After scattering their Grandmother Eunice’s ashes in sight of Kilimanjaro, neither Geoffrey nor Sunday Akinya wants anything to do with their family, or the vast business empire founded by Eunice. Both prefer to struggle on independently: Sunday far from prying eyes, as a sculptor, while Geoffrey conducts research on elephants. Manipulated by his cousins, Geoffrey sets off to empty his grandmother’s safe deposit box. But this straightforward task leads him, and his sister, on and on, until they must engage with the deepest questions facing their remarkable civilisation.
This is 2161. Sunday lives in the Descrutinized Zone, a bohemian lunar community hidden from the constant surveillance of the Mechanism: artificial intelligence which ensures peace on earth, at the price of full human autonomy. Geoffrey’s Africa is home to the technological breakthrough that ended the catastrophic twenty first- century years of ‘Resource and Relocation’. Compulsory implants and augmented faculties are accepted, welcomed as a necessity. Violence is nearly impossible – this is not Star Wars. The novel takes the reader through a series of fascinating scenes, from Africa to the Moon, to Martian wastelands where enormous machines are left to evolve, and Neptune’s belt; the United Aquatic Nations, where human bodies are modified to live in the oceans, to the protagonists’ relationship with an artificial Eunice who becomes more real as the journey progresses. But in addition to the imaginative wonders for which Reynolds, a former scientist, is often praised, the novel is remarkable for its optimism. The grounded, complex characters - siblings, co-conspirators, cousins and enemies – are awake to the possibilities and dangers inherent in this universe. They argue, and open up for us an evolving intellectual drama, about the freedoms and responsibilities of technological utopias, and human capability.
'Reynolds's work is hard science fiction at its best. Full of suspense, great characters and science.'
‘Reynolds’s near-future is brilliantly extrapolated, with original ideas fizzing off each page. Excellent.’