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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Threatened by Shadows at Night
On a Steel Breeze is a large scale, hard SF adventure story with two main weaknesses, the beginning and the end. It is a sequel to Blue Remembered Earth, taking place in the following centuries and concerning itself with the next generation of the Akinya family.

Chiku, daughter of Sunday and niece of Geoffrey has cloned herself twice and the three genetic...
Published 10 months ago by P. G. Harris

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Series needed to get better - it didn't!
It's a shame really as the core concepts are rock solid. However, Reynolds continues to run on three cylinders. Despite being a fan and despite being committed to reading all his output, I can't really recommend this. Half-baked...
Published 10 months ago by Gasman


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Threatened by Shadows at Night, 6 Oct 2013
By 
P. G. Harris - See all my reviews
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On a Steel Breeze is a large scale, hard SF adventure story with two main weaknesses, the beginning and the end. It is a sequel to Blue Remembered Earth, taking place in the following centuries and concerning itself with the next generation of the Akinya family.

Chiku, daughter of Sunday and niece of Geoffrey has cloned herself twice and the three genetic sisters have shared memories. One sets out to chase the family matriarch Eunice who disappeared into deep space at the end of the previous book. One joins a convoy of giant starships, hollowed out of asteroids, making their way to a nearby star, where an alien artefact has been observed. The third stays on Earth, a baseline charged with staying safe.

However, the starships on their way to the planet Crucible are threatened by shadows at night, or more literally by a ghost in the machine which threatens not just the success of the mission, but the future of the entire human race.

On a Steel Breeze is a work which takes its place on an increasingly crowded playing field on which it is difficult to see new ideas being created. This is the arena of the next few centuries where humankind has broadly conquered the solar system, and is now looking towards the next step. It is an SF where Einstein and relativity are given due respect and voyages to the stars require decades. It is a style of future already populated by Kim Stanley Robinson, Stephen Baxter and David Brin.

Within this style of universe, the main theme explored in this book is the interaction between organic and machine intelligence, and whether they can co-exist. Reynolds keeps his powder on the answer to that dry, leaving at least three different scenarios, on Earth, on Mars and on Crucible to be explored in the final part of the trilogy.

Once the story is underway it is an entertaining read. The pace ebbs and flows nicely, with Reynolds at times kicking back and letting events unfold gradually, while at others racheting up the tension in set piece action sequences. It is also fun to see the elephants of Blue Remembered Earth making a reappearance.

And so to the problems. I'm sorry but I just didn't buy the set up of a mission being launched to the stars, including millions of people, reliant on discovering a new physics while underway to be able to slow down at its destination. At the end, the resolution of one of the issues is just far too clean and easy, almost as if Chiku is given a magic spell to put things right.

While one part of the ending is unsatisfying, overall the story is nicely set up for the final volume.

So in summary, I enjoyed this book, but it is a little lacking in the wow factor, it all feels a bit familiar.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Alastair Reynolds in years, 15 Jan 2014
By 
Ian Kaplan (Livermore, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On the Steel Breeze (Hardcover)
I only really started to like Blue Remembered Earth), the first novel in the Poseidon's Children series, when I read it a second time, before On the Steel Breeze. After reading Blue Remembered Earth a second time I moved the review from three stars to four.

My original objection to Blue Remembered Earth was that not much seemed to happen. On the Steel Breeze has a driving force that is missing from Blue Remembered Earth. I had to tear myself way from the last half of the book when I had other things that I needed to do.

Near the end of Blue Remembered Earth a planet is discovered by a space borne telescope that has the unmistakable signs of a massive alien artifact. The planet is named Crucible and On the Steel Breeze is about travel to that planet by massive starships, hollowed from asteroids and powered by the new physics that is found at the end of Blue Remembered Earth.

Science fiction is the fiction of ideas and Reynolds explores a variety of ideas, including the nature of humanity under pressure. This are also a variety of explorations of technology, but the core of the novel is character driven.

One challenge that Reynolds may have struggled with the the problem of time and distance. There are no light huggers in this book, as there are in the Revelation Space books. The best that humanity can manage is fractions of the speed of light, which incurs a huge cost in time before we arrive at the end of the story. At times the story jumps decades into the future, as awaited events, like the planet fall on Crucible finally arrive. At times this can give the story an awkward feel, since we are not used to thinking in these huge time frames. It would be like the story starting out in the era of James Stewart (Queen Elizabeth I's heir) and ending in modern times. But it is believable that someday there will be longevity treatments that do allow humans to live such long times.

Another place that Reynolds may have struggled is in the ending of the story. On the Steel Breeze is a complex story spanning two solar systems. I thought that the ending was well done. There's no way to neatly tie up such a complex story. I hope that there will be at least one more novel in the series.

Perhaps because Reynolds is a UK writer, he's published in the UK first. This doesn't make much sense in the modern world. I live in California but I was able to read the book six months before it would be released in the US by purchasing the book from an Amazon book dealer. I suppose that book rights are still sold on a country by country basis. The other reviewers who live in the US did the same thing. One of the advantages of paper books over electronic books is that the purchaser has rights that have been taken away in the case of electronic books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars “Demon in the Aether”, 7 Nov 2013
By 
No More Mr. Mice Guy (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On the Steel Breeze (Hardcover)
On The Steel Breeze, Alastair Reynolds, 483pp, 2013.

This novel is a sequel to Blue Remembered Earth (Poseidons Children 1), and takes up the story long after the end of it. This time Chiku Akinya is the Narrator, or rather, several of them, as she has cloned herself (short version) and three of her set off on different paths, one to pursue Eunice Akinya’s spaceship, one to accompany the fleet of colony ships sent off to Crucible, the world containing the Mandala, an object visible from twenty light years away from the solar system, while the third stayed at home. As with many of Alastair Reynolds’ novels, the speed of light is an absolute limit, and the narrative is spread over a long period of time, helped by the split points-of-view, as the three Chikus are able to send memory updates (short version) to each other, so are able to remain in communication with each other. However, it is not quite that simple, as they have stopped talking to each other a long time ago, as they all drifted further apart in space and time. There is a serious problem aboard the first wave of colony ships – some of which are carrying elephants!; which we experience from one point of view; there is a serious problem in the solar system as Arachne, the AI (short version) is starting to get a bit worried about events there involving Akinyas and other characters from the first volume; and the third Chiku appears to be dead after an incident when finally catching up with the Winter Queen…

However, very little is as it seems, for there are massive alien artefacts orbiting Crucible, which have been doctored out of the data reaching Earth by Arachne; the robots who were set ahead of the colony ships to build the infrastructure for the colonists have done something else instead; the colony ships themselves have problems with their engines and can’t slow down; there is also a stowaway on Chiku’s colony ship – Eunice the AI from the first volume; and Arachne the AI has infected every robotic system on Earth, and is prepared to kill anyone who knows of her existence. And the Chiku who went after the Winter Queen may not actually be missing… And there are Uplifted elephants!

Despite being spread over decades, this was a page-turner of a novel as far as I was concerned, and I’m not sure it is all over yet.

SPOILER ZONE
Remember that sealed box on Venus? That struck me as suspicious even before we were told about June Wing’s little enhancements… Is there more to come from here?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Series needed to get better - it didn't!, 25 Oct 2013
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It's a shame really as the core concepts are rock solid. However, Reynolds continues to run on three cylinders. Despite being a fan and despite being committed to reading all his output, I can't really recommend this. Half-baked...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable but not vintage Reynolds!, 31 Oct 2013
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Powerful story telling and strong characterisation as you would expect from Alastair Reynolds. He does well to retain a connected narrative across two different time frames and light years of space without invoking faster than light communication. Unfortunately, elsewhere the hard science is less than credible and his resolution of the central dilemma facing his protagonists smacks of "I woke up and it was all a dream!" That said, still a great read and we can all look forward to the loose ends being tied up in part three.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Too detailed? Love it !, 26 Oct 2013
Brilliant book about the not too distant future where technology has not given humans godlike powers yet. Limitation in human capabilities make this book more down to earth. It also opens the door for new angles to technologies which are more plausible and realistic, like planetary bombardment by high speed mass as opposed to lasers.

The book tends to dwell on events which are not key to the main theme, but these moments are important to reflect on how people feel and make decisions in the future. When reading a sf book I would like to feel how life will turn out in the future not only to get a logically sound detective / action story.

Another virtue of the book is that it gives answers to most of the questions not leaving many things in the open.

And finally we have extraterrestrials which are several steps ahead of humanity's technological level, as is expected by statistics.

Cannot wait for the 3rd part !
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit slow, 29 Sep 2013
By 
Robert (Uxbridge, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I did not find this that gripping. I think the scene setting was not up to his usual standard. I never once felt that sense of wonder that many of Reynold's previous novels evoked. Characters were OK. I regret that I bought this on the strength of previous great works, and wish instead I had opted for the free first chapter because I would have saved my money.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great title for a great book, 10 July 2014
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Alastair Reynolds has in my mind again brought to us another great story of the future.
Not too long or involved but just right.
I look forward to further instalments of Chiku and Eunice Akinya and their adventures to come.
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5.0 out of 5 stars On the Steel Breeze, 20 April 2014
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Thought provoking, engaging and 'a right riveting read'. Science fiction at its best and most enjoyable. A great space opera
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic! I loved this book, 16 April 2014
By 
Mr. Paul J. Grenyer (Norwich, Norfolk, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On the Steel Breeze (Hardcover)
I really struggled to put it down and was reading it at every opportunity. I was even reading it for the three minutes it took to microwave my lunch at work each day.

It’s great not to have to start my review saying that this book is excellent, but not as good as Revelation Space, because it is, although it’s not as broad in terms of the scope of the story.

Unlike Blue Remembered Earth, you’re straight into the action with On the Steel Breeze and there’s none of the slow character building. It sits so well on the foundations created by Blue Remembered Earth that I wish I’d gone back and read it again first. I also liked all the characters this time.

There’s a great sense of mystery right up to the end. Most science fiction stories based around a paranoid machine intelligence remind me of HAL. However, HAL was a well intentioned, mislead child. Arachne, at least the version of her integrated into the Earth mech is clearly evil.

Science fiction is usually a look at possible future societies and many of them are utopian futures where there is no more conflict or murder and all of them are wavering on the brink of falling back into chaos. It’s the same in the future painted by On the Steel Breeze. And of course the characters acting for the good of everyone push it over the brink.

Following an experiment that went catastrophically wrong and destroyed a holoship, all development of the engines needed to slow the holoships down and allow them to reach their goal was prohibited. I was frustrated with the authorities making this decisions all the way through the book. It just felt so short sighted, but this is often how governments are. I also missed why the holoships couldn’t turn themselves over and use the engines they’d used to reach their transit velocity to slow down.

The end only answers about 90% of the questions asked by the rest of the book and sets the scene perfectly for the third and final part of Poseidon's Children. In the meantime I’ll be readying Doctor Who: Harvest of Time, also by Alastair Reynolds.
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On the Steel Breeze
On the Steel Breeze by Alastair Reynolds (Hardcover - 26 Sep 2013)
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