The award-winning author of Blue Remembered Earth continues his saga as the next generation of the Akinya family crosses interstellar space seeking humanity' s future...
Chiku Akinya, great granddaughter of the legendary space explorer Eunice and heir to the family empire, is just one among millions on a long one way journey towards a planet they hope to call their new home. For Chiku, the journey is a personal one, undertaken to ensure that the Akinya family achieves its destiny among the stars.
The passengers travel in huge self-contained artificial worlds - holoships - putting their faith in a physics they barely understand. Chiku' s ship is called Zanzibar - and over time, she will discover it contains an awesome secret - one which will lead her to question almost every certainty about her voyage, and its ultimate destiny.
©2013 Alastair Reynolds (P)2013 Hachette Audio
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Taking the history he created in ‘Blue Remembered Earth’ forward another generation, Alastair Reynolds succeeds in teasing the reader’s interest in the alien mystery waiting at the end of a 200-year old journey, but keeps the scope of events surprisingly restrained for an author known to write in cosmic epochs that laugh at stacks of expired civilizations. Again, he keeps his dramatic perspective on one single family, which can really be said to in fact be one person, duplicated across three cloned bodies who occasionally synchronize their mind states. This concept I found fun, and made for some interesting moments as the separate lives of our tri-fold protagonist, Chiku Akinya, reconciled herselves with the existence of multiple husbands/lovers and families at either end of her dual lives. There is also some great world building here within one of the main settings for the action, the asteroid-sized holoship traveling as part of a caravan to a new and promising alien world. Reynolds, in 2001’s "Chasm City", has previously written about a rivalry between en-route colony generation ships which violently escalates once the prize comes into sight, but with much more believability here. The other two setting loci, Earth and the destination world of Crucible, both have similar challenges for the Chiku heroines in the form of an all-powerful artificial intelligence willing to kill in order to ensure it’s own survival. Like Chiku, this intelligence, Arachne, has been cloned across two distant star systems, but these have remained un-syncronized, and have begun to drift apart in their thinking towards humanity.
The story has well-paced action scenes that don’t rush in too close together, and characters that are compelling to follow, though a bit too saintly and flawless, I felt. I think a reader who hasn’t read the earlier story would feel unsatisfied with this one, and clearly too many questions remain unanswered to give up on ready the series now.
Adjoa Andoh’s narration is impressive for it’s commitment to thickly, haltingly accented English coming from a variety of multi-national characters, but being impressive is not the same as being enjoyable. Whether it’s the baseline Swahili accent of the protagonist, the guttural fish-man accent from the aquatic mer-people, the crafty old lady variant of the earlier swahili accent (this one used for no less than 3 characters), I found them all just a little too over-the-top. I’m sure I’m revealing my own anglocentric cultural bias here, but my ear just needed a rest from the added work of mentally decoding every spoken word. The final straw for me was the dual accent-fail for Chiku’s two significant others, Lucas and Pedro. I want to write about how offensively bad they both are, but I… just.. can’t listen to that exaggerated Texas drawl or caricature Mexican again. Let me instead just stick to my complementary remarks, however- and it’s genuinely the case that Andoh makes a very ambitious effort which must have been quite exhausting, and I know I have no such talent at all.
The written version is better in this instance. African Flute music after a dramatic scene bringing up the next chapter is a little contrived.
The Saturn tragedy was interesting.
Charlie Chan Chinese accent. Slavic (Russian?) accent that sounds like Kate Mulgrew on "Orange is the new Black". Disparate California Hispanic Cholo accent. Tom Brokaw flat American accent. Broken Australasian. Pleasant, emotive, soft RP English. South African accent while thick seems authentic compared to native speakers I've heard. So many different accents - while admirably attempted - were just overwhelmingly distracting. I'd rather have heard an emotive soft RP English accent with conviction than a mangled, harsh, Charlie Chan Chinese screech.
Not possible - Reynolds is a long-haul operatic proposition.
When a companion character died - I was glad. Only because that broken Cholo accent would never have to be heard again.
I'm the most boring person on the planet.
It is hard for me to write this review, being a HUGE fan of Alastair Reynolds and having read everything from him to-date... But... This story is simply unremarkable. Very thin plot, little action, the reveal is very anticlimactic and simply disappointing. Twenty-three hours of listening to Ms. Andoh was painful, at times quite literally.
The first book in this series was fine. Maybe not great, but good. The story arc that flowed from the first book was tired and contrived with no real arrow of finality. Certainly NOT worthy of being in the same book rack as all of the other Alastair Reynolds books.
I will not listen to another reading by Ms. Andoh. Her screeching voice in character and her thick accents made this listen very unpleasant. I turned the EQ of my radio to flat and still her high-pitched voice screeched at times and made me cringe. Her accents are so heavy it's difficult to understand her with some characters, which was also annoying because you find yourself constantly having to analyze the sounds to decipher the words. I've listened to performances I didn't like, but I was into loathing on this one. I found the heavy African and Chinese accents especially annoying, which are most of the main characters in the book.
Disappointed on so many levels with this book.
I think I'm pretty open minded, but sadly the audio performance on this story leaves a lot to be desired. It's a wonky combination of a story-bookish tone and missed nuances. The individual sentences are acted, instead of the scene or character as a whole.
I realized a few hours into this book that the narration was making me think less of Alistair Reynolds' storytelling ability. But when I imagined the scenes as acted by someone like John Lee, I realized the story could have felt so much more rich.
Instead of suspense, I felt apathy. Instead of urgency, I felt impatient. Instead of voice acting bringing personalities to life, I was repeatedly taken aback at how overly strong the accents were, including her use of unwritten, amazingly repetitive slurping inhales for the aquatics. The majority of dialog between characters intended for development instead feels flimsy because of the storybookishness tone. Everybody that isn't Russian or Southern-redneck uses the same African intonation, including the Japanese-named character (which got no special accent and is apparently African.)
I felt that the African style worked better in the first book. Despite my best efforts to enjoy the audiobook, I was constantly distracted by the audio medium. I frankly intend to repeat my experience of this story in print, in hopes that I can think more highly of the original text.
I don't think anyone will enjoy this narrator.
I would have picked a different narrator.
If the narrator just read the book instead of these ridiculous and mind bogglingly abrasive accents, I might have enjoyed it.
I would cut the aquatics, because the narration is intolerable.
Adjoa, just read the book, dude. Not cool.
I was expecting a storyline more in line with the Revelation Space Universe. The novel is leisurely paced by a narrator who did an admirable job. Maybe too leisurely and not the fast paced and hard science fiction novel I was expecting.
I liked the way the narrative shifted between the two cloned protagonists. The world of this series — a future in which Africa and China became the superpowers — is refreshing.
Adjoa Andoh has a lovely voice, and her voicing of the main character(s) was impeccable.
It was satisfying to catch up with some of the characters from the first novel in the series.
The director did Ms. Andoh a disservice when s/he had her voice practically every character with a different national accent. The effect of multicultural diversity could have been achieved less jarringly, particularly with the male characters. This is not a reason not to listen to her marvellous reading of this highly interesting novel, however.One final suggestion: when different actors read novels within the same series, it might be less confusing if the recurring characters are not voiced in a radically different way.
On the Steel Breeze is the 2nd installment of Alastair Reynolds' Poseidon's Children trilogy. While the focus is still with the Akinya clan, this is the next generation with Chiku Akinya, Sunday's child splitting herself into multiple entities and sharing memories. This trick allows Reynolds to craft two simultaneous stories, one in our solar system and the 2nd on a "holoship" heading towards a distant star system. Improvements on rejuvenation technology permit this story to be technologically advanced relative to Blue Remembered Earth.
Basically, an alien artifact around a distant star has spawned a caravan of holoships, hollowed out asteroids transporting millions of humans to what is expected to be a newly formed world. Mysteries surrounding the alien artifact around Crucible drive the plot with both Chikus doing all the digging while avoiding the nefarious interference of an artificial machine intelligence with vague, ill-defined motives.
Sadly, while the writing is engaging with excellent pacing and solid character development, there are serious deficits that render much of the action inscrutable at times. For example, the holoships take off for Crucible and use their supply of slow down fuel to achieve more speed and arrive quicker, but without a way to insert into orbit on arrival. The politics on the holoship and the caravan as a whole are inadequately detailed and so the prohibition on research to figure out a way to slow down simply doesn't make sense. As with the 1st installment, the fascination with aquatic biological engineering doesn't fit with an outer space themed environment. Also, Reynolds liked the character of Eunice so much that he created a machine intelligent clone of her, hidden away on the holoship overseeing intelligent elephants which made little sense other than adding some dramatic action scenes and a setup for volume 3. Finally, the denouement with a pseudo-computer virus resetting Earth, seemed a bit like the TV Batman series with a unique, one time utility belt day-saving gadget.
The narration is well done with an excellent range of voices, with appropriate tone and mood. The musical interludes that separate the different Chikus was also much appreciated. Finally, one observation, not a criticism, just an observation: the story has the sense that Reynolds took a bet, a dare, or even a voluntary challenge to write a story where every major character (even including the elephants and machines) is female.
I love everything Alastair Reynolds writes...but this African accent is so difficult to listen to, I can't listen to it. Im sure its good story, as it is from Reynolds. And Im sure the voice is good, but not to my taste at all. The first volume also had an African accent, male, and it was hard to listen to, but I made it. This one is a female reader and the accent is so thick I can't take it. Bring back Mr. Lee. He is amazing to listen to!
Yes with a different narrator.
Difficult to understand and therefor enjoy.
A Tool in the shed
After listening to this book, I cant help but feel like I was cheated. The ending is poorly done. A little disappointed.
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