BOOK REVIEW: ON THE STEEL BREEZE / AUTHOR: ALASTAIR REYNOLDS / PUBLISHER: GOLLANCZ / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Alastair Reynolds’s trilogy, known as Poseidon’s Children, continues with On the Steel Breeze. Although set following Blue Remembered Earth, it is not a sequel in the sense that the reader needs to know much if anything about the first book. There may be a build to a grand conclusion but this book may be safely read in isolation.
The central character, Chiku, is a woman from the well-connected Akinya family. She lives in Portugal with Pedro some time in our future, when some of the human race have started to move to space whilst others have evolved themselves to live in the seas. This being an Alastair Reynolds novel, Chiku is one of three copies of the original woman who had herself copied and memories shared across three people called Chiku Green, Red, and Yellow. To add to the mix, Chiku’s son has mutated himself and joined the mer-people living under the sea. Chiku Green joined a fleet of spaceships on a 150-year expedition to a new world called the Crucible; Chiku Red went into near space to seek a drifting hulk called the Winter Queen and gain its secrets; Chiku Yellow would stay behind and it is this Chiko that opens the story.
Alastair Reynolds tends to write what is often labelled hard science-fiction, in which nothing currently viewed as impossible is used as a plot device. This means that spaceships are bound by Einstein, technology is evolved but still recognisable, and Chiku’s future world may be strange but is recognisably derived from ours. Within these parameters, the story unfolds and Chiku Yellow’s story slowly intertwines with that of her alternates, and this provides a means of storytelling from differing perspectives that grabs the reader’s attention once the concept becomes clear.
Although a science-fiction tale of space travel, the possibilities of human technology and warnings about our own future, On the Steel Breeze can also be viewed as a rich tale of relationships. There is Chiku’s relationship with Pedro, the connection to her forebears and wider family, the relationship with her son and, ultimately, the relationship with her own identity, fragmented as it is by science into three parts. It is also a tale of mankind’s relationship with technology (particularly the web and smart technology) and a warning about becoming over-dependent.
Reynolds has crafted a fascinating book that rewards the reader who takes the time to go with the journey in the first few chapters then enjoy the many puzzles that he unfolds with his usual skill.
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