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....
©2012 Alastair Reynolds (P)2012 Orion Publishing Group Limited
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"A Bright African Future"
Refreshingly, this story is set in a future where climate change has pushed global dominance to the southern hemisphere and to Africa, where an African renaissance has taken place and Swahili rather than English is now the dominant language of global communication. There is much more of a human element in this story than in Reynold's other works. We discover the story of a powerful African family as they slowly unravel a mystery left behind by their recently deceased matriarch and begin to understand the legacy she has left them. Along the way Reynold's paints a grand picture of a hopeful future, set much closer to our current timeline than anything he has done before. The Moon and Mars are colonised and space exploration has just branched out as far as Jupiter. Fascinatingly, the earths oceans are also being colonised and an underwater nation has been established.
Some Reynolds fans will probably struggle with this as it is so different to his other works. Essentially this is a story about the bonds of family, set against the backdrop of humanity's exploration of the solar system. I understand the forthcoming books will follow the future history begun here for another ten thousand years and I am greatly looking forward to how it unfolds.
With regards to the narrator I am quite surprised at how many reviewers disliked Kobna Holbrook-Smiths narration. I found his African accents suited the narrative perfectly. They were well done and not cheesy at all. I disliked John Lee's narration of the Revelation Space series so much that after listening to the first book, I read the other two. I can't begin to imagine him doing an African narrative and am very grateful that the producers choice Kobna-Holbrook Smith for this one.
The characters are well thought through and you genuinely grow attached and interested in them. The plot is twisting and detailed yet doesn't leave you confused at any stage.
The narrator is excellent, voicing each of the characters brilliantly and bringing them to life.
A really good book that was well worth the time spent listening, my only regret is that there is no sequel.
Four stars because it's an Alisair Reynolds novel and they're always enjoyable, but why oh why didn't Audible use the same narrator who did all the other Reynolds books for them? When you have a winning combination, stick to it.
In more cynical moments I wonder if maybe it's a ruse by Amazon to get us to buy the audiobook, and then buy the kindle version or hardback as well.
I had been so looking forward to this new AR novel but Kobna Holdbrook-Smith's voice just doesn't work on audio. I can imagine him being a terrific TV or film actor in certain roles, but he is most definitely a fish out of water in simple audio narration. I'm afraid his narration spoilt Rivers of London for me too, so much so that I gave up with it.
There have been a number of highly questionable casting decisions and poor editing that have let audiobooks down of late. Julian May's "Many Coloured Land" is a prime example where an excellent book was trashed by bad choice of narrator, and history and travelogues almost universally because none of these publishing and media experts seems to bother how to pronounce names properly.
Come on Audible - how about a re-record with John Lee?
"WARNING: Listen to sample before buying!"
Being a big Reynolds fan (same as the first reviewer) I decided to ignore his comments the narrator could never be so bad as to put me off - I'm afraid he was but I couldn't get 30 minutes into it before turning off.
My suggestion is to listen to the sampler first - some people may be OK with his voice and I am sure the book is great.
My first Alastair Reynolds book - very much enjoyed it. Narration was captivating - simply one of the most well narrated audio books I have listened to. Excellent, consistent and charming range of voices and characterisations.
This is a very thoughtful novel, and it encourages me to read more of Reynolds work.
It is set in a solar system in which Africa has become a dominant force. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith's superb narration does full justive to the book with a wide range of accents ...from Nigerian to a Whale who started life as a Chinese girl!
Please do not listen to other reviewers who have criticised the narration ...I honestly don't know what planet they are on !
"Great story, great narrator"
I've steared clear of Mr. Reynold's audiobooks so far, mostly because of his usual narrator (John Lee), who's diction I find rather unnatural and who's range of voices (about 2) is distinctly subpar in my opinion.
Holdbrook-Smith's excellent work on Rivers of London has convinced me to finally give this Reynolds book a try, and I haven't been disappointed. It's a thrilling, intelligent scifi story in a setting quite unusual for the genre with a superb narrator.
"Sci Fi in an African voice - can't be bad!"
I hope I'm right that I've read (or listened to) all of Reynold's work by now - I've certainly tried. This is a bit different to his usual fare, and may work as a prequel to the Revelation novels - or could be entirely new. It's slower than much of his other work, and at times feels like a road movie across the solar system. Reynold's philosophy is generally carefully measured and he shows concern for the motivations of all his characters, though here there are a couple of passages about religion that could have been phoned in by Richard Dawkins. The characterisation is rich and the author quickly gets into one of his trademark themes - what are the limits of humanity and sentience in a universe in which personality can be uploaded to a machine or an animal, and where machines can run bodies.
I was delighted that Africa features so prominently and note in passing that recent economic and political reviews do indeed predict a meteoric rise in the continent's fortunes in the next 50 years. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith does an amazing job picking out the differences between Nigerian, Tanzanian, Asian and European accents. I'm afraid some reviewers have been spoiled by John Lee, Reynold's normal reader on Audible - Lee is a real phenomenon, and I rate him highly, but Holdbrook-Smith does a perfectly fine job and added to my enjoyment of the text.
"A great foundation, when's the next part due?"
A great start, well read with consistently good (non-South Africa) African accents rather than the often dull parodies we generally get..
The diction clear and is perfect for playing at faster speeds which I like to do when I'm running.
What I like about Alastair Reynolds is that he can switch between moods. His work has the confidence to develop relationships and adapt them as the characters experiences change them.
Looking forward to the next part!
I'm a big Alastair Reynolds fan and have been waiting for this book for some time. The story line is OK but not Alastair's best. Unfortunately I couldn't get on with the Narrator. The sound and tone of his voice was so annoying I stopped listening to it after 4 hours. Looks like I’ll have to order a hard copy a read it myself.
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