Blue Remembered Earth. Great title, isn’t it? The evocative image of leaving Earth behind, only to remember its color in the blackness of space. It’s an image that resonates on a visceral level. It also perfectly describes the nature of the technological period imagined — the moment when Earth no longer becomes the center of humanity. Vast in scope and dense with character development and world building, Alastair Reynold’s newest novel is a return to Utopian science fiction whose story isn’t about the darker side of humanity, but the boundaries of our collective horizons.
Set one hundred and fifty years in the future, Africa has become the dominant technological and economic power. Crime, war, disease, and poverty have been banished to history courtesy of mandatory implants that curb and/or correct deviant behavior. While humanity has colonized the nearby planets, Earth remains the center of attention with known(ish) physics underpinning the whole operation.
Geoffrey Akinya is heir to the corporate super power that makes much of it possible. He’s also a loner, living on the family estate and conducting experiments on the endangered elephant population that lives there. When his grandmother and company founder, Eunice, dies, Geoffrey’s more entrepreneurial cousins task him to ensure the family’s name remains unblemished after mysterious assets come to light.
Entitled rich kids, a black sheep, an artist, the old guy, and a few insensitive assholes.
It’s really as simple as that. Blue Remembered Earth is a classic quest novel. One clue leads to the next, leads to the next, leads to an eventual big reveal that opens up a host of new possibilities for future novels. Given this standard narrative structure, Reynolds’s novel places a premium on thematic exploration, characterizations, and world building. The degree to which he does it makes the novel a rousing success despite a plot that’s as inventive as hyperdrive.