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Bookworm 2013: Even Quieter Wars

Posted on | December 23, 2013 | No Comments

Paul McAuley - Gardens of the SunIt’s really hard to write about Paul McAuley’s Gardens of the Sun as a singular book, since it is, effectively, the second part of a novel that was split into a duology – or at least that’s the impression I got from reading it. The first book does kinda wrap things up,  but the story is really only complete after the second volume, and this, in addition, makes it… well, not difficult, but pointless to write a review of Gardens. If Quiet War sounds like something you would like, this baby offers more of the same. The only downside to the book is that, having been split into two volumes, it does start off slow, reintroducing us to some of the characters, in case there are readers who were plonked straight into this one.

Paul McAuley - In the Mouth of the WhaleIn the Mouth of the Whale takes a huge leap into the future, to a point after the various offshoots of humanity, including the ever-present ghosts, have reached other solar systems. It consists of three more or less separate stories revolving around Fomalhaut, its dense ring of worldlets, and its lone gas giant whose depths seem to be hiding either a powerful, godlike alien mind, or simply a poorly understood complex natural phenomenon. It is only very loosely connected to the previous books and may be read as a standalone, and as such it is at once a beautiful blend of hard SF and space opera, yet also somewhat hobbled in execution – the aforementioned three stories are so different from one another, that many people, myself included, found they really love one or two of the stories, and seriously dislike or are bored by one or two of the others. It does, on the other hand, delightfully showcase quite a bit of McAuley’s biologist background, as one thread explores a thoroughly other form of intelligence based on insect behaviour.

Paul McAuley - Evening's EmpiresThe third book in the series was a complete surprise for me when it came out – imagine my confusion when McAuley went on to write a further, fourth book, Evening’s EmpiresHowever, as much as the Whale was a step away from the first two books, Empires was a huge leap in another direction. Although nominally still in the same universe, and still a blend of relatively hard SF and space opera, this time we are treated to a far more intimate story of one Gajananvihari Pilot, aka Hari, whose ship has been hijacked, whose family was murdered, and who was left abandoned on a remote rock in the ass-end of the Solar System. The story is also different, remaining a bit more along the lines of typical revenge-adventure yarns, with a slight conspiracy twist. To me, the huge departure from the style and atmosphere of the previous books was a bit of a disappointment – despite McAuley’s excellent style. This may be due to unmet expectations, so reader beware – instead of grand operatic tales of solar-system-spanning clashes over the future of humanity, expect an amusing, but relatively light bit of adventuring around the far-future Solar System.

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  • Goodreads

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
    From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time
    The Ophiuchi Hotline
    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
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    Crackpot Palace: Stories
    The Fractal Prince
    The Fecund's Melancholy Daughter

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