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Something Coming Through Hardcover – April 14, 2015
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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Full of exciting plot twists and an intriguing mix of human and non-human chracters, this murder mystery set up in a dystopian is future history at its very best―Starburst Magazine
brilliantly splits the difference between James A. Corey's frenetic science fiction and the more considered catastrophes of McAuley's own Quiet War novels. It's fun; it's fascinating; it's fantastic―Tor.com
a compelling and realistically imagined piece of speculative fiction anchored be weighty contemporary concerns―The Irish Times
What really lifts the book out of the ordinary though, is the Jackaroo...The Jackaroo are an enduring mystery that will get readers back for the next instalment.―The Register
The action, slow to get going, builds to a dramatic climax of chases and shoot-outs. Crime-tinged SF at its canniest.―The Financial Times
Something Coming Through is science fiction at it's peak, its modern, clever, involving. It's got more ideas than a science fair and more mystery than Miss Marple. Wrap that all up in an original first contact story with some enigmatic aliens, even stranger ancient technology and some great characters and you have one hell of a book―SF Book
Something Coming Through is as tight and relentlessly paced as an Elmore Leonard thriller, and full of McAuley's customary sharp eye for dialogue and action. What's really impressive, though, is that it achieves a seamless fusion of the day-after-tomorrow SF novel - it's as interested in gritty Earthbound near-futurism as William Gibson or Lauren Beukes - with the cosmological themes of McAuley's galaxy-spanning space operas. It's the freshest take on first contact and interstellar exploration in many years, and almost feels like the seed for an entire new subgenre―Alistair Reynolds
Packed with ideas, fantastic world-building and enigmas, and combining elements of first contact, alien artifacts, a touch of dystopia and good old fashioned conspiracy, murder and greed. It's a great combination, all handled with a terrific mix of intelligence and accessibility―For Winter's Nights
McAuley's latest is smart, it's challenging, and as an exploration of the social consequences of sudden science fictional change, it's very impressive indeed―SFX
McAuley writes intelligent hardcore SF, and this should win him countless new readers―The Guardian
About the Author
Paul McAuley won the PHILIP K. DICK AWARD for his first novel and has gone on to win the ARTHUR C. CLARKE, SIDEWISE, BRITISH FANTASY and JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARDs. He gave up his position as a research biologist to write full time. He lives in London.
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In any event, this book asks the inevitable questions about technologically superior aliens: Will they save us, or will they destroy us? Will they save us by trying to destroy us, or destroy us by trying to save us? Will we turn over a new leaf in our relations to the aliens and to ourselves, or will we just keep repeating old patterns? Can we know the alien, or are our brains not prepared for that? And so on.
Bottom line: You will enjoy this book more if you've already read some of McAuley's Jackaroo stories, but that's not necessary. You just have to know that there are no other Jackaroo novels, and other readers know almost as little as you about the Jackaroo and the planets they gave to humanity. It's not a bad book, but it was too much of a police procedural for my taste. The alien artifacts play an important role, but not to the extent that they do, say, in some of Neal Asher's "Polity" books and stories. There is something coming through, but it will be a while before anyone knows precisely what it is. Recommended.
Reflecting on humanity's first contact with the alien Jackaroo, a character in Paul McAuley's latest novel (his twenty-first) observes the following: "A lot of people said that it was a brand new start. A chance to build fifteen different utopias on fifteen different worlds. A chance to redeem ourselves. But after all the fine talk about how we were going to do better, how we were going to realize the true potential of the human race, and so on, what did we get? It turns out that we brought every kind of human foolishness with us, and invented new ways to f*** up." This quote nicely encapsulates the novel's deftness in simultaneously reaching for the sense of wonder inherent in the exploration of new worlds and the stark realities of the human heart revealed by the grittiness of frontier life.
McAuley's novel is comprised of two parallel near-future narratives. In London, lean, young Chloe Millar works for Disruption Theory, a company that attempts to measure the effects of knowing that we're not alone on the human psyche. Following a cult-related lead takes Chloe to Fahad Chauhan, a teen who draws intensely weird pictures of an alien landscape that might just be real. Meanwhile, in the city of Petra on the planet of Mangala, stocky, middle-aged investigator Vic Gayle and his new partner peel back layer after layer of what initially looks like a vengeance-motivated drug crime. The novel's action-packed, mind-expanding climax weaves both strands together and kinetically ties them into a dazzling knot.
At their most basic levels, Chloe's story reads like a fugitive thriller, while Vic's resembles a noir whodunit in a Western setting. But neither is exactly that, and both are buoyed by McAuely's richly imagined and densely rendered future. A bevy of extrapolations like smart drones, planetary storms, nanotechnology and quantum entanglement are layered, coral-like, atop a history of nuclear detonation ("The Spasm"), global warming and alien contact. Fortunately, McAuley's writing -- impressionistic descriptions, well-wrought speech patterns -- shoulders all the conceptual weight with ease. A joy to read.
The mysterious Jackaroo lie at the heart of the novel's compelling future, but they remain tantalizingly out of focus, forever beyond our understanding. They communicate with humans via "golden vaporware" avatars and offer only enigmatic responses to our most basic questions regarding their purpose in visiting us, answers like "We hope that you will discover your better natures" and "Each client finds its own path." And they are not the novel's only aliens; enter the !Cha, who travel in durable mobile aquaria and may be the Jackaroo's servants, hitchhikers, clients, or secret masters. Oh, and plenty of ruins dating billions of years from some of the Jackaroo's former associates.
At one point in the novel an inspector working for the Met's Alien Technology Investigation Squad says, "The trouble with this Elder Culture stuff is that we don't know what any of it really does. It's completely outside our experience. We're like a bunch of toddlers hitting an atom bomb with hammers." Time and again, in the course of a long, fecund career that includes epic space operas and hyperreal near-future thrillers, McAuley (whom I was fortunate enough to interview recently) has grappled with the question of how far human comprehension -- and evolution -- can reach, and what happens when that reach is exceeded. Something Coming Through, wrapped around dual stories that are only superficially pedestrian, offers intriguing answers while asking riveting new questions.