Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

On The Steel Breeze On The Steel Breeze
by Alastair Reynolds

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Simon Litten
Jacqui Smith

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 least.

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.

-Simon Litten

It’s not often you come across pure hard science fiction these days, but Reynold’s Poseidon’s 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 isn’t 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 who’d 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, it’s not that simple. For one thing, Chiku Red is missing, and for another, there’s this small matter of slowing down those holoships. More importantly, their objective may not be entirely what they think…

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, it’s well worth reading. It has to be said though, that Reynolds has a thing about elephants.

-Jacqui Smith

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