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on 24 March 2017
An extraordinary novel, the author has had the ability to create a degree of believability about the shocking outcomes from relatively near science innovation. This novel provokes consideration of future interactions between biological and artificially created intelligent organisms, to consider the interplay between threatening and cooperating strategies on both parts.On the Steel Breeze (Poseidons Children Book 2)
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on 20 March 2017
Somewhat different to his other deep space operas but it doesn't disappoint. His ability to build worlds and make them believable is unsurpassed. For any Al Reynolds fans this is a must read. Well worth 4 stars.
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VINE VOICEon 30 January 2014
I'm about 75% done with this, and sadly, just not enjoying it. Very literally, the first 75% of the book is helpfully summarised in Chapter 35 of the Kindle edition, which kinda means you can just start from there rather than plod through the first 34 rather boring chapters. It's difficult to say more without major spoilers, but there are entire chapters which can be safely skipped here with no overall repercussions to the plot so far.

Edit : Having finished it now, I'd add that the ending is poor and doesn't tie up much in the way of the plot either. Two big mysteries at the end remain much of a mystery apiece, and seems mainly to have been incorporated into the plot in the first place just to act as a general vehicle.
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on 29 September 2013
From the pointless use of the impersonal pronoun to the incomprehensible average nature of pretty much every character, this book fails for me. I find this terribly disappointing as I've been such a fan of AR, I have all his books and I've been looking forward to this.

I don't do content so no spoilers but this book just felt rambling & unfocused - the characters in particular were dull and
Iifeless; I probably felt that the most colourful characters were the elephants! (not really a spoiler this revelation).

Before I'd even passed 15% of the book I found myself skipping paragraphs; by 20% skipping pages. I was tempted to start skipping random chunks, sure in the knowledge that I would be ale to pick up the tedious predictability of the angst-ridden (yet simultaneously uninvolving) washed-out and colourless views of the central characters.

There was little to engage via the personalities, still less with a plot that, while understandably on a long timescale, failed to excite. The notional plot context of human/AI interaction has been done far better, many times; I would assert that if you wanted a good, taut & well-written version of this - go dust-off your copy of William Gibsons 'Neuromancer' - a 30 yr old novel infinitely better written and with a more modern 'feel'.

I finished the book with an unaccountable sense of relief - this one goes into archive in the certain knowledge it won't be re-read. I expect better from a quality author (and a 'quality' price tag!).
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Now I do like Alastair Reynolds. He can be a bit hit and miss, but the chasm city series was good and I really enjoyed his short stories and the sci-fi noir one (Black Rain?). Then he wrote Blue Remembered Earth and it was a bit of a slog, but I could see some potential with the sentient elephants and the germs of space travel and all that, so I read the sequel. Hmm.

I accept that unlike Hamilton and his almost cartoonish characters blasting around space shooting each other, you get more thoughtful characters and more detailed science, but you do miss out on some of the fun. I struggled to warm to the Akinyas in BRE, although Sunday and Geoffrey grew on me. Reynolds pretty much ditches these this time and gives us Chiku, who’s meant to be a kind of watered down and triplicate version of Sunday I think and who, in true heroine mode, doesn’t really realise her potential until she’s encountered all manner of problems. The trouble was though, I didn’t really care.

The middle book of trilogies do often suffer from having to be the bridging book, but with BRE being a mite dull, this didn’t really have anywhere to go. The holoships and their subsequent breakdown in social order were interesting – yet barely touched. Chiku’s relationship with Pedro and her jaunt to Venus was seriously dull and the point at which I wondered whether to cut my losses. The watch keepers and Arachne just didn‘t have that air of menace I wanted and it was difficult to care really what happened. Yes, it’s nice to read science books with lots of female characters, but if you’re going to do that, make them interesting; make them real!

I just wish editors would tell their writers that you don’t have to write 500 pages at a time – especially 500 pages where very little actually happens most of the time.

The final book needs to be stunning to make up for all the hours I've lost.
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VINE VOICEon 6 October 2013
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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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.

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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on 16 April 2014
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 October 2013
As men and women explore space and settle new worlds, increasingly knotted to technology, they put at risk everything that is, or has been, beautiful about the Earth and life on it - free thought, independent purpose, animals and nature, healthy breathable skies and even family ties. In On the Steel Breeze, the distant sequel to Blue Remembered Earth, these themes are explored even further and taken to new places as humanity confronts a time of great crisis. I'm delighted to report that elephants make a return in the new novel and they are given a much more important role in our future.

In On the Steel Breeze, we follow the life stories of three women, descendants of the remarkable and celebrated Eunice Akinya and her daughter Sunday, so well known to us from the previous novel. All is not that straightforward, though, because the ties that bind these women are unusual and profound. The journeys they lead are each very different and randomly allotted. While one stays on Earth and its neighbouring planets, apparently for safety, another journeys with a great caravan of holoships to settle a new planet, Crucible, after decades of travel. Her ship is called Zanzibar, continuing the series' African theme. The third is on a search and she has the most dangerous of all the three tasks.

Everyone is on the move. Millions and millions of people are leaving the solar system for other worlds on asteroids transformed into generation ships. Others on Earth are evolving into something else, whether because of living in the seas or in zero gravity. Commutes between continents and the Moon are made simple by the Mechanism which watches over all life, even entering human biology. Language and distance are no longer a barrier. The novel itself has a motion about it, caused by its structure which moves between the different stories set light years apart.

The structure works very successfully for several reasons, not least because it allows Alastair Reynolds to bring together and create in fantastic detail portraits of life on Earth and on these incredible asteroid vessels so far apart. There are no constraints to the vision and because of the great distances there's a freedom in moving between time periods. It is all extremely fluid and flexible but, above all, these worlds are so fascinating to behold. This is a novel of exploration.

We revisit places and characters from Blue Remembered Earth (Poseidons Children 1). For me, this meant a welcome return to the Merfolk of the United Acquatic Nations as well as sinister machine-controlled Mars. But added to these are the new worlds, especially Crucible and the holoships, and thrilling episodes on other planets and environments. On the Steel Breeze might be visionary but it's also a thoroughly exciting adventure, with edge-of-seat scenes scattered throughout the book. Parts of it are breathtaking, not just for the splendour of the backdrop.

There are lots of themes explored here, not least the transformation of humankind and the repercussions of this for life of every other kind, as well as families, relationships and tradition. There is the responsibility that humanity has for new worlds and aggravating that is the reality that there is other alien life out there which we have a very real need to try and understand. And then there's the Mechanism. Its control was a heavy shadow in Blue Remembered Earth. It's now become even more powerful and, what is far more dangerous, restless.

I'm a big fan of Alastair Reynolds' writing but I think he has achieved something very special with On the Steel Breeze. Its female characters are so strong and complex and they are supported and surrounded by a host of intriguing characters and relationships, many of whom have their own secrets and stories to tell. Emotions have their place in this novel, just as awe-inspiring wonders do. I enjoyed Blue Remembered Earth very much but On the Steel Breeze exceeds it. It would work well as a stand alone novel but I think you'd benefit from understanding a little more Eunice and Sunday, not to mention the African background and those astonishing elephants.
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on 13 March 2015
Now this is more like it. After the slightly sluggish ‘Blue Remembered Earth’ Reynolds’ homage to Arthur C Clarke and his ilk beefs up its cosmic and domestic mysteries and starts to loosen up and have fun with his ambiguously utopian interplanetary future.

That future’s multicultural nature remains well-handled – we’re not bludgeoned with it but well-timed subtle reminders keep us aware that tomorrow didn’t quite turn out to belong to the Anglosphere in the way that his golden age influences assumed. Its inhabitants feel real and varied – particularly impressive is the way he handles what their wildly different experiences have done to the three identical protagonists. There’s some straight up good writing here – in a subdued mode that had me thinking of Kazuo Ishiguro, or the later work of Ian McEwan, as much as any genre author.

There are flaws. The first half is fun, but it’s an unashamed travelogue – our heroes go home the long way round, pausing awkwardly to look at this or that interesting element of off-Earth culture or tech, and while it’s all fun and inventive it occasionally feels a bit forced. Reynolds still can’t really do a natural ending either – one of his trademarked Big Magic Things that Sort it All Out At A Terrible Cost happens offstage towards the end, and while it’s not quite as egregious as the Revelation Space trilogy I did find myself letting out a little bit of a sigh.

These felt like quibbles though – this is meaty, interesting old school science fiction that respects the genre’s traditions while updating them for a modern audience. I can’t wait for volume three.
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