Compared to movies and TV-shows writing a book review is a lot harder. First you have to read it, and as it is Science-Fiction they rarely come in sizes small and medium but are usually large and extra large when it comes to the word count. As it takes time to read you quickly become worried that too many other websites will put up reviews before you do and so part of the fun in writing a review disappears. I am trying to be honest here, though I like writing a lot, I also want my blog to be read. However, when it comes to the works of Alastair Reynolds there is no hiding from the fact every now and then you just have to put down the novel and take a breath because of the suspense. It acts as a reminder that the whole reason you got into starting a blog was because you loved reading Science-Fiction.
Alastair Reynolds writing stands out because he often uses a mixture of first-person and third-person narrative. Every time he does it takes like 20 pages to get into the storyline because you read a lot about the characters inner thoughts without knowing enough about the world they live in to frame it all properly. Afterwards it is mostly plain sailing towards the finish line, but the story is often more personal because of his use of a rather tricky perspective. I will point out Chasm City and Terminal World as two specific examples.
On The Steel Breeze is the second novel of an unusual trilogy as it is the first time that Reynolds has deliberately planned a literary threesome. Previously he has released unique stories that later had sequels but which could deviate considerably, much to my liking. With the first novel of the Poseidon’s Children Trilogy entitled ‘Blue Remembered Earth’ you did have the feeling that Reynolds had to delay certain plot developments for the sequels and he had to do a lot of groundwork. This made the book feel a bit slow which I may have criticized too harshly. ‘On The Steel Breeze’ starts to repay this groundwork with dividend, though the last big payoff won’t come until the third novel. Though I have started liking this trilogy a lot more since reading the second novel I will be happy when Reynolds returns to writing ‘out-of-the-box’ space opera’s and unique mind-boggling standalone’s.
On The Steel Breeze…
I will try and not spoiler the story too much. One pleasure of reading Alastair Reynolds is how with ease he manages to combine previously divergent storyline into one epic conclusion. These combinations of storylines do not need to be physical connected or even take place during the same timeline but their interconnectedness enriches the story without making them feel contrived or act as a deus ex machine.
‘On The Steel Breeze’ deals with three of the great-grandchildren of Eunice Akinya, the never seen but always present grand-mother of the two main protagonists Geoffrey and Sunday Akinya from Blue Remembered Earth. These three great-grandchildren are in fact clones of one called Chiku Akinya. The clones are color coordinated, so you have Chiku Green, Chiku Yellow and Chiku Red. The latter got killed trying to save Eunice. Death must be interpreted relativistic as she still manages to influence the story. And so the two remaining clones set out on voyage to get answers about life and everything that always seems to be a background theme of Alastair Reynolds. Whereas ‘Blue Remembered Earth’ sometimes had problems with characters performing actions that were illogical or seemingly without purpose this novel does it better. Each character is enriched with their own belief system and most importantly a personal politics that guide their every action and thought.
On The Steel Breeze doesn’t disappoint with its conclusion and I am eager for the third iteration. However, the fact that it is the second novel in a trilogy makes it still feel a bit rehearsed and sterile at times. I also have the feeling that Reynolds is revisiting some past themes again, though less so than with ‘Blue Remembered Earth’.
As a small tip for the publisher (Orion Books), try to release Alastair Reynolds novels early in the summer, because then people have time to read as they do soak up time like a wormhole. They are just captivating.
Score; 8.5 / 10. The maestro of Sci-fi is back after a lackluster outing last year.