The idea of a space-faring Africa seems to me to verge on fantasy rather than SF. Even if the rest of the world - and I mean absolutely everywhere else - was destroyed in some apocalypse, Africa and it's people would blithely continue to do what they are doing now: starving each other, slaughtering each other, making babies they can't feed, and, at the lower social end of the scale, dreaming up scams, and at the top, indulging in massive corruption. Thus it has ever been in that benighted continent. Bizarrely, Reynolds imagines a Utopian future in this place, with the very things that define Africa today - I've mentioned a few above - conspicuous by their absence; this makes me think he's written some sort of humanist leftie polemic. I hope not! PS if anyone bothers to reply to this, please be civil, I'm only engaging in a critique of the plausibility of the new novel.
I've actually read an early pre-production version of this book, and while from the synopsis I can see why you take issue with the setup, the execution is exemplary. While Africa plays a reasonable part in the plot that the book explores, in many ways it is merely a back drop to some great science fiction. If you have read it, then we will have to agree to disagree, but from my point of view the back story that sets up African nations in this way is entirely plausible and creates an interesting twist on what is otherwise a very caucasian dominated genre. While the majority of SF is content to merely reflect current social norms, this book generally represents a 'different than most would anticipate' future of the world.
Having been disappointed with Terminal World, this is actually Reynolds' best work since the books set in the Revelation Space universe.
Oh, and just to respond to the title of your post - Africa isn't setup to be some kind of Utopia (in the way we traditionally understand it, rather than the way that those who have actually read Thomas Moore's Utopia understand it - the latter is actually a pretty good way of describing Reynolds' approach).
Thanks for your response Ali, for now I'l have t take your word for it because I haven't actually read it, and i also thought Terminal World was dire - it seems to me the quality of his imagination (writing craft was never his strong point!) has declined since he became a full time writer - the pressure I suppose of publishing contracts. I read Utopia some time ago and the contiuned harmony of its society was based to some extent, if I recall, on war and foreign colonization - you seem to hint that this is where Reynolds is going.
First off, I know nothing about this book, though I intend to buy it. Secondly, I might struggle to be 'civil' after you casually wrote off an entire continent. Your ignorance and arrogance are the only outstanding things in your nasty little post. Africa has problems so that means every inhabitant is incapable of amounting to anything? What a vile and incorrect opinion. How do you think these problems arose? You have obviously never heard of slavery? Western powers crushing mass movements for change? The 'race for Africa' and the theft of it's natural resources? Western support for dictators and fostering of civil war. The fact that colonial powers got a map of Africa and scribbled their country's name next to the the African one is probably just a leftist conspiracy theory to you. Selective racists like to point out poverty and the size of the population in Africa whilst turning a blind-eye to the same issues in the USA and China. Over population is not a problem by the way, it is a matter of distributing ample resources across all classes, but that's for a different post. I get a bit worried when a person doesn't want to read 'humanist polemics', would you prefer an anti-human one? Never met Alastair Reynolds but hope he shares my disgust in your viewpoints. You might want to search for books by a bloke called Hitler, it is not traditional science fiction but he didn't write much and it won't break the bank getting his full back catalogue. If it was the kind of civilization we brought to Africa you wanted from posters, didn't expect it from me.
I don't normally engage to heavily with posts like these, but whilst I can't argue with the facts about the continent and its problems, they're so mired in our generic, nasty racism that frankly I'm surprised anyone's bothered to respond to you.
Massive generalisation leads to a pretty bleak message of hopelessness there. I suppose you think that 'the West' was always a wonderful, prosperous place - rather than a desperate struggle to destroy the native population and then engage in civil war (in the case of America) or tear about in religious or political feuds like the UK and the rest of Europe.
To say 'Africa will never change' or to suggest that anything about the place is conducted "blithely" just highlights your lack or thinking or, if you actually spared a few seconds before writing your post, your sheer ignorance and arrogance.
Yikes! I never thought I'd spark off such hostility by stating what are simply obvious truths, if one takes one's left/liberal blinkers off. Those of a liberal bias are of course the ones most intolerant of opinions contrary to their own, as the responses above prove. One guy resonding even calls himself Chairman Paulo - his political leanings are easily guessed at, even before reading his response, which apart from consisting of nasty ad hominem attacks, also advocates 'distributing ample resources across all classes' - that's called communism, and it would be worth Chairman Paulo's time reading up on how that has faired in every single country in which it's been tried.
By the way Da5id, I'm aware that the pyramids are in Africa, though their builders were not black Africans, and anyway what has this to do with Africa's future? Or China for that matter, whose ancient culture, by the way, I admire immensely. And where did the UK come into it? Are you thinking of HG Wells' War of the Worlds in reverse or something.
Relax all fellow leftists/liberals, I happen to be wearing my blinkers so I'll take this one. Oh, it's only black Africans you have no regard for? Thanks for clearing that up and pardon my intolerance. I read a lot of science fiction and can't think of many other books where most of the main characters are black. It's a refreshing change and great way of forcing the reader to consider possible futures and other directions for the human race - you know, like good sci-fi is supposed to? Some minds are obviously too closed off. Stick to reading books where the American Empire still has domination. You are welcome to your opinions but you opened this thread (on a page of a world-famous website concerning a bestselling author) with a challenge for responses, so don't moan now about how you look a bit of Nazi. Finally, imperialist capitalism has brought nothing but misery to Africa and capitalism is in crisis in Europe. Socialism, communism, Marxism, whatever you want to call the end of wage/debt slavery and the introduction of true democracy, is the only way out.