on March 13, 2010
I've enjoyed several of Paul McAuley's novels, and bought this book the instant I saw it. The back cover promised an exciting, intelligent story. After 70 pages I did something I rarely do--I put it back on the shelf. This book needed a strong editor.
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.
The Quiet War is Space Opera that hits close to home and is surprisingly digestible with its pacing. I find many Space Opera's a bit overdone, but that is not the case here. In fact this is the first must-read Sci-fi book of the year. The Quiet War having already been nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award is quite deserving of this honor.
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.
on October 15, 2009
Good plot idea, starts out with good characters, but where's the development? By 40 0r 50 pages into the book, I wanted the author to stop lurching from idea to idea, and concentrate on something.I was left feeling the characters were just brushed in, and you couldn't really get into any of them. at least I couldn't. And to call this a Space opera, well, the books title, the quiet war, had it right, it was so quiet I missed the war. The ending, where the gene wizard gives a speech about humanity, left me feeling huh? about the whole book. Disappointing, to say the least
Back in the 1990's, I went through a spurt of reading the novels of Paul McAuley. His SF aligned perfectly with my tastes, from Fairyland to Pasquale's Angel to the Confluence Trilogy, one of my favorite SF series of all time.
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.
on November 24, 2009
First of all, this is not military science fiction. It is much more social science fiction.
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.
on September 20, 2015
I really wanted to like this book. The post-climate change recovering world is a neat setting, and the space science and genetic engineering aspects are well developed. The characters, however, are flat yet somehow still incredibly unlikable. I made it half way through and still felt like I knew nothing about the people I suspect are supposed to be the main characters. I don't know if every book needs a hero, but I think each book should give you someone to at least root for. The one somewhat likable character gets into long and tedious chases coupled with derring-do escapes from the same petty and opaque side character. Maybe the next three books in the series get better, but I don't have any interest in finding out.
on December 18, 2009
There aren't nearly enough good hard sci fi stories being written today. I'll take a good sci fi story (especially one set in our solar system) over an urban fantasy novel any day. How many books are there currently being published with a picture on the cover of the novel's female protagonist, looking over her shoulder, wearing a shirt that bares her midriff, and holding a sword? Too many if you ask me. The Quiet War delivers when it comes to the science of the story, especially genetic manipulation and man-made organisms (even those that can live in space).
The Quiet War wasn't the best hard sf novel I've ever read, but it's much better than a lot of the sf/f books currently being published. The Quiet War is set several decades in our future, after major environmental, ecological, and political turmoil on Earth has pushed much of mankind into space and forced those remaining on Earth to live lives that are very, very different from ours.
The Quiet War takes us on a tour of various cities in South America, Brazil being one of the world's super powers, and of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, where most of space-bound humanity lives. We follow a handful of characters as tensions between the humans on Earth and the humans in space escalate to war. We explore the issues associated with genetic manipulation and human cloning. We compare and contrast totalitarian and democratic governments, walking the fine line between pure democracy and absolute anarchy. We witness characters giving up long-held beliefs and desires to pursue even bigger dreams. We live in the slums of future Earth, in Antarctic compounds, and on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
The book wasn't perfect. Too many of the book's characters had a penchant for "speaking their mind" when they shouldn't have (which was probably a narrative cheat). And the story seemed to end just as it was getting really good (to be fair, there apparently is a sequel). But as a whole, the book was enjoyable. I would highly recomend it to any fan of hard sci fi.
on August 31, 2015
This book is a perfect fit for me, although I wish you didn't have to read the sequel(s?) to find out what ultimately happens. It is hard SF, and much of the science is biology -- something you see too seldom. There are excellent graphic descriptions of things I would never have imagined: What would a city on Saturn's moon Dione really look like. There is political and eventually armed conflict, with viewpoint characters on both sides. And protagonists from both the pro-war and peace-and-reconciliation factions provide cogent philosophical justifications for their respective positions. Strongly recommended for anyone who likes SF that is both action-filled and thought-provoking.
on March 23, 2015
If you suspend your adherence regarding physics and orbital mechanics this is an engaging story, told from multiple viewpoints. Some of the technologies used are potentially feasible sometime in the near future. I enjoyed the story quite a bit and would recommend it to others who like to read about the technological basis behind the action in the story.
on October 24, 2015
An interesting universe, fascinating and smart science, and action. How could you make this boring? Unfortunately, it is boring. If I hadn't bought the whole set in anticipation of a long plane ride I would not have bought any of the sequels. However, book 3 (In The Mouth of the Whale) is the payoff and if you can hang on, it's well worth it.