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On the Steel Breeze

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It is a thousand years in the future. Mankind is making its way out into the universe on massive generation ships. On the Steel Breeze is the follow-up to Blue Remembered Earth. It is both a sequel and a standalone novel, which just happens to be set in the same universe and revolves around members of the Akinya family. The central character, Chiku, is totally new, although It is a thousand years in the future. Mankind is making its way out into the universe on massive generation ships. On the Steel Breeze is the follow-up to Blue Remembered Earth. It is both a sequel and a standalone novel, which just happens to be set in the same universe and revolves around members of the Akinya family. The central character, Chiku, is totally new, although she is closely related to characters in the first book. The action involves a 220-year expedition to an extrasolar planet aboard a caravan of huge iceteroid 'holoships', the tension between human and artificial intelligence... and, of course, elephants. Lots of elephants.


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It is a thousand years in the future. Mankind is making its way out into the universe on massive generation ships. On the Steel Breeze is the follow-up to Blue Remembered Earth. It is both a sequel and a standalone novel, which just happens to be set in the same universe and revolves around members of the Akinya family. The central character, Chiku, is totally new, although It is a thousand years in the future. Mankind is making its way out into the universe on massive generation ships. On the Steel Breeze is the follow-up to Blue Remembered Earth. It is both a sequel and a standalone novel, which just happens to be set in the same universe and revolves around members of the Akinya family. The central character, Chiku, is totally new, although she is closely related to characters in the first book. The action involves a 220-year expedition to an extrasolar planet aboard a caravan of huge iceteroid 'holoships', the tension between human and artificial intelligence... and, of course, elephants. Lots of elephants.

30 review for On the Steel Breeze

  1. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    Despite of general opinion that is slower than the Blue Remembered Earth and does not have that sense of wonder, I found it better than the first; mainly, because its scope is greatly increased and second, because of the focus on the psychology behind the actions of the two trios: Chiku and the artilects. Moreover, a good part of the story takes place in Lisbon, which is my favorite city and it was so easy to immerse myself in the book, to be side by side with Chiku when she drank her coffee abo Despite of general opinion that is slower than the Blue Remembered Earth and does not have that sense of wonder, I found it better than the first; mainly, because its scope is greatly increased and second, because of the focus on the psychology behind the actions of the two trios: Chiku and the artilects. Moreover, a good part of the story takes place in Lisbon, which is my favorite city and it was so easy to immerse myself in the book, to be side by side with Chiku when she drank her coffee above the Santa Justa elevator or taking a stroll in Belem. It has, of course, plenty of tech stuff, interstellar voyage to colonize Crucible, alien artifacts, enhanced elephants and lot more. The world building is as perfect as ever; it is, after all, Al R’ strength. It does not have much character development but instead it depicts the extent of what colonization does to a whole society: the struggle, the dedication of few individuals, the fights between others and of course, the utter selfishness of humans as a whole, mainly based on fear and ignorance: “Explain this to me: why do people have to keep on being such fucking idiots?” Although is viewed as a standalone, it has deep roots in the first volume, therefore I would recommend reading them in order.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    4 Stars On the Steel Breeze (OtSB), book two in the Poseidon’s Children series by Alastair Reynolds is a tremendous work of science fiction and a real page turner. It does not have the technical specs of the first book Blue Remembered Earth, nor does it have as much character development in it. It also comes up short from the first in regards to the depth and complexity of the plot and story. That being said, OtSB is a much better page turner and maybe even more enjoyable of a read as it is an ea 4 Stars On the Steel Breeze (OtSB), book two in the Poseidon’s Children series by Alastair Reynolds is a tremendous work of science fiction and a real page turner. It does not have the technical specs of the first book Blue Remembered Earth, nor does it have as much character development in it. It also comes up short from the first in regards to the depth and complexity of the plot and story. That being said, OtSB is a much better page turner and maybe even more enjoyable of a read as it is an easy page turner. In On the Steel Breeze, Reynolds really centers on the machine versus the living plot line. He delves deep into the philosophy, the science, and even the feelings behind sentience. Arachne near and Arachne far as well as our artificial heroine Eunice Akinya are great counterpoints to our three Chiku’s and the Mermen. I love how the maiden voyage for humans reaching out to our nearest “like” star is preempted by a hostile takeover and voyage of a machine intelligence. Reynolds mixes in doses of cool science but this series in a much more accessible level than his brilliant hard science series of Revelation Space. He throws in a great futuristic political culture and environment. He explores dynamic space environments on planets and in the interstellar space. He creates a group of characters that are easy to identify with and to empathize with. If you have read the first book, then this is a must read for you. If you have any love for the science fiction then you must put Alastair Reynolds at the top of your must read list. I really had fun reading this one and cannot wait to see where it goes next…

  3. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Typical Reynolds: untypical Reynolds. This novel follows on from Blue Remembered Earth, telling the tale of human space exploration through the history of the Akinya family. It could be read independently but it'll work better if you've read it's predecessor - and why wouldn't you? That was a superior piece of SF. This is, too! Three colour-coded members of the Akinya family split up and go very separate ways -light years apart - yet they all end up embroiled in history-making adventures and they Typical Reynolds: untypical Reynolds. This novel follows on from Blue Remembered Earth, telling the tale of human space exploration through the history of the Akinya family. It could be read independently but it'll work better if you've read it's predecessor - and why wouldn't you? That was a superior piece of SF. This is, too! Three colour-coded members of the Akinya family split up and go very separate ways -light years apart - yet they all end up embroiled in history-making adventures and they all end up influencing each other. There are lots of Reynolds themes here; no FTL, body modification, grand scale in space and time, mysteries upon mysteries. There's very little trade-mark gothic grotequery, though - even less than in Blue Remembered Earth - and heavily disguised insofar as it's present at all. There are still some brutal acts, though - horrendous if you can actually grasp the scale of them, which is difficult. Reynolds is rarely just telling a tale for its own sake though, and here, among other things, he's looking at humanity and war: is war so ingrained in human nature that the only way to prevent it is alter human nature itself? Is surveillance and external control that almost entirely eliminates violence worth the price of almost total loss of privacy? Themes tackled by numerous SF writers, past and present, maybe but they keep coming up because they don't ever seem to get less relevant, important, urgent. There's a lot of wildlife in this book, which I had fun noting. See how many different species you can spot. Blue Remembered Earth left a lot unexplained; you get a few answers here but over all more questions and a bigger cliff-hanger - there's a lot of people in a lot of jeopardy and some big adventures to come in the third volume of this series. I'm looking forward to it!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bcvs

    I couldn't put the book down but once I did, I didn't want to pick it up again because it made me feel uncomfortable. It was a feeling of wrongness. Of desolation and futility. An odd one. I couldn't put the book down but once I did, I didn't want to pick it up again because it made me feel uncomfortable. It was a feeling of wrongness. Of desolation and futility. An odd one.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Gerhard

    This semi-direct sequel to Blue Remembered Earth is problematic, mainly because it is two novels in one: The first is an account of the rise of artificial intelligence on Earth to produce an egalitarian society akin to Iain Banks's Culture. Known as the Mechanism, this all-knowing, all-seeing presence, however, becomes 'corrupted',which leads to an inevitable stand-off between humans and machines. The second is about humanity's first expedition to an Earth-analogue planet in a caravan of generati This semi-direct sequel to Blue Remembered Earth is problematic, mainly because it is two novels in one: The first is an account of the rise of artificial intelligence on Earth to produce an egalitarian society akin to Iain Banks's Culture. Known as the Mechanism, this all-knowing, all-seeing presence, however, becomes 'corrupted',which leads to an inevitable stand-off between humans and machines. The second is about humanity's first expedition to an Earth-analogue planet in a caravan of generation starships. Called Crucible, the habitable planet is also home to a mysterious alien structure called the Mandala. The two narrative strands are combined when the expedition discovers that the Mechanism has been 'lying' about conditions on Crucible, leading to a desperate attempt to not only find out what is going on, but to subvert the intentions of the Mechanism. The main viewpoint character is Chiku Akinya, of the famous Akinya clan (her mother was Sunday Akinya; you can read OTSB as a standalone novel, but won't get all the references to the clan history). Chiku is actually three characters, as she has had herself cloned: one is on the Crucible expedition, another is in the solar system, and the third embarked on an attempt to discover the lost spaceship of Eunice Akinya. The trick here is that all three essentially share one consciousness. I found the first transition between the Crucible Chiku and solar system Chiku to be quite jarring, but one does get used to the shifting point of view as the novel progresses. I suspect Reynolds decided on this triple viewpoint approach as he is quite rigorous about his science: no wondrous Star Trek warp drive to subvert the speed of light (apart from Post Chibusa Physics, of course); this means quite a big chunk of the narrative is spent explaining the implications of relativity - not exactly the most gripping subject matter. Combined with the often heavy-handed philosophising about human vs. machine culture, this makes for a curiously stodgy narrative. Reynolds also makes some fatal authorial decisions. Towards the end, there is a wonderful scene where Eunice Akinya leads a rebellion on the holoship Zanzibar, at the head of a herd of augmented elephants. Elephants on a starship, how cool is that! Except Chiku only learns about this sequence of events when she is on Crucible, fighting the Mechanism, and taps into a feed from Zanzibar to find out what is going on with the caravan. Obviously Reynolds was faced with a bit of a dilemma: focus on the Crucible landing and the Mechanism struggle, or the story of the holoships, but not both, or he would have ended up with a rather unwieldy novel. He should have gone with the elephants.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tudor Ciocarlie

    Although quieter than the Revelation Space books, On the Steel Breeze is still a mind blowing novel. It centers around a fascinating question - it is possible for a Galactic Civilization to be born in a universe like ours, where greater than light travel is not possible? The answers are even more intriguing than the question, and show that the space-opera subgenre can still feel fresh and interesting.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Danielle The Book Huntress

    Not the easiest read, with a lot of technological concepts to integrate. However, it was a fulfilling read. And a form of therapy for an artificial intelligence phobic person like myself. Reviewed for Bitten by Books. http://bittenbybooks.com. Not the easiest read, with a lot of technological concepts to integrate. However, it was a fulfilling read. And a form of therapy for an artificial intelligence phobic person like myself. Reviewed for Bitten by Books. http://bittenbybooks.com.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    A surprisingly disappointing sequel. The first book was hit and miss, but was interesting enough to keep me going. This book, though.... Reynolds has a knack for finding the least interesting plot development, making that the center of the narrative for an interminably long stretch, and then following that by having a character show up to give the protagonist a detailed, after-the-fact account of events happening elsewhere that would have made a much more engaging focus for the story. This happe A surprisingly disappointing sequel. The first book was hit and miss, but was interesting enough to keep me going. This book, though.... Reynolds has a knack for finding the least interesting plot development, making that the center of the narrative for an interminably long stretch, and then following that by having a character show up to give the protagonist a detailed, after-the-fact account of events happening elsewhere that would have made a much more engaging focus for the story. This happens more than once in On the Steel Breeze, and it left me wondering if this book might have been the author's first, rather than his tenth or eleventh. This is a real shame, because the Akinya family still has a lot of potential. But the series is consistently undermined not only by the problem mentioned above, but also by an excess of supporting characters having little purpose, constant repetition of the same limited information, and (by the end of the book) a moral incoherence that makes characters' reactions to plot developments seem completely bizarre and implausible. Yet as harsh as I might sound, I feel more disappointed than dismissive, because Reynolds does seem to be a talented writer in many respects. Enough so to make me think the flaws of this book should have been entirely avoidable. *SPOILER WARNING* Some glaring examples: 1) Both Pedro and Noah are given very limited skills by comparison with the Akinyas, with the result that neither of them has much purpose in the story beyond dying at convenient moments. And for this very reason, neither death really has the impact I suspect it was intended to have. 2) The Tantors are a great concept that gets incredibly short-shrift. We meet a few members of one generation almost in passing, and then later their descendant, Dakota, who we are told is tremendously significant without being given actual evidence to justify the claim. Much more could have been done with them here, especially given the bloat elsewhere in this overlong novel. 3) Why exactly was Chiku Red necessary? What vital part did she play that couldn't have been handled by someone else or simply left out entirely? 4) Given the number of pages devoted to the visits to Venus and to the Akinya estate, they both felt, in the end, much less important to the novel than they could have been. Neither was much more than an excuse for a very contrived action sequence that added little to the story (including Pedro's death for the reason given above). 5) The providers are untrustworthy. I got it the first time. Was it necessary to kill so many trees in making this point again and again? 6) Arachne kills millions of human beings in three holoships, but Chiku's primary concern is with the colonies of elephants on the other two ships. And in the discussion that follows, the death of so many people is dealt with by the characters in a manner that is, at best, perfunctory, while they explain away Chiku's complicity in a staggering crime as a simple matter of being a little too rushed to think things through. I think even Peter Singer would find this moral framing perverse, if not outright monstrous. 7) Given the vast (and unconvincing) power wielded by Arachne, Eunice felt utterly insignificant and inconsequential. When she (with the Tantors!) finally gets an opportunity to step forward and influence the future of Zanzibar, we see nothing of the dramatic events which ensue. Instead the narrative devotes page after page to Chiku doing effectively nothing--and then gives us a dull account after the fact of what could have been an exciting political confrontation played out across a massive holoship. * SPOILERS END* I put this book down with the same nagging feeling I had with Blue Remembered Earth. There are things here to like, and evidence of real talent, but all the potential promised by On the Steel Breeze is undermined by inexplicable authorial choices. I wish I had some reason to try book three, but there's just not enough here to justify it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    Consistently hi-quality. I haven't read a Reynolds novel that I've disliked. I'm always surprised, pleasantly, by how he can turn relatively innocent main characters into normal people thrown into massively world-changing situations and yet still allow them the opportunities to make the big decisions that change the galaxy anyway. These are very fun and satisfying novels. Every time I think to myself, "Well, this is probably not my cup of tea, I'll just get through this one and then move on to a Consistently hi-quality. I haven't read a Reynolds novel that I've disliked. I'm always surprised, pleasantly, by how he can turn relatively innocent main characters into normal people thrown into massively world-changing situations and yet still allow them the opportunities to make the big decisions that change the galaxy anyway. These are very fun and satisfying novels. Every time I think to myself, "Well, this is probably not my cup of tea, I'll just get through this one and then move on to another author," I get to the end with frantic enjoyment in my heart that puts me in knots. Suffice to say, I then have to go get another of his novels. Thank god he's still alive and writing. Fantastic fun, all. Future history rules, ATW! :)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lena

    Spacefaring whales and elephants, artilects and aliens, and politics, politics, politics. This was not as good as Poseidon’s Children. Somewhere between the character triplication, skipovers/time compressions, and dystopian dips this story lost its way. Well, book three has room to impress.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    A very enjoyable read! I've dithered about giving this 3 or 4 stars, and realized the difference between the 2 is a 4 makes me ponder "deep" stuff, while a 3 very much engrosses me but when I'm done reading, it's out of mind. A very enjoyable read! I've dithered about giving this 3 or 4 stars, and realized the difference between the 2 is a 4 makes me ponder "deep" stuff, while a 3 very much engrosses me but when I'm done reading, it's out of mind.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    I would suggest reading BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH first, not necessary, but it adds so much to the depth of story, making ON THE STEEL BREEZE a wonderful experience, beginning to end. Alastair knows how to end his stories and have me craving his next work.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Outis

    The speculative edge of Blue Remembered Earth is replaced not so much by Monolith/Mandala shenanigans (as I feared) but by artilect stuff. Pretty standard fare? Not quite. This is a Reynolds so the light lag complicates matters. In spite of serious plot issues, the middle of the book especially is a more engaging read than the prequel on a superficial level. If you're looking for space adventures with less violence, less impossible physics and less Anglo supremacism than is typical in the genre, The speculative edge of Blue Remembered Earth is replaced not so much by Monolith/Mandala shenanigans (as I feared) but by artilect stuff. Pretty standard fare? Not quite. This is a Reynolds so the light lag complicates matters. In spite of serious plot issues, the middle of the book especially is a more engaging read than the prequel on a superficial level. If you're looking for space adventures with less violence, less impossible physics and less Anglo supremacism than is typical in the genre, this could be a great book for you. That is, if you're not too picky about stuff that doesn't make much sense and that's been blatantly put there to serve the plot or to make grand events hinge on a handful of characters (but they why would you be looking at the sequel of BRE?). Reynolds often writes stuff that would pass in a fast movie but not in such long books. A novelty however is that the narrative structure is aligned with a cool plot device. It made the beginning of the book drag a bit but when I understood what Reynolds was doing I thought it was brilliant. Unfortunately, the end of the book abandons this approach and devolves into the usual structure (fast and nonsensical POV cuts). Now I'll delve into a few important themes without belaboring the material which was already in the prequel... First, the AI stuff which rubbed me the wrong way. BRE already had some bizarre essentialist bigotry but that stuff plays a much more important part in this book. Reynolds even used the word "essence". It's not merely the characters which occasionally blurt out ill-considered opinions: it's now become some kind of ground rule of the setting, complete with technobabbly plot points. So the author must actually take this stuff seriously. The one thing that most marred the book in my eyes was how much the issues relevant to both present-day politics and the future of humanity such as surveillance end up being superceded by some kind of essential man/machine conflict, complete with the half-baked resolution we've seen many times in other stories. Much of the plot and especially the ending was predicated on that stuff. The gen ship stuff I was looking forward to was eclipsed by the "new" (read impossible and overly convenient) physics which afflicted the setting with Revelation Space-type gigantism, as I feared. But there's still some cool stuff, including a Paradises Lost vibe. One thing which stands out is the so-called slowdown problem which I could not resist reading as an allusion to contemporary issues such as climate change. On the one hand, the relevant global (or rather galactic?) planning is so mind-boggingly lacking in foresight and plain insane I could not suspend disbelief. But on the other hand, what's going on in our world is no less insane. So on some level I thought it was plausible. The cognitive dissonance type of effect would be brilliant if it was indeed what the author intended. But then why ruin it with such a convenient techo-fix? Another interesting feature of this part of the story one may read as a paralleling current events is the denialists, their politics and their motivations. I'll not say more because I don't want to spoil this part. I thought the relationships of the narrators with their partners wasn't convincing, and they're not always merely background. The partners were unconvincing as characters actually. Maybe they were intended as male versions of female stereotypes. The economics of the book is bad and more importantly unimaginative. That's become too common in the genre. The information security stuff was as nonsensical as I've come to expect. There are some howlers. It would be a bigger issue if that was the only problem with the plot. We already knew Reynolds takes into account the weaponization potential of the energies involved in interstellar travel. So there's a smattering of Atomic Rockets-type material in this book. Nitpick: ther are too many codescending recaps and reminders aimed at dead tree readers who aren't paying attention. In sum, a mild disappointment for me but still a good read. Others might enjoy it more. There's plenty to like.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ru

    As with 'Blue Remembered Earth', this starts off languorously. A third of the book had passed before I felt involved, something not helped by some particularly chilly (and under-described) characters who were initially hard to like, plus a lot of lengthy dialogue which wasn't pretending to be anything but expositional. There are payoffs to this slow start, however. When interesting things do start to happen, the detailed groundwork of early chapters makes the ramping of tension and disquiet both As with 'Blue Remembered Earth', this starts off languorously. A third of the book had passed before I felt involved, something not helped by some particularly chilly (and under-described) characters who were initially hard to like, plus a lot of lengthy dialogue which wasn't pretending to be anything but expositional. There are payoffs to this slow start, however. When interesting things do start to happen, the detailed groundwork of early chapters makes the ramping of tension and disquiet both believable and remorseless. By the end of the book, it was quite a surprise to look back at where the story began, and see how much ground had been covered. In common with the first book there remain some decidedly quirky plot points, which feel shoehorned in more on a whim than because they make any sense plot-wise. But why not? Perhaps we all need more space-elephants. Arcs of the central characters also prove unexpectedly pleasing - again, perhaps being at such a chilly remove to begin with helps the reader warm to them as experience changes them. The story is notably underpopulated with fleshed-out secondary characters, however. In particular, what might have been a fascinating 'mad scientist' character (and a very useful foil to the - equally imperious, in her own way - Chiku Green), sometimes feels barely on the page. Chiku's lovers get slightly more of a look-in, but still feel like an addendum, and the best-observed secondary characters - both AIs - achieve a prominence out of proportion to their relatively fleeting appearances. Perhaps that's the point, though. Events are seen very much through Chiku's eyes, and it's clear that other individuals in her life are very much expendable in the name of what she considers her and her family's Path, and the greater good. This is a character so absorbed with her own importance that she decided one of her wasn't enough. However, to sustain the interest in such a lengthy book with effectively just one fully-developed character (even if there are three iterations of her) takes some writing skill. Like an optical illusion, in its last pages, all the disparate pieces of the picture, which I feared would leave me unsatisfied, suddenly slotted together very well, leaving me wondering why I'd been concerned. I'd have left 3 1/2 stars if I could. Flawed, but well worth a read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I loved Blue Remembered Earth but On the Steel Breeze, its distant sequel, surpasses it. This is no mean achievement.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tomislav

    On The Steel Breeze (2013) is the middle novel of Alastair Reynolds’ space opera trilogy Poseidon’s Children. It comes after Blue Remembered Earth (2012) and before Poseidon's Wake (2014). While each lengthy novel ends with a plot conclusion, the backstory continues across subsequent generations of the same Akinya family. So, you could read this one as stand-alone, but I recommend reading in order. The future history common to all three novels is based on an Earth that has survived “the bottlene On The Steel Breeze (2013) is the middle novel of Alastair Reynolds’ space opera trilogy Poseidon’s Children. It comes after Blue Remembered Earth (2012) and before Poseidon's Wake (2014). While each lengthy novel ends with a plot conclusion, the backstory continues across subsequent generations of the same Akinya family. So, you could read this one as stand-alone, but I recommend reading in order. The future history common to all three novels is based on an Earth that has survived “the bottleneck,” a 21st century climate-driven and war-driven dieback of humanity, from which the surviving populations have climbed back to a solar-system-wide civilization. On Earth, there is the Surveilled State, which is regulated by The Mechanism, a nanotechnology-based global system that suppresses human conflict for the good of all. It is a utopian concept, that the reader just knows is going to be trouble at some later point in the narrative. The lead character(s) of On The Steel Breeze are the three diverse incarnations of Chiku Akinya, the daughter of characters from the previous novel. Those three have been cloned in adulthood. Chiku Red was lost trying to find her famous great-grandmother Eunice Akinya in interstellar space. Chiku Green is on board a generation ship, part of a fleet of hollowed out asteroids sent to investigate the alien planet Crucible and deliver millions of colonists. Chiku Yellow has remained on Earth, and is in periodic memory synch with the others, and the three characters frequently internalize each other’s experience as their own, which causes some jarring transitions (probably intentionally) between points of view. They are the sort of braided and post-human identities that Reynolds also used for characters in his Revelation Space novels. A majority of the action takes place on Chiku Green’s ship, and on Chiku Yellow’s Earth. Additionally, there is a centuries-long power drama between powerful female figures from the past. Eunice Akinya is a cybernetic reincarnation of Chiku’s great -grandmother, and keeper of Geoffrey’s elephant herds. Arethusa (Lin Wei) is a woman surgically transformed into a whale’s body, who founded a race of posthuman merfolk in Earth’s seas, but who is now sequestered in one of Saturn’s moons. Arachne is a cybernetic intelligence, evolved out of the software designed to adaptively run an astronomical observation platform. It is a setting and a strongly suspenseful plot that is drenched in technological tropes, sometimes bordering on the supernatural - making this science fantasy rather than science fiction. In particular, the emotion motes as a form of communication seemed odd and superfluous (view spoiler)[right up until the end when one serves as a magic marble, that when crushed frees humanity from Arachne and her subversion of The Mechanism. The ending was way too unearned for my taste, and knocked my overall rating downward (hide spoiler)] . I will be reading the conclusion of the trilogy next.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    3.5 really - RTC

  18. 4 out of 5

    Liviu

    Quite disappointing - one of the few A Reynolds novels that bored me to no end except for the last 50 or so pages which were excellent and a return to form; the novelty from Blue Remembered Earth is gone, the storyline(s) are very drawn out boring almost to the end with the standard "abundant technological future" tropes where all conflict is kind of made up rather than real, the characters live very long lives that are not really reflected in the page by the author as they act like regular huma Quite disappointing - one of the few A Reynolds novels that bored me to no end except for the last 50 or so pages which were excellent and a return to form; the novelty from Blue Remembered Earth is gone, the storyline(s) are very drawn out boring almost to the end with the standard "abundant technological future" tropes where all conflict is kind of made up rather than real, the characters live very long lives that are not really reflected in the page by the author as they act like regular humans of today with aging a counting matter but not really a life-changing experience one etc. There is very little sense of the external (again, the bland future makes it hard to go into details as i've seen this repeated in similar works like 2312) and the characters are not that interesting or engaging as that was never the author's forte anyway Still ambitious and with enough stuff to (and a great ending) to make it passable but not among the author's best Not sure I will bother to read the last installment - maybe will take a look when I see a copy - and I hope Mr. Reynolds goes back to writing the sense of wonder sf he showed so magnificently in the revelation Space sequence or in his short stories

  19. 5 out of 5

    Drsilent

    Another solid offer from Alastair Reynolds, building upon the prequel "Blue Remembered Earth". This one feels a little more structured, and is not limited to the solar system anymore. New themes include relativistic interstellar travel, machine intelligence, and a first glimpse of alien constructs. The book also explores the manipulation of human consciousness to a greater degree than the previous one. It sometimes reads as a likely introduction to the rest of Reynolds' universe; what is being bu Another solid offer from Alastair Reynolds, building upon the prequel "Blue Remembered Earth". This one feels a little more structured, and is not limited to the solar system anymore. New themes include relativistic interstellar travel, machine intelligence, and a first glimpse of alien constructs. The book also explores the manipulation of human consciousness to a greater degree than the previous one. It sometimes reads as a likely introduction to the rest of Reynolds' universe; what is being built here, could easily develop into either Revelation Space or the setting of House of Suns, given time. But maybe that is just rationalization and wishful thinking on my part. :) Either way, looking forward to the third book in the series. It is worth noting however that this book, like the previous one, is perfectly acceptable as a stand-alone read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I liked the first book in this series, Blue Remembered Earth, very much. This one I disliked. Very much. Ostensibly interesting space stuff can be happening, but the characters kill it by talking. And talking. And talking. This got worse as the book went along. (I feel a little guilty marking this as "read" when I skimmed the last 50 pages to get it over with.) I also did not like the protagonist (I found her self-centered and cranky without being interesting enough to compensate for her flaws), b I liked the first book in this series, Blue Remembered Earth, very much. This one I disliked. Very much. Ostensibly interesting space stuff can be happening, but the characters kill it by talking. And talking. And talking. This got worse as the book went along. (I feel a little guilty marking this as "read" when I skimmed the last 50 pages to get it over with.) I also did not like the protagonist (I found her self-centered and cranky without being interesting enough to compensate for her flaws), but that's a secondary concern. The primary concern is how, with a plot that should have been awesome, the book was still so dull.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tommy Carlson

    This is the sequel to Blue Remembered Earth. I didn't like that one much. I don't like this one much either. I mean, I didn't hate either one; I just wasn't thrilled. Most of the characters lack any sort of agency. Things happen to them or push them into certain actions. It doesn't help that much of the story is told in flashbacks. It's an odd choice in dealing with time dilation. I don't think it was a good one. All that said, it's well written and contains more in the way of big ideas than the f This is the sequel to Blue Remembered Earth. I didn't like that one much. I don't like this one much either. I mean, I didn't hate either one; I just wasn't thrilled. Most of the characters lack any sort of agency. Things happen to them or push them into certain actions. It doesn't help that much of the story is told in flashbacks. It's an odd choice in dealing with time dilation. I don't think it was a good one. All that said, it's well written and contains more in the way of big ideas than the first book. It feels more Reynoldsesque. It's really a 3.5 star book, but I can't bring myself to give it four.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Luke Burrage

    I finished this last week, but didn't have internet access to tell anyone. It's a very interesting storytelling experiment, but the ideas and concepts get in the way of pacing. Which is intentional, but don't make it any less weird to read. Full review on my podcast, SFBRP episode #not-sure-yet. I finished this last week, but didn't have internet access to tell anyone. It's a very interesting storytelling experiment, but the ideas and concepts get in the way of pacing. Which is intentional, but don't make it any less weird to read. Full review on my podcast, SFBRP episode #not-sure-yet.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Tomchik

    And my love/hate relationship with Alastair Reynolds continues. I love his vision of future science and technology, and I love half of his characters. I hate that his plots tend to start strong but then slow down and meander, and I hate the other half of his characters.

  24. 5 out of 5

    DiscoSpacePanther

    On the Steel Breeze is the second in Alastair Reynolds’ Poseidon’s Children trilogy. Set a significant period of time after Blue Remembered Earth, it follows the story of Chiku Akinya, the great granddaughter of Eunice Akinya - the space-travel pioneering matriarch whose absence dominated the previous story. Chiku is an intriguing science fiction creation - she is actually three separate individuals who are the result of the original Chiku cloning herself twice, and then interweaving the cloned On the Steel Breeze is the second in Alastair Reynolds’ Poseidon’s Children trilogy. Set a significant period of time after Blue Remembered Earth, it follows the story of Chiku Akinya, the great granddaughter of Eunice Akinya - the space-travel pioneering matriarch whose absence dominated the previous story. Chiku is an intriguing science fiction creation - she is actually three separate individuals who are the result of the original Chiku cloning herself twice, and then interweaving the cloned and original bodies as well as her memories, so that none can be considered more “original” than the others. Each Chiku has followed a different journey - Chiku Red has pursued the ship that Eunice Akinya was aboard when she left the solar system; Chiku Green is on a colony ship - part of a convoy on its way to a nearby habitable world that contains a vast alien structure; and Chiku Yellow has remained on Earth. One of the clever conceits of the novel is the face that each Chiku can send packets of memories that can be incorporated into the memories of the others, and this is how they can remain in touch - almost as if they are the same person. It took me a while to get into this story, as the protagonist(s) is a new character, albeit a descendent of the characters from the first book, and so there was a sense of dislocation at the start. Soon enough, though, it finds its feet and starts progressing at pace - threats are uncovered, human, artificial and alien - and the story becomes more enthralling. Still, it suffers from “middle-act syndrome” - it is neither the beginning of the story, nor the climax - and by the end it has only teased as opposed to satisfied. Nevertheless, Reynolds’ writing is as fluent and enjoyable as ever, and the story is chock full of fascinating ideas. Additionally, when compared to he Revelation Space novels, the world and characters seem much more warm and full of positive life. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    This book addressed what I find to be the biggest problem with Alastair Reynolds' writing in specific and with hard space opera in general: inaccessible characters. I want my characters--at least some of them--to be idealistic. I want them to inhabit a rich moral universe where conceptions of right and wrong, good and evil, sacred and profane, and innumerable other judgments pervade their universe and influence their actions. Where people try to do the right thing--even if they have totally diff This book addressed what I find to be the biggest problem with Alastair Reynolds' writing in specific and with hard space opera in general: inaccessible characters. I want my characters--at least some of them--to be idealistic. I want them to inhabit a rich moral universe where conceptions of right and wrong, good and evil, sacred and profane, and innumerable other judgments pervade their universe and influence their actions. Where people try to do the right thing--even if they have totally different ideas of what that entails--because I find that to be an interesting universe to inhabit and because it's how I see the world. Instead, most of the time, the characters of hard sf are all selfish, egotistical bastards who only reluctantly ever consider to do the right thing or sacrifice their own interests, like Han Solo without the charm or the soft, romantic core. And that's the good guys! Sometimes we depart from that. The Prefect had an endearing friendship at the core of its story, and that's why it was my favorite book in the Revelation Space series, but it's still the rule. Finally, towards the very end of On the Steel Breeze, we got some of that kind of storytelling. For example, here's a speech from one of the main characters near the end: I am Chiku Akinya. I am the daughter of Sunday Akinya; I am the great-granddaughter of Eunice Akinya--Senge Dongma, the lion-faced one, mother of us all, the very reason why we're here in the first place. She asked us to be wiser than human natures. Well, this is our great chance to be wise. I've made mistakes, I know--and I'm prepared to answer for them, too, when the time comes. But here and now, only one thing matters. All of us--human and machine alike--must choose the wise path. We both have the means to do harm to each other--the strength to destroy. But there is also a strength in not being strong. I beg of you to find that quality, and use it well. See? Now you're talking my language. I just may read the third book in this series after all. I do wish, however, that the mora aspects and the plot aspects were a little more closely related, and that we'd gotten them a lot sooner. I also wished all the Afro-centrism was a little deeper, too. It's a nice change of pace to have Africans at the center of the story, but they don't actually seem in any way distinguishable from the ordinary characters Reynolds writes about. Other than occasionally mentioning their skin color, you would never know they are from Africa. The only remotely African aspects of the book are the presence of elephants and every now and then someone brings up the fact that the Maasai exist, without ever meeting a single one of them. My mother was born in Nairobi Kenya. She taught me a little Swahili and told me about life there when I was a little. I know there's more to that part of the world (the main characters are actually from Tanzania, which is just to the south of Kenya) than the presence of elephants. It'd be nice if some of it made it into the stories.

  26. 5 out of 5

    jjonas

    Another typical Reynolds book: great setting, too long, interesting concepts, too much going on, boring characters, terrible dialogue. The book had great potential, but Reynolds lost much of it the same way as in most other books by him that I've read. In general, the books are too long, there's too much going on (and the flipside of that, a lack of focus); some developments, especially their details, are difficult to follow because all of the juggling timelines and parallel stories and because t Another typical Reynolds book: great setting, too long, interesting concepts, too much going on, boring characters, terrible dialogue. The book had great potential, but Reynolds lost much of it the same way as in most other books by him that I've read. In general, the books are too long, there's too much going on (and the flipside of that, a lack of focus); some developments, especially their details, are difficult to follow because all of the juggling timelines and parallel stories and because the author doesn't care to explain that much as things are happening (some things are only explained after they've happened, which was annoying). It wasn't William Gibson style hard, but it was unnecessarily difficult nevertheless. Maybe some people prefer "challenging" storytelling like that, but I hate to feel that I have to concentrate on every sentence just in case there's a bit of information there that is key to understanding something further down the line. More than once I found myself thinking, how exactly did they come to this? Almost always I could kind of make sense of what was going on and what had led there, but I felt I should be more certain about it. I wasn't sure whether something just wasn't explained but instead I should just have inferred it, or it was explained but I missed it. All this was not made easier by characters that were bland and who didn't feel like real people, and there was lots of them, so often it was difficult to remember just who this person was again. This is a problem I've noticed with other Reynolds books as well (though it's by no means limited to him of course). Characters have a name and a position/occupation, but otherwise you could switch personalities around, and no-one would notice, because nobody has any personality. Dialogue was mostly unnatural and annoying. Most of the time if someone wasn't making a quip, they were being sarcastic just in general, or explaining things. I guess Reynolds' characters and dialogue just won't get any better than this. Oddly enough the non-dialogue narration is very good, so it's a pity that the dialogue has to suck. (view spoiler)[Eunice, Travertine and Arachne were the absolute worst offenders. (hide spoiler)] There was a great story there, and even with the characters and dialogue it would have been good (like three stars good), had Reynolds only focused on that particular part of his sprawling cosmic plot. (view spoiler)[I would have liked to limit the plot to the "going to another star, but the computer has been feeding us false information about what awaits us" part of the story, with all the panspermian nonsense, merfolk, Akinya family business, talking elephants etc. cut out. (hide spoiler)] The book sported what in my opinion is one of the stupidest SF cliches: longevity treatments that have people live for hundreds of years. In the past it used to be part of a general idea of progress, something that got old very fast as a signifier of "the better future", like flying cars and videotelephones. For Reynolds it seems like it was there because of his own convenience. He wanted to tell a story on a grand scale (hence travel between star systems) but doesn't want to use FTL travel, so that's why it was convenient if people stick around for 300 years, so you can pass messages across two dozen light years or whatever. I appreciate his endeavour to rise above laser pistols and teleportation (and he does succeed in it), but I think he should have skipped the strict "travel between stars takes decades" approach and opt for better storytelling instead. With Reynolds there's always more than a few notches to grade down the realism without getting too close to stuff like instant interplanetary telepathy etc. Too much of the world-historical events were about individuals and what they did. Travertine the brilliant scientist whose invention changes everything. Eunice the indomitable grandma who started it all and still makes it happen. Chiku whose two selves go back and forth to tie the timelines together across the lightyears. (view spoiler)[Sunday Akinya whose mathematical autism results in a breakthrough. Arachne the embodiment of the almost-all-powerful artificial intelligence. (hide spoiler)] In a world that otherwise (in most respects anyway) seems to aim for (speculative) realism, this kind of "great man theory of history" didn't really fit (or "great woman" as the most prominent characters were women). There was some politics on the holoship(s), but that was kind of superficial (view spoiler)[and the developments towards more authoritarian measures just happened, without the reader getting the feeling that it happened for understandable reasons. It could have just as well not happened, as nothing in the story pushed it this way or that (hide spoiler)] . Too bad that too is typical Reynolds. Part of the ending was pretty stupid. (view spoiler)[Fishman's magic glass bauble breaks and pulls the plug on Facebook and Google?! Also, the sudden Kumbayah convergence at the end between people and artilects came around kind of quickly. (hide spoiler)]

  27. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Haverkamp

    An excellently sf story, that is very intriguing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Dowd

    Reynolds is always a joy to read, and he manages to make old territory feel new.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Empathy was not built to operate across interstellar space. Mostly liked this. Kept thinking of it as Zola in space. You know, track a family across generations and see how their environments effect them or whatever. And I guess because the family went from being an oligarchy in the first book to genteel poverty here, which is something you don't see often in Science Fiction. Better control group here, though: a daughter of the Akinyas clones herself twice and shares her memories out; one of the Empathy was not built to operate across interstellar space. Mostly liked this. Kept thinking of it as Zola in space. You know, track a family across generations and see how their environments effect them or whatever. And I guess because the family went from being an oligarchy in the first book to genteel poverty here, which is something you don't see often in Science Fiction. Better control group here, though: a daughter of the Akinyas clones herself twice and shares her memories out; one of them stays on Earth, one goes on a doomed mission and comes back disabled (here meaning monolingual and without standard cybernetic enhancements) and a third joins the first generation ship to the stars. Plus they all occasionally synchronize their memories. My problem with the book was that the only cool sci-fi ideas were ones brought over from the last book, and there wasn't much time devoted to them, especially the Evolvarium (a Mad Max machine intelligence running Mars). Even the trip to Venus is kind of rote. The elephants, sorry, Tantors, are the coolest, but we barely send any time with them and their Aristeia is glanced over at the end of the book. Sad! Also, I wasn't clear on the motivations of the holoships. They wanted to stop research because although it would save their lives it could lead to another disaster. Fair. But why didn't they employ it once they had it and needed it? And why did they bombard Crucible? I'm pretty sure they didn't even know about Arachne yet, because that information didn't go public until the Eunice Akinya artilect revelas it, and even then that's on Zanzibar after they've cut off contact with the rest of the fleet? Or I guess if it was during the conflict the other side would know, but I think it was after the conflict, when their ship was playing dead. Still, I loved the attempt to envision an optimistic future that doesn't shy away from certain questions (involving the problems of longer lifespans, decades long hibernation, generations-long voyages, surveillance tech, being surpassed by technology or even other species, etc) we'll have to face if we ever want to become a spacefaring race. Very much looking forward to reading the sequel and end of the Poseidon's Children trilogy, Poseidon's Wake. Elephants: (view spoiler)[‘What are they?’ she whispered. ‘Elephants with enhanced cognition,’ Eunice answered, her voice as low as Chiku’s. ‘Uplifted animals. The result of illegal genetic experimentation conducted before Zanzibar ever left the solar system. Their minds are larger than those of baseline elephants, and they have a level of modular organisation approaching that of the human brain. They have a highly developed sense of self, an advanced capacity for tool use, the rudiments of language, an understanding of time’s arrow. Some of these traits were already present in elephants, of course. They’ve just been . . . enhanced, augmented, amplified. But whatever they are, these creatures are no longer simply animals.’ ... Dreadnought extended his trunk. Chiku stopped and stood her ground. She let the trunk examine her suit, probing its way up her body, lingering over the joints and the batteries of controls. Hairy bristles tickled Chiku’s chin as the trunk felt around the neck ring. Warm, humid air blasted her and she resisted the urge to flinch with difficulty. Dreadnought moved on to her face, mapping it with surprising gentleness. The trunk traced the contours of her scalp, then retreated. ‘Dreadnought, say the name of this woman.’ Text appeared on Dreadnought’s screen. CHIKU CHIKU CHIKU She looked at Eunice. ‘He spells pretty well, given that we’ve only just been introduced.’ Eunice touched the side of her head. ‘I just added the word to his lexicon. I could make them speak, if I wished – all I’d need to do is hook a voice synthesiser into the circuit. But they don’t need that, and nor do I. The system lets them exchange symbolic patterns even when they’re not in each other’s line of sight, or when they’re too far apart for vocal communication.’ ‘So we have talking elephants now. Even if they don’t actually talk.’ The text changed. Now it said: TANTOR ≠ ELEPHANT TANTOR >> ELEPHANT ‘Tantor does not equal elephant,’ Eunice interpreted. ‘Tantor greater than, or superior to, elephant. Why don’t you introduce yourself? Tell him you’re a friend?’ Chiku did not know whether to look into his eyes or the screen. Her gaze switched between them. ‘I’m a friend. I mean you no harm.’ ‘What are you, a Martian? Talk to him the way you’d talk to a three year old.’ ‘I’m sorry. I’ve had surprisingly little experience with talking elephants.’ The screen changed again. TANTOR TANTOR TANTOR TANTOR >> ELEPHANT ‘I get the message. They’re a bit touchy about the elephant thing, aren’t they? What have you been telling them? That they’re better than elephants?’ ‘That they can be more than elephants.’ ‘Have they even seen an unaugmented elephant?’ ‘No, but I’ve shown them pictures, described the place they came from. Tell Dreadnought you’re sorry.’ ‘I’m sorry,’ Chiku said. DREADNOUGHT ≠ ANGRY CHIKU FRIEND DREADNOUGHT ‘Well, you appear to have been accepted. Word of you will spread. The Tantors know that any friend of mine is a friend of theirs.’ (hide spoiler)] Mathematic fugue: (view spoiler)[‘Mathematics is a terrible calling. It’s as merciless as gravity. It swallows the soul. There’s a point near a black hole called the last stable orbit. Once you drop below that radius, no force in the universe can stop you falling all the way in. That’s what happened to your mother – she swam too close to theory, fell below the last stable orbit. It must be terribly hard on your father.’ ‘They were happy together.’ But she had seen Jitendra’s awesome, oceanic sadness. Yes, there were good days, when Sunday’s mind returned to the shallows, but far more when she was not there at all. (hide spoiler)] Smart elephants with a grudge: (view spoiler)[They’re going to overtake us, aren’t they? Not right now, not tomorrow,’ Chiku said, rising from her seat, ‘but one day we’ll wake up and the Tantors will be looking back at us, saying, “Catch up, slowcoaches.”’ ‘In terms of available brain volume,’ Eunice said, ‘they do have an undeniable advantage over us monkeys. But I don’t think we have anything to worry about. They’re only elephants – why in heaven’s name would they hold a grudge against us?’ Chiku stooped to pick up one of the toy boxes. ‘I can’t think of a reason in the world.’ (hide spoiler)] Good robot, er, machine-substrate consciousness, line: (view spoiler)[This cannot be true.’ Arachne shook her head firmly. ‘This is a gambit.’ ‘You told me you’re good at detecting lies. Am I lying now?’ ‘You have engineered yourself into a state of belief.’ (hide spoiler)] A good navigation trick if you're ever in space: (view spoiler)[They knew how fast they were travelling. That’s an easy calculation – you just measure the redshift of a sample of stars and back-compute, then corroborate your calculations with the cosmic microwave background and the radio tick of a few thousand pulsars. (hide spoiler)] Human amusement for machines: (view spoiler)[‘ And you underestimate your amusement value to me. You’re a system I can’t model to perfection, which is both a frustration and a fascination. I do also still need your opinion on a certain matter. Would you indulge me, Chiku?’ (hide spoiler)] elephant warfare replaces guerilla warfare: (view spoiler)[‘How many were there?’ she asked, trying to remember the size of the population during her last visit. ‘About a hundred,’ Mposi said. ‘The herd had grown a lot in the last couple of generations – Eunice had been forcing a breeding programme on them to swell their numbers. By the time of the breakout, about half of their number were fully grown adults.’ ‘Fifty doesn’t sound like enough to take a holoship,’ Chiku said. ‘On their own, probably not, but they had the citizens on their side, and there was – how shall I put it – a certain psychological shock value that counted for more than numbers.’ Mposi smiled. ‘A talking, tool-using bull elephant will do that to you.’ ‘Besides, we also had the other elephants,’ Ndege said. ‘The normal population you were so concerned about way back when. It turns out that elephants are more than happy to follow Tantors. Herd dynamics still count for something, and a talking matriarch trumps a mute one. With Tantors and baseline elephants acting in coordinated herds, our effective force was hundreds strong – easily sufficient to evict the constables from the thirty-six public cores.’ ... Mposi and Ndege led the party to the level ground where the Tantors were parading back and forth, and Chiku circled the huge, slow-stomping creatures with something close to awe. Like the Tantors she had met in Chamber Thirty-Seven, their bodies were augmented with tools and communication attachments affixed to an arrangement of girdles and straps. Much of it looked improvised or second-hand. Not all the Tantors, Ndege said, were capable of generating written syntax, but this was mostly because the herd’s expansion had outstripped the pace at which the textual equipment could be manufactured. It was optimal to fit the Tantors with the machines when they were young, so some of these adults might never have the easy linguistic faculty Dakota had demonstrated. But they were still more intelligent than the baseline elephants, demonstrably superior at abstract reasoning and able to follow complex spoken instructions. These Tantors, in common with the others elsewhere in Zanzibar, worked in close harmony with constables and peacekeepers. It was, Ndege stressed, as close to a partnership as circumstances allowed. Eunice had stipulated that the Tantors were to be treated as equals, and her assistance in ridding Zanzibar of its enemies had been scrupulously contingent on that understanding. (hide spoiler)] Good line: (view spoiler)[All these events had been ample cause for concern, of course, but because they were taking place the better part of twenty-eight light-years away, they had played out as a kind of dark theatre. Very few among the billions living around the sun, from Mercury to the Oort settlements, still had direct emotional or familial ties to the holoships’ citizens. Too much time had passed, and the distances between them were too great. Empathy was not built to operate across interstellar space. (hide spoiler)] Also I looked it up and Crucible's star (61 Virginis) does exist almost 28 light years away, but there's no 61 Virginis f (yet).

  30. 5 out of 5

    Franco

    Had a similar trajectory to the previous entry. Took a while to get going - I actually put it down mid-way through and picked it up again after about a month, and it's rare for me to see a book through when that happens. However once the plot gets going, yes, it's a page turner! The spans of time covered between the previous entry and this one are daunting but really well handled. It was really interesting seeing what happened to old characters, side-stories and just the universe in general. Had a similar trajectory to the previous entry. Took a while to get going - I actually put it down mid-way through and picked it up again after about a month, and it's rare for me to see a book through when that happens. However once the plot gets going, yes, it's a page turner! The spans of time covered between the previous entry and this one are daunting but really well handled. It was really interesting seeing what happened to old characters, side-stories and just the universe in general.

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