On the Steel Breeze by Alastair Reynolds

Vertigo

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Following on from the events of Blue Remembered Earth, ‘holoships’ have been dispatched to Crucible where incontrovertible evidence of an apparently long dead extra-terrestrial intelligence has been discovered. The holoships, asteroids converted to house communities over a million strong and travelling in caravans of half a dozen or more, will take a hundred and fifty years to reach their destination; plenty of time for the rise and fall of political factions and the inevitable disputes that entails. Probes have been sent ahead with construction robot ‘seeds’ to prepare domed cities for the eventual arrival of the holoship communities and send back more information about the environment of Crucible. But what if a rogue artificial intelligence with its own agenda for Crucible has travelled out with the probes? Can any of the data coming back from Crucible be trusted? Will the cities have been built? And can the holoships even slow down enough to go into orbit?

As ever Reynolds ideas are big and fascinating and the questions he raises about artificial intelligence are equally fascinating. The plot is interesting and the problems that the characters must overcome are believable and well handled. But somehow Reynolds never quite managed to fully grab and hold my attention in this book; the characters, though well drawn, seemed rather too self-absorbed and I struggled to empathise with them and found myself pretty much unconcerned about their ultimate fates. I loved the universe Reynolds has created, I loved both the plot of this book and the overarching story of the series, I just didn’t love any of the characters this time around and I can only hope the final book will be better; that overarching story will still have me picking it up.
 
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