- File Size: 399 KB
- Print Length: 146 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publication Date: July 6, 2013
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00DTEMNEK
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #874,912 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Life After Wartime Kindle Edition
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Sea Change, With Monsters
The first story in this collection was great -- five stars. A woman is hired to hunt down and kill a leftover bio-engineered weapon from the Quiet War called a dragon -- a self-aware autonomous human-created animal that was built to destroy the infrastructure of the colonists living in and under the ice of Europa. When she arrives at her destination -- an all-male monastery growing food in the cold sea under Europa's frozen surface -- she discovers a surprising secret, which I won't give away here.
Dead Men Walking
Another five-star story, this one told as a first-person report left by a former genetically engineered assassin, cloned to look like his target. He survived his initial assignment, which was successful, and decides to escape from his creators' designs, and live his own life, under his own terms. Unfortunately, his past catches up with him while he is working as a guard of political prisoners on one of Uranus's moons. An excellent story told in an "out of the ordinary" way.
Macy Minnot's Last Christmas on Dione, Ring Racing, Fiddler's Green, the Potter's Garden
A four-star story packed with several interesting vignettes, concepts, and locations, but not a whole lot of plot. An older woman from Earth travels to Dione to fulfill the dying wishes of her dead father, who had left earth a few decades earlier and had become a renowned artist among the Outers.
The remaining stories are much shorter, but still entertaining, each with a unique setting and memorable characters. My favorites were Monoliths (I am likely to love any story that references one of my favorite sci-fi movies) and Dragon Lady. These stories merit a mixture of three and four stars.
I need to track down Evening's Empires and In the Mouth of the Whale, both of which were recently published but for some reason are no longer in print here in the U.S. Thank goodness Amazon sells used books.
Paul McAuley is a new writer to me. Since he has been turning out stories since the 1990s, the fault is mine. He has a knack for turning out beautiful prose that advances the story, rather than simply adorning it.
"Sky Saxena was one such, a clever, headstrong man in his early twenties. After fleeing from his family and the obligations of his inheritance, he had decided to impose shape and order on his life by attempting to walk around the largest of Saturn’s regular, icy moons – Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, and Iapetus. A quest only a celebrated few had completed since the Saturn system had first been settled more than four centuries ago."
"Rickasht found he didn’t mind the crowd, the noise. He could disappear inside it. Nothing was expected of him. He smiled and nodded as two young, earnest men told him that they were going to tent over and landscape an embayment in one of the long, deep canyons that cut the icy surface of Uranus’s largest moon, Titania."
Who wouldn't want to live in a time where such things were possible?
As those excerpts also suggest, McAuley also has a talent for making his settings feel lived in. Most of the stories in this anthology are set in the icy moons around Jupiter and Saturn. One story features a woman whose job is fighting created monsters in the briny ocean that exists under the ice of Europa.
These stories are set in a time period ranging from shortly after the Quiet War to much further into the future. Since I am new to McAuley's universe I only know what the Quiet War is from the hints dropped in the story: apparently, the outer satellites rebelled and were defeated and occupied by the Three Powers, one of which was Brazil. In the course of the war, the Three Powers employed bio-weapons of radically different types. ("Sea Change, with Monsters" and "Dead Men Walking.")
McAuley's stories range from almost-novella length (Sea Change) to the briefest of short stories. Some of these short stories are only a page or two in length, and seem to more of a story idea, but they work. I liked them all, but "Barbara Allen and Sweet Billie" is a nice example of a spare, romantic style that suggests the frontier era that McAuley is painting, where small things among a small population can be the stuff of legend.
McAuley speckles his writing with ideas that take the mind in different directions, "eidolons" deliver messages, "vacuum organisms" create an ecological system on barren ice planets, pioneers jump from "kobold" to "kobold" in the Oort cloud to move further and further away from Earth, and people achieve immortality by destroying the brain as they transfer its data to an artificial intelligence system.
I have a complaint with the book's formatting, however: a large number of hyphens are missing from compound words ("fourth-largest" became "fourthlargest", for example). As I've learned, though, this is a standard irritation with Kindle content: only the hardware devices have the ability to report content errors, and the content correction process is opaque. amazon could quite easily build a publicly accessible content correction system - verify I "own" the book, let me submit corrections, let me see what other corrections have been submitted, notify me when a new version is ready, etc. - and I, for one, hope they will. O'Reilly has a crufty old errata system, but it's vastly superior to what you get with amazon (a black hole).