The Quiet War Paperback – Sep 22 2009
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"the fascinating inventiveness of the bio-engineered life-forms, the intricate detail of both the societies and habitats, the complex characters all amounted to a fabulous story. This is a book that has been carefully thought out and the author displays a wealth of knowledge on subjects such as bio-remediation and terraforming. It's a tale well worth taking the time to get into and enjoying McCauley's vision of the future." SF CROWSNEST "An impressively realised tale of competing ideologies that tackles pertinent questions. This is big, clever science fiction." BBC FOCUS "The author creates a magnificent sense of gravitas and wonder as he describes conflict. The ideas expounded are genuinely fascinating and well thought out. The stage is set for war and it is beautifully handled." SCI FI NOW "Few writers conjure futures as convincingly as McAuley: his latest novel deftly combines bold characterisation, a thorough understanding of political complexity, and excellent science." -- Eric Brown THE GUARDIAN "The Quiet War is a cleverly plotted book, laced with compelling science, and McAuley's scientific background shines through." BOOKGEEK.CO.UK "It's a complex, multilayered novel, almost an SF version of 'Bleak House' or 'Bonfire of the Vanities'. It's packed with great characters, breathtaking set pieces and intriguing SF ideas." -- Dave Golder SFX "Paul McAuley's new space epic finds him deep in Ken MacLeod territory. McAuley depicts his future plausibly." PRESS ASSOCIATON "With restrained brilliance, McAuley takes that hardy SF perennial, the interplanetary war, and shows us how one might actually develop. This novel shows off many of McAuley's strengths - his solid plotting, his command of scientific theory, his sense of the complex moral and political implications of each advance." -- Matt Bielby DEATHRAY "Combines the damn-the-torpedoes, full speed ahead narrative impetus of a Peter F Hamilton, with the detailed, even meticulous attention to world-building and character development that distinguished Kim Stanley Robinson's classic Mars sequence. McAuley has always been a stylish writer, but he outdoes himself here. The Quiet War marks Paul McAuley's triumphant return to full-bore space opera." -- Paul Witcover LOCUS --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Paul McAuley's first novel won the Philip K. Dick Award and he has gone on to win almost all of the major awards in the field. For many years a research biologist, he now writes full-time. He lives in London. Visit Paul McAuley online at http://unlikelyworlds.blogspot.com/
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If the following excerpt from page 68 excites you, or if you love Kim Stanley Robinson's novels, or if you have a lot of time and patience, you would probably like this novel.
"Soil was not a random mixture of inorganic, organic and living material; it was highly structured at every level, fractally so. Stratified and textured and dynamic, it supported a myriad complex chemical reactions that were still not completely understood, mediated by soil water and air moving through pore spaces that occupied up to fifty percent of soil by volume. Soil water also transported material through processes such as leaching, eluviation, illuviation and capillary action, and supported a rich and highly diverse biota--hundreds of varieties of soil bacteria of course, and cyanobacteria, microalgae, fungi, and protists, as well as nematodes and worms, and insects, and other small arthropods--that recycled macro- and micro-nutrients, decomposed organic material, and mixed and transported and aerated mineral and organic components. In natural conditions on Earth, it took about four hundred years to produce a centimetre of topsoil; a thousand years to produce enough to support agriculture...."
I see that there is a sequel to this novel. If passages like those above had been excised, and the exposition tightened up, perhaps the story could have been told in one better volume.
Earth and the outer separatist colonies have been at odds for the past 200 odd years. Earth is recovering from a planetary wide environmental collapse, which seems all too feasible presently. A Green fervor has taken hold of the people and the politics as they have repairing the planet, which leaves all of the power to the most wealthy families. The colonies exists as an egalitarian societies loosely connected, where debates run rampant and action is slow.
However, the people of Earth and the colonies are diverting on more than just politics. The colonies are situated on moons around planets in our solar system where they have been changing themselves genetically for generations to adapt to these new environments and also lengthening their life spans to hundreds of years. Many now consider them a separate species and as the gap widens so does the trust each group has for the other. Earth's own attempts at toying with humanity's capabilities are quite startling, especially the creation of the people on the moon, which I wish were used a tad more.
The Quiet War shows that no matter what side you are on, throwing yourself too much in any direction can take you further away from your goal as so much scheming is going on you never know when a favor will be called in. Nearly every character is a pawn in a greater game of chess. Just when you think you've reached the Queen a new piece swoops in to take position. Told from multiple points of view at a multitude of locales The Quiet War brings heaps of action and suspense. The characters are sometimes stuffy, but never uninteresting. The science is spot on and believable.
This is my first exposure to McAuley's work, but he has definitely peaked my interest with his highly informed style and voice. The Quiet War is the best Space Opera I have read in years. I give The Quiet War 9.25 out of 10 Hats. I didn't find out until I finished, but there is a a sequel, Gardens of the Sun, scheduled for release by Pyr in 2010. That said The Quiet War does stand on its own but I for one would like to see what the future holds for some of these characters.
I didn't read his SF techno-thrillers, but I am very happy that he has now returned to straight main-line science fiction with The Quiet War.
The Quiet War is set in a solar system after "The Overturn", when the 20th and 21st century geopolitics and fossil fuel economy world have withered under devastating climate change and political upheaval The powers of the 23rd century on Earth are Greater Brazil, the European Union and the Pacific Community. Family-based Autocracy is the new politics, Gaia is the official religion and the powers on Earth work to try and repair the damage done by the near extinction-event.
Out in the Jovian and Saturnian moon systems, however, the Outers carry on with Democracy, experimentation, and innovation. The Outers explore the boundaries of what it means to be human, as they carve out lives in the bleak and dangerous landscape of moons such as Callisto, Rhea, and Titan.
These two visions cannot long remain out of conflict, even if separated by millions of kilometers of space. The Quiet War tells the start of the story of that conflict, of the forces pushing for and against war, and, finally, the details of the "short, quiet war".
McAuley's return to Space Opera is a return to themes he has explored before, on a canvas that runs from Earth to Saturn. Gene-manipulated individuals, as in Fairyland here ,are in full flower, from the experimentation of the Outers to the "Daves", a set of clones created by Greater Brazil to be tools of war and espionage in the upcoming conflict. McAuley lingers lovingly over the terrain and milieu of the outer system.
His sense of description is more perfunctory on Earth, but it is when the setting of the story is set on one of the Moons that you can feel the joy of his writing in the depth and texture of these described worlds. I almost wanted to get a plane ticket for Brazilia so that I could get a shuttle for a ship to visit the Jovian moons.
Frankly, while I found Dr. Owen, Macy Minnot, Dave #8 and the other characters moderately interesting enough in the process of reading the novel, characters are not the strongest point of McAuley's writing. What has been strong in the past in his work, and what is strong is here, is the sensawunda of the ideas McAuley likes to throw around. It requires that sort of mindset to best enjoy McAuley's writing. Readers who rely on strong character based science fiction may not be the target audience for his work, especially this novel.
Finally, the Quiet War doesn't quite stand on its own, it feels a bit incomplete. Fortunately, the other half, the Gardens of the Sun, is coming out this spring. Since, despite the characterization problems, McAuley's space opera is still to my taste,I for one am definitely going to read it.
The writer is well versed in the best techniques of writing. However (at least the Kindle Edition), has very, very poor editing. There are four places where paragraphs and lines are just hanging out. It's almost as if the writer was moving stuff around and just forgot to delete these notes/lines/paragraphs.
Again, the writing is good, but I'm really reminded of L. Ron Hubbard's 10 book decology. Without all the flowery prose, this would be a much shorter book.
The writer's vision of the future is fascinating, but I don't think it is well thought out. He mentions nanotech three times, but there is no general use of it, even though the tech is very generalized (repairing a crippled star-fighter for example). The biotech and modifcations of the Outers is one of the major plot points, but other than being taller and one small group having small wings and/or gliding membranes, there is no wholesale body modification.
Finally, the ending is so very anti-climatic. It is almost a deus ex machina. Oh, and don't become close to any of the main characters.
It's a good book, with a better editor, I'd give it another star.