Saturday, 22 October 2011

Alastair Reynolds, Blue Remembered Earth (2012)


This isn't published until next year, so a detailed review from me now would be premature. But I have read it, and if you are asking the question 'should I be looking forward to this one?' then I can answer: yes. Yes, you should.
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 . . .
The utopian, or neartopian, world is well-handled, actually: believable and engaging. Here's the thing: utopia, by definition (by dissolving away the conventional obstacles and conflicts that inform 'drama') is often the enemy of an engaging, exciting read. But somehow Reynolds (and thinking back, I'm really not sure how he does pulls this off) manages not to get bogged down by that at all. His future solar system is managed by a benign surveillance AI called the 'aug'; crime and disease are rarities -- yet Blue Remembered Earth still somehow construes a genuinely gripping mystery/crime/chase thriller out of this world without it feeling forced. The best thing about the fact that almost all (or possibly, I'm not sure, actually all) the characters are people of colour is the way this fact is simply a feature of the novel's future world, unshowboated and unremarked. There's plenty of ingenious gosh-wow and hmm-cool, and above all the plot is, as ever with Reynolds, disgustingly readable. The worst you could say is that there's the slight whiff of Nancy Drew about the trail-of-crumbs clues and mystery portion -- a sense (not unpleasurable) that the reader is being manipulated along the steps of the solution in order to provide the Cooks Tour of this particular Reynoldsworld. But the pay-off, which could have been anticlimactic, worked very well; and the whole thing is just an extremely accomplished piece of writing.

7 comments:

Adam Roberts said...

PS: in an unrelated matter... I wondered, idly, whether I'd made-up the term 'neartopia', or whether it was a standard bit of jargon I'd absorbed somehow. So I googled it, and found this site. I'm not sure when this dates from (the design, and the fact that they claim to exist 'in the network collective known as the internet or in our preferred description Cyber-Space' suggests it hasn't been updated since 1991) but ... golly.

"NearTopia is a serious structure for individuals who agree with and wish to participate within a government that is truly designed to represent it's citizens."

Serious about some things, perhaps; but clearly not serious about the difference between 'its' and 'it's'.

Yetikeeper said...

Considering that you have read this 2012 release in 2011, will you consider in your best reads of this year? I mean, you could, but would it be considered somewhat elitist to do so? How would Mr. Reynolds view it?

Adam Roberts said...

Not so much elitist a chronologically inept.

Tom P said...

Was that... pointed?

Adam Roberts said...

By no means.

Ilmari Vacklin said...

Book one of Poseiden's children? Strange.

Adam Roberts said...

Strange ... because?