For me, the best thing about “Blue Remembered Earth” was the narration by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. His energy and his mastery of all kinds of interesting accents, made this long book a stimulating, if leisurely quest rather than a tediously long journey.
Set a couple of centuries in the future, after the great re-settlements caused by global warming, “Blue Remembered Earth” tells the story of a brother and sister in a powerful Tanzanian family, who, on the death of their grandmother, are sent separately to follow a trail of clues out into space to uncover the secrets of the woman who founded their family’s wealth.
The quest structure of the novel provides the string on which the pearls of the various deeply imagined environments, cultures and personalities are strung. On this sort of “Around the Universe in 80 Days” treasure hunt, we get to see life on with the elephant herds in the plains before Kilimanjaro, on the habitats of the moon, the wild lands of Mars and beyond. We piece-together the history of the family, following the footsteps of the scarily independent and energetic grandmother across landscapes and cultures that are described so well and in such detail that the experience is almost immersive.
The brother and sister who are entangled in different ways in this quest, give the story a much-needed human scale. In the begining, I found the brother quite annoying: unconsciously self-absorbed, self-deceptive about his level of independence from his wealthy family, emotionally immature and effortlessly entitled. During the course of the novel he grew up, at least a little, and started to become interesting. His older sister had made a life for herself in an artistic colony on the Moon, outside the constantly surveilled, civilized, inter-planetary society, but she was also living a life more defined by what she had rejected than by what she had achieved.
Technology is almost a character in this book in its own right. Everything from the augmentations that enable (enforce sometimes seems a more appropriate word) people constantly to be in communication with one another through to exactly how the interplanetary space craft work, is thought through and woven skillfully into the tale.
Ultimately, the journey in this long, long, book is much more important than the destination. The puzzle is more interesting than its solution. The changes wrought on the people as they work through the quest maze are more important than the knowledge the acquire.
To get the best from “Blue Remembered Earth” you have to slip into it like a warm bath and lose yourself in the experience. I found this much easier to do with the aid of Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s skillful narration.