Petri Wessman's weblog

Minireview: Blue Remembered Earth, by Alastair Reynolds

Blue Remembered Earth is the first book in Reynolds’ new “Poseidon’s Children” series, and it’s quite interesting. Though technology does feature heavily in the story, it’s perhaps less focused on high-tech than many of his other books. Or, perhaps, the technology just merges into the background more, even though it has important implications. Here, a future Earth in the year 2160 is quite different from our own; an eco-catastrophe has come and gone, and left the geopolitical structure totally changed. China, India and Africa are the new global superpowers, and the book itself focuses on the Akinya family, a powerful African corporate force. After the death of their influential grandmother, siblings Geoffrey and Sunday Akinya start to uncover clues left by her that point to some form of hidden treasure. The main plot features a treasure hunt of sorts across the solar system, and involves everything from elephants and underwater transhumans to mysterious space stations.

While the plot is decent and makes for an interesting read, the star here is the setting. Reynolds’ future Earth is quite different from your normal eco-catastrophe scenario, being quite optimistic about things. Here, humanity has mostly managed to repair the damage, and has also instituted a (mostly) benign form of a Panopticon in the form of “The Mechanism”, a surveillance system which constantly monitors everyone via their implants. Naturally enough, not everyone is happy with the constant surveillance, and some have formed off-planet “off the grid” colonies. Here, again, the general mood is positive; while a global surveillance system has Orwellian overtones, here it is mostly viewed as a positive force and one enabler for global peace. It’s possible that future books in the series change that tone, of course.

The pace is slower than in many other of his books, but overall I liked it, it’s a refreshing change from the omnipresent dystopias without being too cheerily optimistic. Looking forward to the next books in the series.

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