I Just Read: Blue Remembered Earth

bluerememberedA good chunk of the science-fiction I’ve read in the last year has dealt with the mankind’s future in the next 200 years or so. According to these books, we’ll have cities on the moon and on Mars in 200 years. We’ll be mining minerals and ice from the farthest reaches of our solar system. We’ll be uploading our minds into computer brains, and modifying our bodies to live like mer-people under the sea.

I get the point that human technology is accelerating at an amazing rate. And if you took a man from 1814 and showed him the world in 2014, his mind would be blown. And that’s just from seeing all the yoga pants! So when it comes to predicting our advances in the next 200 years, some would say that the sky’s the limit. But I think that’s more literally true than we’d like to admit. The sky IS the limit, considering the current state of space travel, and the long list of earthly problems that nations are facing today.

But author Alastair Reynolds chooses to be more optimistic than I. In his Blue Remembered Earth, mankind has established factories on Mercury and Neptune. Space elevators, laser propulsion, and shape-shifting androids are all commonplace. And Africa is the continent that is leading the way in all this innovation. Blue Remembered Earth follows a brother and sister, scions of a wealthy family based in Tanzaniya, who are led on an interplanetary scavenger hunt by clues that have been left behind by their deceased grand-matriarch. ‘Interplanetary scavenger hunt’ sound like fun, doesn’t it? And the book is usually fun, with some surprising set pieces and action scenes punctuating a few slow stretches. Sometimes the characters came off a bit dry to me, but overall I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

One interesting idea in the novel is ‘the surveilled world,’ which is like Google Earth turned up to Super Saiyan Level 4. In this possible future, the public surveillance ‘cloud’ is so omnipresent that anyone can access real-time video footage of the dark side of the moon, or be immersed into an accurate, real-time 3D model of an African savannah. People can use these ever-present hotspots to project avatars of themselves into the vision field of nearly anyone in any locale, from Kilimanjaro to Olympos Mons. That’s one innovation that I definitely think is coming down the pipe. Unfortunately I think it will first be used to try and get us a peek into Jennifer Lawrence’s bedroom.