This week I decided to review Poseidon's Children: Poseidon's Wake by Alistair Reynolds.
The story begins on Crucible where Nedge Akinya is held in permanent house arrest after her attempts to contact the alien machine nicknamed Mandala apparently resulted in the destruction of the colony holoship Zanzibar, more than four hundred thousand humans, and the vast majority of the Tectors, genetically engineered sentient elephants. But in time Crucible receives a message from Gliese 163, a solar system believed to have not been visited by humanity, requesting that Nedge be sent there.
Nedge's brother Mosbi sees this as an opportunity in his ongoing struggle to have the terms of Nedge's imprisonment relaxed and is planning to push for one of the two starships Crucible has under construction to be sent to reply to the signal. Nedge has come to believe that the pulse which apparently destroyed Zanzibar was a communication signal and Gliese 163 is among the likely candidates for its destination. They also suspect that the signal might have something to do with the Trinity, three beings taken by the alien machine Watchkeepers which now watch every system humanity inhabits but were first contacted by the Crucible colony. The trio consisted of an AI android based on Nedge's ancestor Eunice Akinya, Nedge's mother Chiku Green, one of three clones of Chiku Akinya, and the Tector Dakota with no other contact possible in the centuries since they departed.
Nedge can't go do to health reason but Mosbi, along with Nedge's daughter Goma and her wife Ru, both scientists who had dedicated themselves to a losing battle to save Crucible's Tector population which ends with the death of the last Tector on the world join the Starship Tavertine on its journey. As they leave the system a Watchkeeper sets out in pursuit, but rather than destroy the ship, as Watchkeepers sometimes do for no known reason, instead the immense alien machine begins clearing a path for the Tavertine.
However, powerful political forces on Crucible oppose the mission and Mosbi soon discovers evidence of a plot to disable or destroy the ship launching an investigation that ends with his death. A prime suspect is soon found, but without more evidence, he is sentenced to skipover stasis for the remainder of the mission rather than death. Meanwhile, on Mars, which is now ruled by the machines of the Evolvarium, Kanu Akinya, the son of Chiku Yellow, is an ambassador for the United Aquatic nations, one of four ambassadors who are the only humans on the red planet. He, along with two of his fellow ambassadors, is killed in an attack by the Reclamationist movement that wishes for humanity to seize control of Mars from the Evolvarium.
The Evolvarium resuscitates Kanu but this action casts doubt on his loyality to humanity so he is recalled. After delivering the belongings of his closest friend among the ambassadors to her family, he begins investigating the art work of one of his ancestors and reunites with his ex-wife Nissa who has taken up similar studies. The two grow close and eventually set out for Europa, but en route Kanu realizes the truth. While undergoing treatment on Mars Kanu had made a secret deal with the Evolvarium to allow Swift, his closes friend among the machines, to be embedded in his brain. The Evolvarium has discovered the signal sent to Crucible but is forbidden from leaving Mars so they asked Kanu to obtain a starship and set out for Gliese 163.
Nissa is furious to discover she was used in such a fashion but after their arrival on Europa triggers both a civil war among the Regals that inhabit the moon and an invasion by the Consolidation, one of the major human power blocks in the system, Kanu asks the Margrave, the leader of the friendly Regals to protect Nissa at all costs before setting out to launch the long hidden starship he names Icebreaker. But after launching the ship and evading the Consolidation, destroying one of their pursuit ships in the process, Kanu discovers that the Margrave's solution to protecting Nissa was to put her on board the Icebreaker leaving him facing a long journey with his only companions an AI in his head and a woman who despises him.
I give the book 6 out of 10. I feel that it is very longwinded and dull as there are no action sequences worth mentioning. Also, I wish the author had gone into more detail on the political factions in the Sol system and their goals and especially explained just why the Consolidation was so determined to prevent Kanu from leaving the Sol system. However I did like many of the characters and despite a brief period where it looked like a massively disappointing ending was pending, I actually liked how the story ended though I hope there will be a sequel to wrap some things up some day.