Poseidon’s Wake by Alastair Reynolds


Mad Mountain Man
Jun 29, 2010
Scottish Highlands
Poseidon’s Wake is the third book in Reynold’s Poseidon’s Children series which I was under the impression was a trilogy (the first book’s blurb announced “Blue Remembered Earth is the first volume in a monumental trilogy…”) but if that’s the case then this book left at least one huge dangling thread along with a general sense of being incomplete. I suspect there will be at least one more book to come.

“Send Ndege” a cryptic message received from seventy light years away, but Ndege is now too old to make the journey so her daughter joins the crew of the ship being sent on a two hundred year voyage to investigate the source. Meanwhile Kanu, another Akinya, has died and acquired a passenger named Swift in his head, whether voluntarily or not seems to be a moot point. Swift has also found out about the cryptic message and together they embark on their own voyage to the source. All hope to better understand the cryptic M-builders.

Reynolds tells a good yarn; his characters are strong and well developed with each being sympathetic in their own way and each having their own unique voice, all of which helps to make this an enjoyable and moderately easy read. But, for me, it is also heavily flawed and my criticisms are largely also valid for the previous two books. Reynolds always indulges in heavy world building in his books, which is something I usually enjoy a great deal, but in this case I feel much of the world building was for its own sake and largely peripheral to the story being told. And, particularly in this book, I found much of that world building to be implausible at best. Attitudes of the various factions felt like they existed solely to drive the story forwards but lacked any internal logic. For example would an advanced interstellar society really completely proscribe any research into an enormous and enigmatic alien artefact with which they share their world simply because early research into it had possibly caused an accident resulting in massive loss of life? Surely that would be all the more reason to research and understand such a potentially dangerous artefact instead of making all such research illegal. There are many other examples, where if you scratch just a little bit under the surface, Reynolds universe just didn’t feel logical.

Then, though I know this one is a bit petty, I was constantly irritated every time Reynolds refers to star systems as solar systems. Our star system is The Solar System because our star is called Sol, other stars are not called Sol, so why on Earth would their systems be generically referred to as solar systems? Surely it’s no harder for Reynolds to type and his readers to understand ‘star system’?

Finally the ending; I’m not sure I’ve ever read such a long drawn out conclusion to a book. The final climatic action takes place around sixty to seventy pages from the end of the book and we are then subjected to the longest and most rambling wrapping up I think I’ve ever been subjected to. And he still ended up with unfinished business. His characters are engaging and I wanted to know what happened to them but it shouldn’t take that long to achieve this. There were even details thrown in at this late stage that had nothing relevant to contribute, except maybe to give the reader a nice warm feeling; fine, we all like a nice warm feelings but don’t spend ten pages over it. Please!

Like my old school reports. Good but could do much better.

3/5 stars