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In the Mouth of the Whale by Paul McAuley
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In the Mouth of the Whale (2012)

by Paul McAuley

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Quiet War (3)

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Three clades of expanding and changing humanity are fighting a war in the Fomalhaut system. The Quicks got there first, then the Trues came along and enslaved them and now the Ghosts are here driven by their beliefs to claim the mysterious heart of the worldlet Cthuga. A True librarian in disgrace is despatched to find a missing scion of a powerful family. A Quick bot pilot encounters a mysterious sprite which may be part of a living Mind. A young Child grows up in an old garrison town in Greater Brazil, and because of the nature of the conflict in Fomalhaut, it is crucial that she grows up a certain way.

Big, sharp, clever sci-fi. You have to work at it; there's a lot to process in terms of history, technology, philosophy and sociology. A lot of big concepts and quite a few small ones. It all comes together in the end to a satisfying conclusion. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Having read and enjoyed The Quiet War and Gardens of the sun I was expecting a follow-on narrative which took the tensions between the different Outer factions to a different locale. What I found were three narrative streams which seemed to have little to do with the preceding novels.

One thread was related. It seemed to cover the early life of Maria-Hong Owen's daughter Sri, who became a gene wizard in the previous two books. The other two threads appear not to refer back to anything but cover the growing war for Cthuga (Fomalhaut's gas giant) and the adventures of a pair of 'cyberspace hackers' from the 'Library', who have been a chance to redeem themselves, after an earlier failure, by finding two individuals who have disappeared while on an important mission in the Library.

The 'Library' I found unconvincing. The sense of wonder at the the gene- and habitat-engineering carries over from the earlier books but the 'virtual reality' hijinks is hardly much in advance of Gibson, and feels out of place here. Who needs inner space when outer space is available as infinite, real, real estate?

All is not wonderful in this post-human world. Bottom of the heap are the Quicks,who have had humanity's worst traits gene-engineered out, but unluckily for them, this has enabled their enslavement by the True, exo-skeleton-wearing old-style humans, unfortunately still wreaking havoc with those bad old traits. The True want to confirm a hypothesis that a 'mind' inhabits Cthuga but have to defend it against a third post-human clade, the Ghosts, who have an even crazier reason for wanting it. The 'Whale' of the novel's title is a giant True construct which reaches down into Cthuga's gravity well.

All this the reader needs to piece together. What I find worrying is what someone totally new to this 'universe' is going to make of it, as I struggled. Where are the introductory 'info-dumps'? Ironically, they appear and interrupt things at the end, way too late to save newcomers to this universe who may have given up long before.

Finally, this work seems to use more cliched sf elements than the first two novels and the originality that fueled them seems not to be being extended into new areas. There is also a bleakness about it, in that freedoms won in the preceding novels seem to be on the wane again.... ( )
  AlanPoulter | Feb 17, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paul McAuleyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Beresford-Browne, SidonieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Butler, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Man has only one life, and must live it so that he does not recall with pain and regret the aimless lost year, and does not blush with shame over his mean and trivial past, so that when he dies he can say, 'All my life has been devoted to the struggle for the liberation of mankind.'

—Nikolai Ostrovsky, How the Steel Was Tempered
It seems ridiculous to suppose the dead miss anything.

—Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
Dedication
For Georgina

and for John and Judith Clute
First words
When the Child was a child, a sturdy toddler not quite two years old, she and her mother moved to São Gabriel da Cachoeira, in the northwest corner of the Peixoto family's territory in Greater Brazil.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0575100745, Paperback)

Fomalhaut was first colonised by the posthuman Quick, who established an archipelago of thistledown cities and edenic worldlets within the star's vast dust belt. Their peaceful, decadent civilisation was swiftly conquered by a band of ruthless, aggressive, unreconstructed humans who call themselves the True, then, a century before, the True beat back an advance party of Ghosts, a posthuman cult which colonised the nearby system of Beta Hydri after being driven from the Solar System a thousand years ago. Now the Ghosts have returned to Fomalhaut, to begin their end game: the conquest of its single gas giant planet, a captured interstellar wanderer far older than the rest of Fomalhaut's system. At its core is a sphere of hot metallic hydrogen with strange and powerful properties based on exotic quantum physics. The Quick believe it is inhabited by an ancient alien Mind; the True believe it can be developed into a weapon, and the Ghosts believe it can be transformed into a computational system so powerful it can reach into their past, collapse timelines, and fulfil the ancient prophecies of their founder.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:43 -0400)

In the system of Fomalhaut, a war is being fought. The Quicks came long ago, refugees from the solar system. The True arrived later, to find a declining civilisation, ripe for the taking. Then the Ghosts appeared, unknowable, powerful and determined to drive out the Quick and the True.… (more)

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