Review: Blue Remembered Earth

Posted: October 3, 2012 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Alastair Reynolds, Science Fiction

I was a little late to get on board with Alastair Reynolds. I only picked up a book of his two or so years ago, but once I found him he quickly became one of my favorite authors. He writes the type of book I love: big, grand space operas with vast ideas that can take place over thousands of years and span across galaxies.

Recently I’ve tried to get my dad to try Reynold’s books out. He kept asking me which book of his to start with. I honestly didn’t have an answer. It seemed like everything he had written (that I had read) had some great stuff in it. I enjoyed all of his books.

Sadly after reading BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH (Amazon), I can tell him which book not to start with.

While BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH had some great moments and certainly showed that this series can become something really cool and special, this book sadly wasn’t up to the usual standards that I hold Reynolds too. Which isn’t to say it’s not a good book. It really is. It’s a lot of fun and would be a great book by some authors. But it’s not Reynolds best in my opinion.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon: One hundred and fifty years from now, Africa has become the world’s dominant technological and economic power. Crime, war, disease and poverty have been eliminated. The Moon and Mars are settled, and colonies stretch all the way out to the edge of the solar system. And Ocular, the largest scientific instrument in history, is about to make an epochal discovery…

While BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH had great moments and showed the series potential, this book sadly wasn’t up to Reynolds' usual standards.

Like I said earlier, the book is fun, and I really did have a good time reading it. It just didn’t hold up after the fact. You know what I mean? There are those books that you read and read and enjoy, but then after you’ve put it down, it kind of wanders out of your head. You don’t think about it much, it doesn’t leave a big impression on you. This is one of those books. It just didn’t stay. And even now looking back on it, I can see some really fun scenes and some big ideas, but that’s all it is, fun scenes. Not great characters for me, not a compelling story, just moments.

The weird thing about BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH is the end of it really did leave me wanting to read the next one. The book, in and of itself, didn’t blow me away but DID manage to set me up to where I’m anxious about reading the next in the series. With most authors I would be wary. I naturally ask myself, “Sure he set me up for some cool things to happen, but is he going to come through on those ideas?” Or, “Is the next book going to wow me where this one only showed the potential of wowing me?” I’ve read enough of Reynolds’ work to believe that this book was just the slow set up to something big and amazing to come. I could look back on this book as the beginning of a great epic story.

Like I said, with someone of Reynolds caliber, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. For now, BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH falls right on the line of “Mediocre” and “Like”, but good follow-ups could make this the start of a fantastic series.

  • Recommended Age: I dunno, 14+? 16+? There’s nothing really bad here, it’s just a bit complex and full of science explanatory stuff.
  • Language: Not much that I remember
  • Violence: Nothing to be upset about
  • Sex: I don’t remember any. Maybe referenced, but that’s about it.


  • Ron Buckmire says:

    If your dad likes multiple genres (good sci fi but maybe also mysteries) then I would suggest he start reading Alastair Reynold's THE PREFECT.

    Otherwise I woud say start with CHASM CITY, which is just a freaking awesome novel and a nice intro to his REVELATION SPACE universe without getting too deeply invested.

    I like Reynolds a lot also, perhaps even more than Peter F. Hamilton!

  • Marc Rose says:

    I think the main problem with the book is that like many science fiction novels it’s too long and detailed. Science authors will often publish a 500 page book where 200 would have done, and the 200 Page book would have been much better. This is no exception.

    • Writer Dan says:

      Probably. There’s always a balance between immersing the reader in the world of the story and telling a succinct story. With Science Fiction, one of the set pieces I like to look for (*other* than great character, which this author always does for me) is a sense of wonder and awe. So, as I read, I’m more willing to go in for that kind of stuff. Now, apply that same rubric to some of the epic fantasy tomes of today, and I’m right there with you, as I don’t look for the same things there. Thanks for the opinion. Hope to see you around.

      • matt says:

        For me the biggest draw of Reynolds is his giant-scale imagination. Revelation Space was the first book of his that I read and I was hooked, despite all of the characters being monomaniacal sociopaths (with varying levels of arrogance and willingness to do violence to distinguish their dialogue). The ideas, the worldbuilding, the mindblowing contemplations of what might be possible were what I fell in love with.

        He got better as a writer, particularly with characterization, and this meant that I liked The Prefect and Chasm City and House of Suns even more – all of which are still on my list of all-time favorite books. Blue Remembered Earth fell a bit flat for me because so many of the ideas felt like remixed versions of stuff he’d used in previous books. The characterization was still improving, and Geoffrey Akinya was both a more solidly drawn character while being very different from Reynolds’ previous leads. But it wasn’t good enough to offset the relative lack of Big SF Ideas versus his earlier books, at least for me.

        • Writer Dan says:

          I can totally see that. In my reading experience here, the Big SF ideas got bigger and bigger with each book in this series. So, while the ideas in BLUE aren’t Earth shattering or particularly impressive, those in the later books, which build upon the ideas presented in this one, are absolutely fantastic. Reynolds is one of the few SF authors that has consistently provided me with stories rooted in their characters, and thus has given me a reason to care about those SF ideas in the first place. Guy does SF *right*. Happy to hear from another fan. 🙂

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