48 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Now we can travel a bit faster,
This review is from: Blue Remembered Earth (Poseidons Children 1) (Hardcover)
I wonder what the point of reviews is. I like writing them. I know that. Do people read them in order to decide whether to read a book or not? Surely not, otherwise, they may spoil the experience, by coming across spoilers and evaluations. I think if we write a positive review, it is an attempt to express and write down, to record, the pleasure we felt in reading that book. We're grateful and wish for that experience not to be forgotten. If we write a negative review, we feel a bit angry and disappointed. Angry because reading a whole book is not a small commitment, and disappointed because we didn't reach that climax of satisfaction that we always hope to re-experience.
So this is my first negative review. I admit to feeling angry and disappointed, so this is how I shall structure the review.
For some time, Alastair Reynolds has been my favourite author. I've read almost all of his books, and correspondingly loved almost all of them. The first book I read of his was Redemption Arc, and it was to reading what strawpedos are to drinking. It went straight in, no resistance. Every sentence a pleasure, every character interesting, every plot turn a view to behold with delta v enough to provide a thrill. Such was my enjoyment, I didn't waste time, and immediately awarded Alastair favourite author, and went on to read all remaining books.
Some time passed, some excellent books were published, and then came the first of his books that I could not finish. Terminal World. This is not a review of that book, so I wont comment on it, other than to say that not finishing a book is a hard choice to make. An ultimate failing of endurance, an admission that one does not have the imaginative capacity to enjoy a piece of literature, and so something I do not do lightly.
Blue Remembered Earth looked like it was time to put Terminal World behind me. It had a colourful front cover, elephants, and an exciting synopsis on the back. There was still anxiety though, similar to that which comes from your favourite band releasing a new album. Is it going to be as good? Or is this one going to be the cause of the band breaking up.
It started off good. An interesting setting, a strange experience with a tank, a dead elephant, but then, the slow realisation that you're in the automotive equivalent of a Sunday afternoon drive, and the driver in front is wearing a hat and gloves and you're consigned to 30mph and no overtaking lane for 500 miles.
Well first off, I'm not really angry. Reading a book is a privilege. I am not entitled to enjoy a book, it is a gift. An author cannot please everyone. Enjoyment and entertainment are subjective matters, and while a book is found boring by one, it is found enthralling by others.
However, I really didn't enjoy this one, and must get it off my chest.
How do you define what you did and didn't like about a book? I found myself asking this question while reading this book. Why don't I like it? What is it about this book that is different to the other book that I loved? I don't think I know for sure, but I can try my best to describe what it may be.
I didn't like the characters at all. I found them boring, dull, grey, uninteresting, and then on top of the lack of interest, the qualities that did come through were petulance, lack of ambition, pettiness. A few dark and dreary splodges on a grey canvas.
I didn't like the story. Well, maybe this is where a little bit of the anger came in. It didn't seem to link together too well. First off you have an incident with a tank, that housed an AI, then you have a funeral of a far off grandmother, then you have a mountain firing off some package unexpectedly, then you have an irritating simulation of a person akin to something out of the Caprica TV series or the first non Isaac Asimov Foundation sequel, then ensues a wild goose chase, that takes you from the Moon, to Mars. I could go on. There are loads of these episodes. None of which enjoyable in themselves, all leading to some kind of climax. All the time you are looking back, wondering, are those elephants going to have some involvement in the climax? How is that mountain going to fit in at the epiphany?
Then, you get to the end of the wild goose chase, or near to the end, you find this piece of treasure you're looking for, and what does it contain? A note! Well, all the best wild goose chases end with a note don't they? It means the story is not over, the hunt can go on. What does the note say? "Go to that space station, that one of the other characters is already going to." I want to go to that box of treasure and put a note back in it saying "Thanks. Actually, that other character in the book is already on his way, but thanks for the hint anyway."
Then there is a bit more journeying, a death of someone you don't care about, and then the revelation. What is it? What have I persisted through this dreadful novel to learn? Two things. One, we can travel a bit faster than we used to. Fantastic. What else? Oh yes. Although there was no mention of it throughout the whole book, we've found a kind of rosetta stone, that gives us loads of secrets of physics. Free of charge. Fabulous.
What about the whale woman?
What about the AIs?
What about the Mountain?
What about that guy that died with the elephants? Did he really die?
What about that other guy that lived in the Evolvarium?
Did Eunice really die?
Wasn't there some planet spotted somewhere in the book that had something on it (A bit like in Queen of Angels)? Or was I dreaming that?
What about the Mechanism?
What about all the stuff written on the synopsis?
it's like the ending of the book was totally disconnected with the rest of the book.
So that's it really. That's the meat of it. But also, the detail. The painful detail. Every mundane act was provided with the most elaborative description. The scene that really did it for me was when one of the protagonists was getting into a spaceship. He had to go in, along the corridor, and find his cousin - who was a bad guy. This scene was written out in the most elaborate detail. Was the detail an attempt to allow tension to build? Were we supposed to feel some kind of anxiety about what would be waiting in this spaceship? The whole book seemed to be drawn out by this expansive unnecessary detail, as if a 100 page book had to be expanded to a 500 page book, by some serious padding.
So yes, a long drawn out book, uninteresting characters and an underwhelming climax that was detached from the content of the book.
I will probably have a go at the next one, but this time, I'll certainly not hang around if it doesn't get going pretty quickly.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Jan 2013 18:14:01 GMT
John Haylock says:
love Alistair, BUT share your irritation about terminal world, i too did not finish.....i'm going to read this one, but general consensus seems to be this is a dud, pity coz pushing ice and century rain remain 2 of my favourite all time sf novels
Posted on 6 Jun 2013 09:31:03 BDT
C. Jack says:
Great review, matches my feelings exactly.
Posted on 29 Jun 2013 09:28:11 BDT
The Engineer says:
Thanks for the review - I've been getting increasingly irritated with what AR has left on the table, rather than his style of writing. His recent works have left too many strings untied, and books that were crying for a sequel have been left wallowing. Revelation space was an incredible debut, and remains one of the best SF books I have ever read (some of Dan Simmons or Neal Stephenson's SF literature top it for me); but personally I don't think he's ever matched that form since. Sorry AR, but I do agree with other reviewers, cut back on the description, spend more time developing the story. I would say that when the new Revelation Space is out there, I'll be the first to buy - but from now on I'll be waiting for the reviews to prove it...
Posted on 1 Sep 2013 22:20:52 BDT
Putney Hill says:
It is so dreadful and amateurish that I wondered if it was an early unpublished work previously rejected by the publisher and rehashed/released when he had established himself.
Posted on 28 Oct 2013 14:06:59 GMT
Ian Burdon says:
I sort of agree. I didn't dislike the book but I wasn't especially gripped by it either. What I didn't realise as I read it was that it is the first part of a series. I'd guess that a lot of your questions will be answered in future volumes if you read them. My reading, by the way, is that Eunice did not die but is in the object emitting a plasma plume seen accelerating towards the stars at the end.
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