First volume of a new planet-hopping series from the author of Terminal World (2010).
By the middle of the next century, Africa is the dominant technological and economic power (a provocative notion, though Reynolds declines to show us how this came to be), wars and poverty have vanished, and violence is impossible: Thanks to mandatory neural implants, anybody that so much as attempts it gets zapped with an incapacitating migraine. Geoffrey, scion of the rich and powerful Akinya clan, studies elephants in the hope of achieving a full mind-meld with them. Recently, Eunice, Geoffrey's grandmother, a brilliant researcher who spent the latter part of her long life as a recluse aboard an orbiting space station, died, having left a MacGuffin somewhere in the solar system and a series of teasing clues to its location. Geoffrey's cousins, ruthless businessmen Hector and Lucas, prefer the MacGuffin remain undiscovered or, better, destroyed; still, they send Geoffrey up to the moon to investigate the first clue. Geoffrey, despite strict instructions from Hector and Lucas not to, can't help enlisting his sister, Sunday, to help with the search. Thus the plot—find the MacGuffin, get the grand tour—uncomfortably resembles that of Kim Stanley Robinson's recent 2312, for which we probably have Dan Brown to thank. The backdrop sparkles with human merfolk and bioengineering, artificial intelligences or "artilects," "quangled" (quantum-entangled) mind-to-mind conversations and a whirl of experimental habitats and societies. The most lifelike character, Eunice, is a multipartite computer reconstruction, even though her MacGuffin turns up in the place most of us would look first, never mind the red herrings. Along the way, Reynolds tosses out and then casually abandons dozens more astonishing concepts and developments.
Readers hoping for adventures in the mind-boggling fashion of Revelation Space may emerge dissatisfied but certainly not deterred.