A surprising and staisfying departure for Reynolds
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 hal..Show More »f 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.
Taking the history he created in ‘Blue Remembered Earth’ forward another generation, Alastair Reynolds succeeds in teasing the reader’s interest in th..Show More »e 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.
There's something admirably simple about this trilogy, especially when you zoom out and look at the romantic bird's eye view, but something about its ..Show More »storytelling method just doesn't sit right with me.
The trilogy was rendered for us as a long string of montages between rather sparse events. Time and attention went into every scene, but it's all just characters standing around, with no ability to act on what little information they have. Subplots spring up everywhere, and turn out to be completely pointless as soon as the story moves on. The only result is that the character personalities are colored just slightly. Even the events that are at the heart of the story come off strangely. A transmission sent across 70 lightyears just for fun apparently, a sabotage plot that exists for essentially no reason, and of course the centerpiece of the whole series, Poseidon itself, completely ignored by the cast, even at the culmination of events.
The only reason the story has any purpose at all is because Eunice's character regularly forces narrative on the reader in the form of random conjecture, covering topics such as the Watchkeepers, Poseidon and its wonders, what the Endbuilders's must have intended for the universe, their solution to a universe-scale issue, what Poseidon must represent for other species. As a reader, it's all so hollow that you start to see through it rather quickly.
This story, most of all, communicated the uniqueness of everyone's relationships with other characters, and there are a couple of magnificent scenes that were likely At the core of Reynolds's vision for the story, and yet somehow all of the characters come up short in my view. They all say the predictable thing. They all complain in the expected manner. They offer each other perfectly reasonable but highly mundane comforts. They seem to act and think in a contextual vacuum, as if every scene was written independently, somehow only vaguely influenced by events that literally just took place.
When the story is somehow most vulnerable and begging for plot advancement, it's given to us in some supremely bizarre anti-"deux ex machina", something that puts a wrench in the whole story just so that the story should go where Reynolds imagined it should. Mpose's role, Kanu's ship damaged around Poseidon, the use of nanomachinery, the sabotage plot, Eunice's ability to send a message across 70 ly of space and yet can't produce a signal strong enough to contact a ship in the same system, Eunice's alarmingly selective loss of memory any time she might actually be useful... all of it exists just to give texture to something that is frankly quite boring. These are all just loose ends that I guess Reynolds thought there was no reason to tie back into the story, and none of the characters seem to notice.
As a fan of Reynolds, I don't begrudge him the time and effort that he put into this trilogy. The idea for the whole thing must have been infectious, consuming his attention. Now that he's finished it, I'll be happy to see him turn to other stories.