and Asians dominate science and technology here.
While I didn’t particularly warm to Sunday and Geoffrey, and Blue Remembered Earth didn’t engage my emotions to a large degree, I was fascinated by many of the ideas and peoples I was introduced to and I am intrigued to think what the next step will be for this rapidly evolving universe. I don’t think you have to be science fiction enthusiast alone to fall for Blue Remembered Earth. Even though at times I found it a little cold, the novel is accessible and in places jaw dropping. I hope we don’t have to wait too long for the second book in Poseidon’s Children.