Thursday, June 01, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Poseidon's Wake (Poseidon's Children, #3) by Alastair Reynolds

The third (and final) book in Alastair Reynolds' space-opera trilogy Poseidon's Children about the Akinya family is called Poseidon's Wake. It provides a conclusion to the story that began in Blue Remembered Earth and continued in On The Steel Breeze. The story is set in a world where climate change has made Nigeria a world power and it turns out that the family that runs the global mega-corporation that is helping humanity to explore the cosmos is Black and African. Swahili becomes the lingua franca of space travel!

By the time we get to the third book we are several hundred (possibly a few thousand) years in the future after the events in the first book and probably a few hundred have elapsed since the events of the second book. The main characters in Poseidon's Wake are Goma Akinya and Kanu Akinya. (Goma and Kanu are not technically related because in the second book, Chiku cloned herself and created three Chikus: Chiku Red, Chiku Yellow and Chiku Green. Goma is a descendant of Chiku Green while Ranu is Chiku Yellow's son. One thing which made On The Steel Breeze so interesting was the interesting adventures that each of the Chikus went on.

One aspect of Reynolds' writing that I greatly appreciate is that he likes to approach "big questions" in his books. One of the key ideas in the book is the nature of sentience. In all three books, uplifted elephants called Tantors, who are smart enough that they can communicate with humans, play a key role. Several key roles are played by artificial intelligences, from the panopticon A.I that prevents any kind of violence from occurring on Earth in the first two books, to the downloaded intelligence of original matriarch Eunice Akinya and the motley collection of evolved computer and robot-based intelligences that eventually take over Mars.

Time is another important element of the books, because since he is a real-life physicist (with a Ph.D. in the subject) Reynolds understands the complications of faster-than-light travel, so a key journey in Poseidon's Wake takes several hundreds of years to complete as most of the crew remains in "coldsleep" hibernation. Both Ranu and Goma take different paths to get to the star system (Gliese 163) where an interesting signal has originated that clearly demonstrates evidence of the existence of another intelligence. When we eventually meet the Watchkeepers, we discover they have been spacefaring long before humans evolved on Earth and have some curious theories about the nature of existence of all intelligent life in the Universe, as well as its ultimate disposition.

I don't want to give away important plot developments but there is an important confrontation between the Watchkeepers and the various intelligences that came from the solar system (human, elephant and A.I.) which, in my opinion was ultimately dissatisfying. Overall, I am glad that I read the entire series, but it was still not as emotionally resonant or intellectually stimulating as his Revelation Space which cemented his reputation as a space-opera author of note decades ago.

Title: Poseidon's Wake (Poseidon's Children, Book 3)
Alastair Reynolds.
Paperback: 598 pages.
Date Published: February 6, 2016.
Date Read: February 13, 2016.


OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).

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