Literature: Blue Remembered Earth
Blue Remembered Earth
is the first novel in the Poseidon's Children
trilogy, by Welsh Hard Sci-Fi
author Alastair Reynolds
. Set in Neo-Africa
during the 2160's, the story follows two siblings as they unravel a mystery set into motion by their recently deceased grandmother.
Eunice Akinya was an intrepid explorer and shrewd business woman who built up her family into a spacefaring business empire. But for the last sixty years she has been living in self-imposed isolation in her personal space station, seen by the family as aloof, uncaring, and possibly mad. Her grandchildren, Geoffrey and Sunday Akinya, would like nothing more than to follow their own interests
rather than going into the Family Business
: Geoffrey with his elephant studies in Kenya, and Sunday with her artistic endeavors in the bohemian "Descrutinized Zone" on the dark side of the moon. Their more dedicated cousins, Hector and Lucas, run the day-to-day operations.
When Eunice passes away suddenly, Geoffrey and Sunday find themselves dragged into family matters. At the funeral, Hector and Lucas reveal that Eunice had a mysterious safety deposit box in a bank on the moon, and they task Geoffrey with opening it to make sure it's not damaging the family's name. While on the moon, Geoffrey meets up with his sister and together they discover that safety deposit box is only the start of a series of clues, apparently laid down nearly a century before Eunice's death. Unwittingly, they find themselves drawn into a mystery extending far beyond the moon, to Mars, the outer solar system, and possibly beyond to Mankind's future.
Tropes within Blue Remembered Earth
- Bus Crash: Memphis dies off-screen, apparently due to being trampled by Geoffrey's elephants. Averted with Eunice, who was revealed to have never actually died and instead took off on an interstellar trip.
- Dead Man Writing: The primary plot of the novel, with Geoffrey and Sunday searching for the various clues left by their deceased grandmother Eunice. However, considering it's set in the 22nd century, some of the clues are a little more advanced than just mere writing.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Hector dies very suddenly while he, Geoffrey, and Jumai are approaching Lionheart. He's obliterated in an instant by Lionheart's automated defenses. It's so quick that at first Geoffrey thinks it's a comms error.
- Faking the Dead: Several examples.
- Lin Wei was supposed to have "drowned" decades before the start of the book. It's revealed that she actually transformed herself into a massive whale-like form, Arethusa.
- Eunice, with the help of Memphis. She never actually died and instead had begun a years-long interstellar voyage. However, due to the length of the trip, it's basically one-way, meaning she's essentially dead to everyone anyway.
- Surprisingly averted with Memphis. He dies offscreen, and since he helped Eunice fake her death, it's easy to assume he did as well. However, he actually died.
- Global Warming: Climate change wrecked the Earth's ecosystems and raised the sea level, leading to a series of intense "resource wars". Later on, advanced technology allowed vast seawalls to be created to protect certain coastal cities, and mankind is now actively working on correcting the worst effects of climate change.
- Grew Beyond Their Programming: Constantly hinted at with the Eunice construct. Near the end it's confirmed that, yes, the construct has become (or already has been for quite some time) sentient.
- Instant A.I., Just Add Water: Zig-zagged. It's implied that "artilects" can only be created with the concerted effort of humans, and "true" AIs are outlawed. However, the Eunice construct apparently became sentient just from having untold amounts of Eunice's public data and personality profile put into her.
- Just a Machine: The Eunice "construct" created by Sunday is treated like this by all the main characters. Despite seeming genuinely sentient, Sunday and Geoffrey repeatedly treat her like crap because they think she's just a clever program and not really intelligent.
- Mechanical Evolution: The "Evolvarium" on Mars. Filled with deadly Starfish Robots that constantly fight and consume each other all the while building new slightly different copies of themselves. Unfortunately for Geoffrey and Sunday, one of the clues they're looking for is smack in the middle of it.
- Neo-Africa: The primary setting for the story. The Akinyas are Kenyan and are explicitly noted to be speaking Swahili the entire novel. While not everything is perfect in the African countries, they've become new economic and technological powers and the overall tone is quite optimistic. A Post-Cyberpunk sensibility is present, but it's mostly set dressing.
- No Transhumanism Allowed: Zig-zagged. While creating truly intelligent AIs has been outlawed, enhancing intelligence and removing bad neural traits is accepted practice, to the point that it's actually a routine procedure done to everyone at birth. Also, the Pans are explicitly transhumanist and even have their own nation.
- Playing Against Type: Reynolds says that he began the Poseideon's Children trilogy specifically so he could portray a much more optimistic future than his usual writing, such as his dark Revelation Space series.
- Sapient Cetaceans: Arethusa, the head of the Pans, has modified herself into a large, whale-like form.
- Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: Played with. "True" AI is forbidden by law, so all AIs dealt with in the novel are explicitly noted as being not actually intelligent. Despite this, however, they do seem pretty smart. The Eunice "construct" that Sunday created is presented, for all intents and purposes, as being an actual thinking being. However, the human characters go out of their way to explain that she's just sufficiently advanced enough to seem intelligent.
- Space Opera: Wholly averted. The novel takes place in the Solar System and interstellar travel is explicitly portrayed as virtually impossible with the current technology outlined in the setting. Even traveling within the solar system is presented realistically; getting from Earth to Mars takes weeks, and getting to the outer solar system takes months.
- Translation Convention: The main characters all speak Swahili. Interestingly, despite the novel being entirely written in English, no one in the story is ever noted as speaking actual English.
- One exception. In the bank on the moon the translators don't work and the bank employee doesn't speak Swahili so Geoffrey and the bank employee speak English to each other for a few lines.
- Translator Microbes: Nearly all people have implants that automatically translate other languages for them in real-time. The main characters speak Swahili and hear everyone else speaking it as well.
- Utopia: In the 22nd Century, mankind has weathered the worst of climate change and the resulting resource wars. Africa, China, and India have emerged as the leading technological superpowers. Spaceflight, while still expensive and slow, has led to the settlement of the inner solar system as well as automated mining operations further out. Genetic engineering has increased human lifespan and nearly all people have neural implants that allow them to communicate with the "Aug", a kind of global internet that can be accessed anywhere for information, augmented reality, and real-time translation of other languages. Likewise, crime and accidents are almost non-existent thanks to an omnipresent surveillance system known as the "Mechanism".