Critically acclaimed author Alastair Reynolds holds a well-deserved place “among the leaders of the hard-science space opera renaissance." (Publishers Weekly). In Blue Remembered Earth, Geoffrey Akinya wants nothing more than to study the elephants of the Amboseli basin. But when his space-explorer grandmother dies, secrets come to light and Geoffrey is dispatched to the Moon to protect the family name - and prevent an impending catastrophe.
©2012 Alastair Reynolds (P)2012 Recorded Books
Reynolds' latest is somewhat of a departure from his more sweeping and awe-inspiring conceptions of the future. This tale is situated in the later half of the 22nd century with earth having been ravaged by global warming resulting in geopolitical dislocations. The West has been marginalized due to environmental disruptions. Africa has assumed a world leadership position and one specific African family has replicated the Rockefeller/Ford/Walmart model of dominating the rising economic drivers of their age; in their case energy and space industries are paramount. The family's rise to prominence has been the result of a matriarch (Eunice) who was renown for her space exploits like Lindbergh or Earhart.
The tale begins with the passing of Eunice and our main character, Geoffrey who is an otherwise dedicated, but inconsequential elephant researcher with no interest in the family business, is commandeered to handle a delicate matter of tying up loose ends left by her. What ensues is an adventure saga of following clues and puzzles left by Eunice that only her family could decipher. Along the way, the mystery that was Eunice grows deeper. The sci-fi so prominent in previous Reynolds novels, is present, but is almost secondary to the plot and serves to advance the story, rather than vice versa: advanced AI, gene engineered humans (but still in the early phase with some problems evident), settlement of the solar system, human/animal mind interface, and continual population surveillance with action control. As usual, Reynolds' thorough descriptions provide for an extremely realistic and believable depiction of the future. Perhaps the only ding to the tale is that the final plot twist was too predictable and expected.
The narration is excellent with a full range of male and female voices as well as the beyond human constructs.
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
This is the last Alastair Reynolds book on Audible I had to listen to and now I find I feel like the AI on the BBC comedy sci-fi, Red Dwarf, who asked for all his Agatha Christie files to be deleted so he could enjoy reading her books again - I can't wait to forget these stories so I can enjoy them again. The big problem for me is that Alastair Reynolds stories are not so easy to forget! Blue Remembered Earth is a rather sweet book to end my Reynolds run. It doesn't have the grandeur of big concepts against a huge universal backdrop that you find in House of Suns or the Revelation Space Trilogy nor does it have the tight plotting and perfect pacing of Chasm City or The Prefect. However, it does have a lot of heart and conveys a message that doesn't show up often enough in science fiction - we have the stars and a huge universe to explore, but we should never forget how absolutely amazing, special, and intricate are the workings of our own beautiful planet. Sometimes we have to look at our world from the heavens to appreciate its stunning beauty and fragility and Blue Remembered Earth is a story that lets you do that. This near future sci-fi is not as grand as many Reynolds stories, but he does a great job of projecting out what climate change (independent of whether it is man-made or natural) will do to change our planet - such a major change in our environment will not only change the geography of the planet, but its flora and fauna, the world economic and political systems, and even theologies and cultures will be impacted or adapted.
A couple of audible reviewers have provided some great plot summaries (thank you Michael G. Kurilla and Wendy) which I can't do any better so I won't, but I will say that although the pacing of this tale is a little slower than some of Reynolds other books, I found the plot quite engaging and the settings are vivid and imaginative as well. These aren't Reynolds' strongest characters, but they are very nicely rendered by the narration of Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. It was odd at first to listen to Reynolds as narrated by someone other than Jon Lee, but Holdbrook-Smith is more fitting for this Africa based story and this actor-narrator is talented. He has a warm, pleasant voice, provides distinct character voices, and does good accents. I heard him on the Peter Grant paranormal detective series and he was terrific at doing something rather comedic and fast-paced, but now I see he is equally good at reading a book intended to be more serious and dramatic. If you care about the prose, Blue Remembered Earth scores high. This is Reynolds describing giraffes running across the African plain, "They were loping, crossing the ground in great scissoring strides like pairs of draftsman's compasses being walked across the map." Reynolds prose tends to be rather elegant with exquisite metaphors sprinkled through it and Blue Remembered Earth is full of great examples of his style.
Six hours in, there's a scene that struck me as a perfect metaphor. Robots are fighting, but they are so colossally slow, that nothing appears to be happening. The characters have to drug and wire their brains to make it seem interesting. The book is well written with a variety of characters, but they're not doing anything of import and there's nothing at stake. It might just be a book about some people in the future puttering around, but that's not something I'm willing to give more time.
Kobna Holdbrook-Smith delivers a masterful performance, creating distinct voices for the many characters in this engrossing story of a family secret that isn't easily unearthed. The characters were likable, the plot twisty and the future an interesting vision of a post climate change earth. I could have enjoyed a bit shorter denouement, but well worth the listen.
This was my first Alastair Reynolds, though probably not my last. I actually bought it for the reading by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, whose phenomenal performances made the Ben Aaronovitch "Rivers of London" series worthwhile all by themselves. This is an earlier effort by Holdbrook-Smith, and I don't think he'd quite gotten the hang of it, yet. It's also clearly further removed from the comfort zone of his diction, which I'd describe as "fifty shades of London."
The story is engaging, and the setting (22nd Century Earth (East Africa), Moon, Mars, and points outward in the Solar System) well-developed. I found none of the main characters especially appealing. In an extreme case that would lead me to stop listening to a book, but I got through this one, and enjoyed it. This isn't a high concept work, but it's solid hard SF.
Tell us about yourself!
Yes. I was really drawn into the story and very engaged in what would happen next.
Geoffrey and Sunday are scions of a wealthy and powerful family that has made its fortune in space mining, rockets, and so forth. Sunday lives in on the moon and Geoffrey in the family home in Africa, where he does research on elephants. They are pulled into what seems to be a treasure hunt laid for them by their recently deceased grandmother, who was an early space age pioneer. And what a treasure hunt! We get to see Mars, various parts of the moon, underwater cities, asteroid belt mining, and various other wonders. Reynolds really crafts a fabulous world for us to explore. The technology that the users interact with seems gracefully and seamlessly folded into the story - enough hints are dropped for us to figure out what is going on, but characters do not pause the narrative to say "and now i am using this piece of technology, which does XYZ, isn't it really cool" as can happen in some sci fi stories.
I came into this story a bit disappointed that it would not take place in the Revelation Space universe, and that it occurs only about 200 years after our present time. Since I love Reynolds far future visions, like his glitter band in the Prefect, I wasn't sure that this story would be worth listening to. Surely there would be no glitter band or anything as wild here. I shouldn't have worried, the technology here was just a fabulous. In addition, Reynolds has made huge leaps in his characterization; the people here are better brought to life than in many of his previous worlds.
My favorite character was a minor one, Soya. She was pretty cool.
I have read all of AR's work and he is, without a doubt, my favorite author. But this book was a bit disappointing relative to his other novels. It is still a good story (and worth a listen), but just not up to the standard that I have come to expect from Reynolds.
My biggest complaint.....the book starts off very slowly and I was almost tempted to pull the plug. Fortunately it got better and ended up being a decent story overall.
Reynolds has also left the story open for a sequel and it still has the potential to be a great series, even if it got off to a shaky start. And yes....despite my negative comments, I am still looking forward to reading the sequel.
Thoughtful, interesting, and speculative.
Eunice, I suppose, in all her iterations. She gets and keeps our protagonists moving.
Eunice, I think, though I really enjoyed his characterization of the cousins as well, Lucas and Hector.
Taking breaks was nice, mainly because of the length of the book and amount of detail. I never got bored with it, though.
This is the first time I bought an audiobook because of the narrator, primarily. After Kobna's work on the Peter Grant series, I thought I would check out some other stories he had narrated, but there aren't many. Blue Remembered Earth sounded up my alley, though, so I took a shot and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately Kobna doesn't narrate the sequels so I am unsure if I will continue; thankfully the book was satisfying as a stand-alone, even if I do want to find out what happens next.
This book can be a difficult listen, at first. The reader, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, has an African accent, which is appropriate to the characters. The accent may be a problem for people who aren't used to hearing a variety of accents beyond American and British. Nonetheless, he is an excellent reader who handles the variety of characters well. No, the *real* problem is the muddiness of the recording. The producer or recording engineer did a poor job, because this books lacks the crisp audio that would have served the reader better. Shame on them.
The book itself, however, is quite good. I recommend it, *if* you think you can get over the poor recording quality.
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