So I delivered On the Steel Breeze, the follow-up to Blue Remembered Earth. I think I'm going to try to say a bit less about this book, generally, than I did of BRE, for no other reason than that I don't want to talk it to death before it appears. But I can say a few things.
It's a sequel, obviously. But like BRE I hope it also functions as a standalone novel, which just happens to be set in the same universe and revolves around members of the Akinya family. The central character, Chiku, is totally new, although she is closely related to characters in the first book. When I started thinking about this trilogy, almost five years ago, I had in mind a kind of logarithmic structure which would see the first book span 100 years, the second 1000, and the third 10,000. For that reason it was a handy shorthand to call it the 11K sequence. Things have moved on, though, and while the action in OTSB does take us quite a bit further into the future than BRE, we certainly don't get to see life a thousand years from now. That was indeed how it started, but after months of progress I came to feel that the narrative felt too detached from BRE, and I wanted to bring it a little closer to home. There was also the technical challenge that I wanted the book to feature a good deal of action set in and around Earth, including at least one scene in Africa, but I did not want those events to be happening ten centuries from now.
Resolving these demands has pushed the timeline quite a bit nearer to the present than I expected, but we are still two centuries on from BRE at the start of the novel, and quite a bit more than that by the end of it. The action involves a 220 year expedition to an extrasolar planet aboard a caravan of huge iceteroid "holoships", the tension between human and artificial intelligence, and, of course, elephants. Lots of elephants. There are scenes set on the holoships, around another solar system, on our own Earth, as well as in and around Venus, Mars and Saturn.
From now on the book will be moving through edits, and I am mindful that - as always - there is much still to be done. But I also enthusiastic about moving on to the third novel, which will take us much further into both the galaxy and the future.
[Edited to remove minor spoiler for those yet to read BRE]