miércoles, 15 de febrero de 2012

Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds (Review in English)

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)   

Blue Remembered Earth was the first pick of our twitter book club (you can find us by searching for the hashtag #cifituits). During the joint reading, someone asked whether we considered this to be a typical Reynolds's novel. The short answer is, unfortunately, no. The long answer is a bit more complex.

Although many of the topics that are usual in the works of Reynolds (space travel, genetic modifications, brain implants, artificial intelligence...) also appear in Blue Remembered Earth, almost none of them are explored with the depth that we have come to expect from the Welsh author. Instead of being elements that help moving the plot forward, they are limited here to being part of a setting that is not even as attractive as, for example, the one in the Revelation Space series. There are exceptions, like the wonderful visit to the underwater city of Tiamaat but, alas, they are few and apart.

The story is not much better than the world-building. We follow Geoffrey and her sister Sunday while they investigate a series of clues left by their grandmother Eunice Akinya, a space exploration pioneer and founder of an interplanetary empire. This quest will take us to explore all the mid-twenty-second century Solar System, from Africa to the Moon, from Mars to the asteroid belt.

This could have made a very entertaining story but it is weighted down by some problems. The action is very slow to take off (pun intended), with nothing especially significant happening until well into the second third of the book. About 40% into the novel (I read it as an ebook so it is almost impossible to give concrete page references) things seem to begin falling into place and the reader starts figuring out what can be expected of the novel. Until then, however, there have been too many scenes that, while not boring, have little or no relevance to further development of events.

But the main flaw of Blue Remembered Earth is its almost complete lack of tension. Surprisingly, Reynolds fails this time to create a mystery that grabs the reader, something that he had perfectly achieved in many of his previous works (Pushing Ice and Diamond Dogs being two of the most notable examples in this respect). Moreover, the action is set in an utopian society in which, due to the almost constant and universal surveillance, violent acts are practically impossible. This lack of consequences, as was the case in Down and Out and in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow, makes many of the confrontations among characters quite dull.

On the positive side, there is a clear evolution in Reynolds's prose. Despite being quite a hefty tome, Blue Remembered Earth is a quick read. In fact, the mid part of the novel is really fun and works very well as a light-hearted space adventure. The ending, although fairly predictable, is closed enough and the novel can be read as a stand-alone but everything (including a quick removal of some superfluous elements) is set in place for the next installment in the Poseidon's Children trilogy.

Blue Remembered Earth is not a bad novel by any means, but it is not a typical example of the work of Alastair Reynolds. Perhaps his most similar book is Terminal World, which was more focused on characters and plot than on heavy world-building, but Terminal World is a more fun, intriguing and balanced novel than Blue Remembered Earth.

(You can read this review in Spanish/Puedes leer esta reseña en español)

4 comentarios:

  1. "Reynolds'"

    Creo que la forma correcta sería Reynolds's.

    Mirando en Google he encontrado en tres sitios tres opciones distintas:

    1. Cuando el poseedor termina en "s", se elimina la "s" del genitivo.

    2. No se elimina si el poseedor es un nombre propio, solo cuando el poseedor es un plural.

    3. En los nombres propios, si es "extranjero" se elimina, y si es "inglés" se ponen las dos eses.

    Esta última versión es plausible pero es un poco chusca, ya que tendríamos Tobías' pero Tobias's. En el extremo de la chusquez, si se encontraran un Tobias inglés con un Tobias alemán, según esa versión diríamos Which painting is more expensive, Tobias' or Tobias's?

    En fin, si alguien lo puede aclarar definitivamente, me resolvería una duda de años...

  2. You may be right. In fact, Gary k. Wolfe writes "Reynolds's" in his review of Blue Remembered Earth:


    Thanks for pointing it out.

  3. Sorry for failing to reply in English, I just forgot :(

  4. No problem, I don't see anyone else commenting here (either in English or in Spanish) :)