Blue Remembered Earth is Alastair Reynolds's 10th novel and is the first of book in the Poseidon's Children Trilogy.
Let's start with the blurb from the inside of the cover:
One hundred and fifty years from now, in a world where Africa is the dominant technological and economic power, and where crime, war, disease and poverty have been banished to history, Geoffrey Akinya wants only one thing: to be left in peace, so that he can continue his studies into the elephants of the Amboseli basin. But Geoffrey's family, the vast Akinya business empire, has other plans. After the death of Eunice, Geoffrey's grandmother, erstwhile space explorer and entrepreneur, something awkward has come to light on the Moon, and Geoffrey is tasked - well, blackmailed, really - to go up there and make sure the family's name stays suitably unblemished. But little does Geoffrey realise - or anyone else in the family, for that matter - what he's about to unravel. Eunice's ashes have already have been scattered in sight of Kilimanjaro. But the secrets she died with are about to come back out into the open, and they could change everything. Or shatter this near-utopia into shards...
I’ve tried to make this spoiler free as possible. You can actually read the prologue and the first three chapters of the book yourself on the Gollancz website - http://www.gollancz.co.uk/2012/01/blue-remembered-earth-prologue/ - and you can also follow Alastair Reynolds on his website http://voxish.tripod.com/ and on Twitter as @AquilaRift.
The book is set on an Earth around 150 years into our future. It’s billed as an utopian world. We open the book with Geoffrey and his sister Sunday, and through them we find out that the world they live in still holds some dangers, and has a few hangovers from previous wars still lying around. The world feels familiar, and yet different. It certainly whets your appetite.
From here on in I am hooked. We next meet Geoffrey when he’s grown up and he’s just finding out that his Grandmother, Eunice the head of the Akinya family has died. We also learn that he doesn’t particularly want to be involved with the family business and he couldn’t really care less about what happens, as long as he can continue his studies with elephants, getting closer by the week to merging his mind and feelings with the elephants in the hope of being able to communicate directly with them. (How can you not love a book with elephants in it, never mind the miniature elephants you come across later in the book).
His sister Sunday, who we also met in the intro, is living a rebellious life as an artist on what sounds like a rough part of the moon. We also meet his cousins who are well-trained businessmen who run Akinya Space and are the complete opposites of Geoffrey and to them Akinya Space is everything. His cousins Hector and Lucas offer Geoffrey a weird proposition - in return for a large increase in his funds for his elephant study they want him to do a small errand for them. They ask if he can just go to the moon and pick up an item mentioned in Eunice's will, a safety deposit box. Geoffrey is left with no real choice, and so he sets off to the moon…
From here on his idyllic life slowly unravels, in a series of small events that all seem so small in themselves, he finds a old fashioned astronaut glove in the safe deposit box, with his sisters help he works out the meaning of the glove, and starts on a path that will lead to a complete change in human understanding…
Sounds exciting? Well it is. There is so much detail in this novel as we follow Geoffrey and his sister Sunday as they travel through the Solar System. Geoffrey grows up in front of us as he starts to make some hard decisions. Sunday goes exploring on Mars and gets in a world of trouble. It’s such a good book, we are just following the story of a brother and sister out to solve a little mystery set for them by their Grandmother, and yet there is so much more at stake. The sweep of the story is breath-taking, the images you conjure up when you read about Africa and Mars, and the breath-taking underwater cities below the oceans on Earth. But, under it all we are just following the Akinya family.
As we go along we find out that things on the Earth and the Solar System that they live in are not quite perfect. There are serious tensions between the two large powers who control the main continents, but this is nothing compared to the tension between them and the UAN (United Aquatic Nations). Geoffrey does his bit to slightly heighten the tensions as well. It’s called a utopia in lots of the reviews, but I’m not sure if it is, maybe the people are under just enough control to believe it when they are told they live in a utopia?
Also there is something going on in the background, a fleeting mention of the Panspermian initiative. This is such a clever book because you know something big is happening and the world is about to change, and you cannot help but want to find out where the events in this book are leading. It’s not a huge blockbuster with massive space fights, yes people die, but you can count them on your fingers not by the thousands. It’s teasing us and I desperately want to find out more about what happens in his universe. At the same time this can be read as a stand-alone novel, the events are all self-contained, yes, you have a teaser for what could possibly happen in the future, but you can just leave it at that if you want.
It’s all about the details, when you read Eunice telling you about the early exploration of the solar system, your spine tingles at the excitement knowing this lays ahead of us. It’s a very special book. The ideas sneak up on you and the technology is so subtle that you just accept it, there are no glaring errors, and when you are gently introduced to new technology it’s not a huge infodump you just get to see the technology through it’s use.
The ending just leaves you wanting more. The story itself is complete, but you just want to turn the page and find out what happens next in this Universe, I’ve already pre-ordered the next novel. The day I finished it I went online and purchased a second copy, because I knew that my first copy was going to be a bit battered soon given the amount of times I’m going to be re-reading this and pouring over the meanings of the book. China Mieville is lauded for his literary SFF novels, well I’d say he should be looking over his shoulder as this is just fantastic. It’s a sci-fi book that anyone can read. Buy it, read it, then tell me below if you agree or not - I might think your mad if you disagree.
Review by Stephanie Gelder
1 positive reader review(s) for Blue Remembered Earth
John from Australia
I haven't been gripped by an Alastair Reynolds' novel like I was by this one. I love at least 90% of his writing but this one, to my mind, (an I haven't read all of them) has been the best so far. Thanks Alastair . . . You take me to other universes with your imagination. I listened to an audiobook by Orion Publishing and the performance by the reader, the music, was first rate.
9/10 from 2 reviews