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.
It's OK. It is almost like the author dusted off an early un-submitted manuscript and updated it for publication. The story is nothing at all comparable with Revelation Space, etc.
Almost is juvenile science fiction, like the sort of stuff I read of Heinlein or Bradbury in the 60s, S is for Space, for example.
No. He did a well enough job with the African accent. John Lee (performer of Revelation Space, etc)., is my favorite reader, is not used here. But these characters are African with the British accented English and this narrator does a fine job with that.
Yes. It is an OK story. . . Just disappointed in the lack of: brilliant ideas, grand themes. richly-composed characters. This is not a space opera. Lots of Deus ex machine plot elements. Not up to the quality of the author's usual brilliance. Sad to have to say all this. Alastair Reynolds and Peter F. Hamilton are my two favorite modern sci-fi authors and that is because their work is everything this particular book just does not live up to.
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.
Science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction...take me away!
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 is probably the best book I've listened to from audible, when you combine quality of the narrator and quality of the text. The narrator is absolutely the best I've heard -- he does voices well, and his voice fits this text perfectly. The book is also very strong, especially in the way it presents a very distinct view of the future without spending a lot of time expostulating on how we got there; I've enjoyed other Reynolds books, but this one is smart, engaging, and subtle in many interesting ways. And there's a mystery! Or eight!
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.
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.
This is my third Alastair Reynolds novel. The other two I listened to were narrated by John Lee. He's okay, but not one of my favorites. However, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is a narrator I will be looking out for in the future. He's phenomenal. There's an epilogue that's told in first-person plural where the narrator mixes the voices of the characters who are telling that part of the story. It sounds so interesting and I can't imagine any other narrator who could pull it off so well. It could have ended up being either confusing or hokey, but it was neither.
As for the story, I thought it was very good. It's not like the other Alastair Reynolds books I've listened to, but it's good on its own terms. There were a couple of times when I wanted to slap the characters and tell them to think a bit harder. It took quite a while for them to realize that Eunice was sending them on a treasure hunt. It wasn't the most original story, and it did have some fairly predictable moments, but it was very well done.
I've read most of what Allistair Reynolds has published...some more than once.
I've rated him as one of the best hard core SF writers ever. His major characters are often "different". Heroes and villains are as likely to be female as male with various
degrees of sex, color, species differences and artifacts often added on. Even as truly different as some of his main characters were, I have never before gotten the impression that he was forcing them into being politically correct stereotypes. That is the impression I get in this novel.
The good guys, male and female, (almost too good to be true, in some cases) are African and black sounding, or clearly homosexual with contemporary nilistic outlooks while the bad guys are made to sound like mostly white, male Afrikaners and and are comletely contemptible, evil, money grubbers. The heroic types seem motivated only by a one dimensional need to do "good" (as defined by contemporary standards like ...save the elephants...for instance).
Of course, in their quest to do these good deeds, the author does not bind them to
to any special respect for preexisting norms and rules that get in their way, except those imposed by the villains. Both sides are also very rich, which seems to be, in a almost
contradictory fashion, a perfectly acceptable reason to allow them to do what they please.
As I've said, I can enjoy heroes and villains, any sex, any color, any background...if
the writer can make me believe that they are real "human beings" even if that
isn't exactly what they are. Reynold's has done that very thing with pigs, among a number of other not so human creatures, in some of his other works. Their human attributes...good and bad and neither...seemed not only richly complex but to be natural parts of their nature.
The problem with this novel for me is that the characters in these pages are caricatures of politically correct stereotypes. That makes it impossible to care about
what they seem to care about. And what they care about, of course, drives the whole story. John Lee does a good job with the narration, as usual.
Overall, this is not a Reynold's novel I would consider reading a second time.
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