A review by Nalini Haynes
Blue Remembered Earth introduces Sunday and Geoffrey, who are sister and brother; their family lives in Africa after the Resource and Relocation catastrophe caused by climate change. Geoffrey lives on the family estate working with elephants, begging for funds from the family, while Sunday lives in a city on the moon, in an unsurveilled zone. Hector and Lucas are the cousins who have seized control of the family business, including controlling the funding for which Geoffrey must beg. After the death of their grandmother, Hector and Lucas blackmail Geoffrey into going to the moon to investigate the contents of a safe deposit box. Fearing some kind of scandal, Hector and Lucas act to protect the family business. Entangling Geoffrey and Sunday in this investigation results in more questions, further investigation puts their lives at risk.
Alastair Reynolds’ Terminal World strongly reminded me of one of my favourite science fiction books, Asimov’s Prelude to Foundation. Likewise, Blue Remembered Earth had a similar flavour with its exploration of society and the human condition in individual’s reactions to their society. While Reynolds’ work remains unique, he juxtaposes different philosophies and lifestyles as a means of exploration beyond the geographic. Ethics are raised as an issue, especially in terms of Lucas’ implants that enable him to switch off empathy.
Politics are a theme of Blue Remembered Earth; while the politics is not the primary focus of the plot, international and family politics adds a distinctive flavour and realism to the overall narrative.
Although the Resource and Relocation period of Earth’s (future) history was terrible at the time according to the historical accounting given the reader, Reynolds’ view of climate warming appears to be very positive and even minimalist compared to many of the predictions presented at the Utopia, Dystopia and Catastrophe convention in 2010 just prior to AussieCon4 (see DMF issue one for an article about that conference). This is no ‘doom and gloom’ prediction of Earth’s future.
I picked up on two primary references to ancient mythology. Poseidon, after whom the entire trilogy is named (Poseidon’s children) was the god of the sea in ancient Greek mythology. This has significance in terms of space being seen as a sea. I suspect additional meaning will be attached to this name in the remainder of the trilogy, but to explain that theory would be to give a spoiler from late in the book. The other primary reference to ancient mythology was in the naming of an underwater city, Tiamaat, who was an ancient Babylonian goddess of the ocean and chaos, from whose slain and divided body Marduk the destroyer created the heavens and the earth. Tiamaat is part of the United Aquatic Nations in Reynolds’ speculative fiction. The UAN add to the political climate, bringing both opportunity and potential for chaos.
The name Sunday echoed Heinlein’s Friday for me; I’m not sure if Reynolds deliberately incorporated this reference into the book or if it was just me.
Reynolds created some language for his book: for example ‘voked’ replaces ‘invoked’ and refers to initiating a futuristic phone call. Quangle is a kind of quantum encryption on Reynolds’ futuristic internet or phone/radio system. This language is kept to a minimum so as not to impede one’s ability to immerse oneself in the story, but the initial usage jarred as it was one of the first clues within the story that this was the future. I thought this was effective without overwhelming the reader as it was not overused.
I thoroughly enjoyed Blue Remembered Earth as quality science fiction, of which I read too little. This book is highly recommended to science fiction readers who are prepared to read a trilogy of doorstoppers. If you’re an avid reader of doorstoppers who would like to explore science fiction, this is a good place to start.
Originally published in Dark Matter 7.