Monday, May 10, 2010

ARC Review by JD: The Quiet War by Paul McAuley



  • The Quiet War
  • by Paul McAuley

Reviewed Version Stats:

  • ISBN: 978-1-591027812 - pages 471: paperback (ARC version)
  • Genre: Hard Science Fiction

 Amazon Published Version Stats:

  • Paperback: 405 pages
  • Publisher: Pyr (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591027810
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591027812

John’s Thoughts:

I was in the mood for some hard core science fiction and this did the trick. It’s a complex, futuristic, space-age political thriller – most enjoyable.

It is the 23rd century and after rampant industrialism and resulting radical climate change, a ravaged Earth is in the grip of three new regional superpowers headed up by a handful of powerful families. All are focused on trying to rebuild the world’s ruined ecosystems. Meanwhile, descendents of refugees from Earth, known as the Outers, have built a wild variety of strange communities on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn – their efforts greatly assisted by powerful gene wizards. The extreme forms of democracy in the outer solar system could not be more different from the repressive regimes back on Earth. With beliefs, power structures, technologies and physical appearances all rapidly diverging, tensions between Earth and the Outers rise and many on both sides are pushing for war.

The story mainly revolves around two characters. Sri Hong Owen is a great scientist who works for the Peixoto family in Greater Brazil. Despite having helped them in innumerable ways, she remains a pawn in their political power plays and strives to protect herself and her family as factions from Greater Brazil maneuver towards war with the Outers. Macy Minnot comes from a lowly background but after proving her skills on reclamation and reconstruction projects on Earth, she finds herself recruited as part of a joint project to build a biome on Callisto, Jupiter’s second moon. The project is jointly sponsored by the Peixoto family’s green saint and the greatest of the Outer’s gene wizards, Avernus. Intended as a conciliation project, it becomes clear that many want to see it fail. Macy seems to have the knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and she becomes ever more embroiled in the machinations as war becomes inevitable.

This is a complex and clever story, packed with intrigue, rich characters and science. Prior to becoming a writer McAuley was a research biologist, and it shows. I found the future world that he painted both fascinating and believable. His descriptions of the strange planets and moons are really vivid. The way that genes are “cut” to produce specific characteristics in people, animals and plants is both interesting and scary. The science may have been over my head but it’s one of those where if you just go with the flow, it feels right. I’d kind of like to be around 300 years from now to see how close he is in his projections!

As I read the book, more than once I found myself comparing it to Dune. Certainly there are similarities with the complex plots, politics, family dynasties and strange worlds. Dune is a favorite of mine, so that is a definite plus point for this book. On the down side, this is quite a difficult read. I found myself frequently re-reading sections and it took me a log time to get though the book. It felt a lot longer than its 471 pages. With some careful editing it could have been a sharper read (though I read an ARC edition and I see the final version that was published has a lower page count, so perhaps the final version has been tightened up). Nonetheless it was a most enjoyable and I’d rate it 4 stars.

Amazon purchasing links US/UK/Canada.

This ARC copy was won in a banner creation contest from Grasping for the Wind.

This review was posted by Shellie and written by John/JD and as always he will be addressing any comments around this review – a welcome break from his work day.  Happy Monday everyone!



I really wanted to devour this book. Good Science fiction seems to have lost out to fantasy these days and I was ready, BUT I found it too complex and too technical to hold my interest.

It had all the elements I craved but I just couldn't get myself to the end.

Drats. Perhaps I've lost the taste for it after reading all those light mysteries. *grin*

John D said...

Hi Elizabeth,
I'm sorry you did't get through it. I must say that I did find it a tough read too. For me the politicing, characters and strong story line helped me get through some of the more techy stuff. It was rewarding in the end!

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