Book review: Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds

Blue Remembered Earth cover (Gollancz)I’m a big fan of Alastair Reynolds’s Revelation Space trilogy, with its imaginitive melding of space opera and hard science fiction. I was excited to see how he’d handle the somewhat different subject matter of Blue Remembered Earth, which is set in a new universe that (for the first book in the planned trilogy, at least) sticks closer to the present and in the realm of near-future solar system colonisation rather than star-spanning adventure.

I wasn’t disappointed by the universe. Reynolds excels at world-building here, creating a fascinating, detailed, surprising but always plausible vision of the solar system a century and a half in the future. The continual use of brain implants and augmented reality by all the novel’s characters is well portrayed, as is the society of constant automated surveillance which is presented in a refreshinly positive light.

What is sometimes frustrating is the plot, which for the first half of the book seems transparently designed to give the reader a guided tour of the setting. A brother and sister are sent on a treasure hunt across the solar system–a classic treasure hunt, each clue cryptically pointing to the location of the next, the whole thing set up decades earlier by the pair’s mysterious grandmother. Hints are steadily dropped about the grandmother (who appears in the form of personality simulations and whose presence pervades the book) and her reason for leaving these clues, but it’s only towards the end of the novel that these hints come together and the mystery, rather than the tour of the setting, becomes the focus.

Overall, the plot in the early parts of the book felt a little contrived and slow-moving, but the world-building managed to carry me to the payoff in the final act and left me wanting more.

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