On the Steel Breeze
is the latest novel (or eleventh if one uses the list supplied by Gollancz) by Alastair
Reynolds, and curiously is part of a couplet to the song Wish You Were Here by Pink
Floyd (from the album of the same title). Unfortunately, this novel is not of the same
calibre as the song or Mr Reynolds' other novels I was disappointed to say the
On the Steel Breeze is the tale of the Akinya
sisters Red, Green and Yellow, triplets (created from one person) with the ability to pass
memory packets to each other. One sister is on Earth acting as the safe repository;
another is on a generation ship, as part of a convoy of such ships, travelling 20 light
years to an Earth-like planet that has a massive alien artefact on it; and the third is
missing, presumed dead after a deep space rendezvous with another Earth-based spaceship.
For three-quarters of the book Mr Reynolds more than successfully juggles
the story lines between the sisters and then the realisation hits that there are too many
balls in the air and not enough space in the book to adequately tell the tale and balls
get dropped or unceremoniously cast aside as the tale is brought to an unsatisfying
conclusion. Sp what began as a really interesting story with some inventive plot twists
degenerates rapidly to a soon resolved inaction(!) thriller. What rankled most was that
from previous contact with Mr Reynolds work I know he can do so much better than this.
On the Steel Breeze is an adequate enough book,
but not one I could recommend to people wanting to start reading Mr Reynolds. Something to
get round to on a wet afternoon.
Its not often you come across pure hard science fiction these days,
but Reynolds Poseidons Children trilogy definitely
qualifies. Though I have to say that I had no idea at the time that I was reading the
middle volume of a trilogy; although there were references to past events, and the story
plainly isnt over by the end, this is a novel complete in itself.
Set some hundreds of years in the future; it is the story of one woman,
Chiku Akinya who has split herself into three
Chiku Red to go chasing after her
great-grandmother whod set out for interstellar space years before; Chiku Green to
join the fleet of holoships heading at relativistic speeds towards 61 Virginis, where an
Earth-like planet named Crucible carries mysterious evidence of extra-terrestrial
intelligence in the form of the mysterious Mandela, a structure visible across the
light-years; and Chiku Yellow who remains on Earth. Of course, its not that simple.
For one thing, Chiku Red is missing, and for another, theres this small matter of
slowing down those holoships. More importantly, their objective may not be entirely what
It comes down to a familiar theme in science fiction, the conflict between
biological intelligence and machine intelligence, but Reynolds has a new take on the
struggle and on its resolution. This is a lengthy but engrossing novel, and although it
could be tightened up in places and the ending is a bit abrupt, its well worth
reading. It has to be said though, that Reynolds has a thing about elephants.