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on February 17, 2016
An elephant researcher as a main character?! How can this not be enjoyable?! Wonderfully written, with plausible imaginings of not too future Earth, and colonies on the Moon, and Mars! This is no cyberpunk, it invites thoughtful reading, the attention is in the details, the story is developing slowly, there is a lot of care for the technology and science to be conceivable in the next couple of hundred years. An Earth where ecological disaster has shifted the habitable areas to Africa and underwater, where crime and terrorism are controlled by the Mechanism, which means permanent and omnipresent surveillance, even benevolent...There are a lot of important issues that are brought up, food for thought, things that are already starting to confront us.
I do love Mr. Reynolds' voice as a writer, the undertones of melancholy, like someone that still spends hours looking into the night sky! And then how can you not appreciate his subtle humor when you get sentences like this: "The zookeepers could be overwhelming until you built up sufficient exposure tolerance. Sunday had passed that point years ago: the wilder excesses of their starry-eyed idealism now ghosted through her like a flux of neutrinos. "
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on August 8, 2012
"Blue Remembered Earth" was definitely the most anticipated book on my list for 2012 --- and it may well be that this essentially created an unfair disadvantage. The story presented here is basically only the prologue to what I had expected and what in the end will (hopefully) be covered in the whole "Poseidon's Children" trilogy. Nevertheless, I enjoyed how my initial thoughts and ideas were being deconstructed with a slowly developing story that seems to be sent off-track by an unraveling mystery spanning the larger part of our solar system.

In the end, this is a very contemporary blend of near future science-fiction. Africa has emerged as a flourishing continent from global warming. Humans are augmented by neural computer interfaces and genetically enhanced to the point of underwater dwelling transhumans. The setting includes colonies on the Moon and Mars with golems (or robots) as some sort of remote proxies of people bordering on the singularity theme at some point and self-developing machines.

The protagonists are jumping to conclusion a little too easily during most of their solar system paper chase and I'm not fully convinced that this is completely and well motivated. It may be that this will become clearer at a later point. I usually prefer a concise style of writing that doesn't explain everything and all in minute detail. I was somewhat disappointed though, when Alastair Reynolds took the easy way out of explaining a few of his technological inventions which is where he usually shines. This background deserved more exploration in many parts. The characters, although not strictly stereotypical, are too transparent for a large part. That I could not relate to Geoffrey until the very end may have been on purpose and could be attributed to the advancements of humanity in general, but it is never made entirely clear.

Altogether, this is a solid science-fiction book. It is entertaining and has some twists and turns that should keep the reader hooked until the very end. Expectations are usually high for Alastair Reynolds and the few imperfections wouldn't carry significant weight for any other author, so I won't be too harsh with him. And I am definitely looking forward to the next installment in this trilogy.
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on December 3, 2015
As is so often the case in Reynolds' books, the political and social layers in Blue Remembered Earth are many and complex, and creatively imagined. This is a part of what makes Reynolds' one of my favourite sci-fi authors. His characters are also refreshingly diverse in a world where stories so often are told from the perspective of white men.

Reynolds' characters are rarely very complex and deep, and this is for the most part true for this book as well, but the story is still engaging and imaginative. There are a few plot elements that were not properly concluded and feel like somewhat hastily tied up loose ends, but none of it is of major importance to the story. The story itself takes us to the Moon, Mars and the Kuiper Belt, and I always enjoy how Reynolds balances obeying the laws of physics, as far as we understand them, while giving himself freedom to be creative where our understanding ends.

I started writing this review on the subway, and as I walked down the street afterwards I walked past a woman selling carved elephants that reminded me very much of the gift given to one of the main characters of the book. I just had to buy one. Interesting coincidence.
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on February 16, 2016
Blue Remembered Earth begins with an interesting premise and continues pacing pretty well throughout the whole novel plot-wise. The premise was good; the plot line was enough to get me through to the end, and there's a good mystery cloak-and-dagger component to the piece.

The character development (which, admittedly, Sci-Fi is not well known) was pretty poor. The main character and pretty much all of his close relations are not only two dimensional, but kind of unlikable. Not even in an anti-hero kind of way. For example: I had trouble finding any dialog in which the main character wasn't whining. This is fine if it's a conscious choice, but I don't get the clear impression that it was.

Also, while the morphologies of some of the characters were interesting and dynamic, the people themselves were drab. Occasionally, people's shapes are described, but almost never their colors, their sounds. Not a lot of sensory language used to describe anything.
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VINE VOICEon August 14, 2012
I am an Alastair Reynolds fan boy. I have read every book and novella Reynolds has written (including novellas like The Six Directions of Space). In all of these books, I don't think that Alastair Reynolds has ever written a bad book. Nor is Blue Remembered Earth a bad book. But it is a book without the drive of a strong plot or any real suspense.

Reynolds has written some books with strong plot drive. For example, one of his most memorable characters is Scorpio, a "hyper-pig" who features in the plots of Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap in the Revelation Space books. Coupled with strong characters, there is plot suspense (how will the Inhibitors be defeated, among other things).

The drive and suspense of the Revelation Space books is almost entirely missing in Blue Remembered Earth. We have the story of a wealthy and somewhat dysfunctional African family and a tour through a imagined future. The tour through the future takes the form of imagining how the future will work out, along with various ideas like "Panspermia" (an ideological drive to seed the galaxy with life).

Reynolds' experimentation with ideas is one of the things that makes his fiction so good. But when the experimentation with ideas is devoid of any strong plot elements, we're left with a sort of "Tomorrow Land" imagined by a sophisticated version of Walt Disney.

There are also some strange plot elements. Some critical information, apparently from aliens, is scratched in rock. We never really learn much about this, nor oddly, do the characters in the novel speculate much. Was this some kind of graffiti left by aliens passing through? If it was more than Kilroy Was Here, why was the information not embedded in synthetic diamond or metal? Perhaps it was the equivalent of aliens writing on a white board or a napkin (one alien says to another, "see, it works out like this..."). Yet the characters never find this strange.

There is, of course, a plot in Blue Remembered Earth, but it meanders along. Apparently there will be at least three books in the Poseidon's Children books. It almost feels like there is the plot of one novel diluted in three books.

In short, Blue Remembered Earth is not a bad read, but it is not the best that Reynolds has been capable of. Being a Fan Boy, I will certainly buy the other books, but I'll be doing this in the hope that we have less "tour of tomorrow" and more plot and suspense.

Later: I just bought On the Steel Breeze by Alistair Reynolds, so I am rereading Blue Remembered Earth. The lack of suspense didn't bother me the second time through. In fact, on a second reading I'm not sure why I found that it lacked suspense the first time I read it. Perhaps this was in comparison to Reynold's other books where, among other things, genocidal artificially intelligent self-reproducing automata threaten the human race. On the basis of the second reading, I added another star, since I liked the book more the second time. Perhaps I had a chance to appreciate the book more. Or perhaps it's because I'm different now.

I did notice one thing that I had not noticed the first time: The West (the United States and Europe) appear very little in the story. There are a few passing mentions about the European Union, but the major nations are the African Union, China and India, among the terrestrial "dry land" nations. Perhaps this is meant to emphasize the rise of Africa, but it is difficult to imagine the disappearance of the United States entirely from the world stage. Although perhaps all people living in an empire in an imperial age feel that way.
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on March 30, 2014
... and this is obviously the setup for something huge, but be warned that this is A LOT of setup for whatever that huge thing is. Reynolds has never let me down, so I'm in. I just hope "Riding the Steel Breeze" is worth the preamble (and any book named after a line from Floyd makes me smile to begin with).

The problem is that everyone holds him to his Revelation Space stuff, when he is good across the board. Still, BRE is a bit challenging, so be warned.
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on July 10, 2014
I read a ton of science fiction, especially military science fiction and space opera, and I picked up Blue Remembered Earth for a change of pace. The description of the story made it sound implausible and weird, but I thirsted for something original, and Alastair delivered.

The novel is exceptionally well crafted, with beautifully written characters and a reality dripping with vividness. Some reviewers criticized the novel for being slow, and there may be some truth to that in early chapters; the book does not start out with a space mutant battle whilst falling from a space elevator or any such. But the story is so well told that I enjoyed the ride, and it was totally worth it. Alastair does something I have not seen for a long time; he merges great original ideas, emotion, and hard science to deliver one it the most poignant climaxes in recent memory, and does it without needing to resort to tired and overused big action movie tactics.

This book surprised me. It reminded me of what a real novel is. Well done Alastair!

Rated: PG
This book contains no gratuitous sex or anti-Christian themes.
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on January 13, 2014
Geoffrey and Sunday Akinya are siblings in a wealthy and powerful family which has business interests throughout the solar system. They have little involvement in either family business or the family's business interests. Sunday lives on the Moon in a kind of near-future Greenwich Village, creating art for commissions and for fun. Geoffrey studies African elephants in their natural habitat, using advanced technology to model their neural states.

When the Akinya matriarch Eunice passes away, Geoffrey and Sunday dutifully attend her funeral and mingle with their disdainful and more affluent relations. Promised an increase in his research funding, Geoffry agrees to travel off-planet to retrieve the contents of a newly-discovered safe deposit box in Eunice's name. What he finds there is... ordinary and of little value. Geoffrey and Sunday decide the contents must be a clue. After deciphering it, they begin following a chain of clues that lead to Mars, then to the outer reaches of the solar system. They learn more about Eunice's secrets and discover that some of her plans are still operating.

This book is the first in a new series Alastair Reynolds is writing, so no surprise that the book spends some time introducing new ideas. Mostly they are various types of technology, including cryptography, various forms of telepresence, artificially intelligent robots of various types, and faster-than-before space drives. The story has its own conclusion, but hints at future revelations about alien species, secret alliances, and advanced technologies.

The book is a good read, with an enjoyable mix of action, new ideas, and personal relationships. The second book in the series is On the Steel Breeze; a third book is anticipated but no title has so far been announced. The author Reynolds has done his usual good work. Nicely done.
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on March 12, 2016
The quality of the writing deserves a B if compared with novels in general and an A if compared with contemporary sci fi novels. The plot was decent, but what made this book well worth reading is the nature of the civilization the author imagined and the tools available to the characters at that future date. Almost none of the imagined devices and techniques were fantastical. I would say that this novel temporarily relocated me into that future world for the few days I spent reading it. The heroes were somewhat flawed, making them more believable. Although the author has stated that a sequel will follow, this book does not leave the reader hanging at the end.
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on April 27, 2013
This is a very good book, slow to start, but very rewarding. And a strong change of outlook and atmosphere compared with other Alastair Reynolds' books.

If you are looking for a maladjusted, dystopic space opera with a motley crew of trans/post-human misfits a la Revelation Space, you'd be initially surprised or disappointed. I know I was.

But if you keep reading, this book will grow on you, and you'll very likely end up devouring page after page non-stop.

This is before anything else a very human, familiar (as in family-related) down to Earth book, despite of happening in a future where people and animals have neuroimplants on their brains, many places in the Solar System have been colonized and space robots roam everywhere up to the Kuiper Belt, feeding the economy of a now rich, shiny, smiling and apparently happy Earth. With members of a rich African family as its protagonists, all descendants from an elderly matriarch, pivotal to that Earth's future story. Something I liked, it's the tangentially stated fact that Africa is supposed to be a super-power by then, which is never really forced upon you. And as I said, I like that. The race of the protagonists is never used for making any point whatsoever, except that they are rich, conflicted by family issues and still human regardless of the many changes in that world and its people; because in that future, racism, homophobia and war are simply forgotten follies of times past, like they deserve to be. But humans are still human, and strife, power lust and betrayal still happen.

This book is also deceptively bland in the surface, because it is in some sense, a morally ambiguous utopia. A near-dystopia of forced non-aggression, where everyone's actions are monitored and sometimes controlled by The Mechanism (a network of AIs watching over all data sources, including those in people's eyes and brains), and where somewhat strong words are allowed and said, but direct aggression is strictly forbidden in a rather ugly way. Presenting something that could actually happen in some foreseeable future, and that will remind some people of some aspects of Stanislaw Lem's "Return from the Stars".

It is clear the characters have strong emotions going below the forced non-aggression, and it is kind of a feat that Alastair Reynolds manages to make these somewhat bounded/gagged characters so emotionally appealing. Or rather, the ways they find to wrestle out of the oppressive control they live 24/24.

It's in fact the dense tapestry of family related conflicts, emotions and finally, love, which makes up for the garish concepts of The Mechanism and the Surveyed Space, lurking behind the pretty facade of this deceptively nice and prosperous future. Which works also as a social commentary on where some things are going even now. This book's version of the future feels both alive and plausible.

Oddly enough, I can imagine this book as a prequel for Revelation Space books, but I know it isn't.

All in all, a book worthy of your time.
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