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The Quiet War by Paul J. McAuley

The Quiet War (original 2008; edition 2009)

by Paul J. McAuley

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4282024,653 (3.52)54
Title:The Quiet War
Authors:Paul J. McAuley
Info:Amherst, NY : Pyr, 2009.
Collections:Read but unowned, Reviewed
Tags:Award Winner/Nominee, Fiction, io9 Book Club, Quiet War, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction

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The Quiet War by Paul McAuley (2008)

  1. 10
    Heart of the Comet by Gregory Benford (tetrachromat)
    tetrachromat: Both tell stories of how humanity uses genetic engineering to construct habitats and survive in space.

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By the 23rd century, humanity had managed to populate most of the moons and planets in the Solar system. But it had not managed to stop the petty squabbles - some time in the past a group of humans threw a comet at another group; Mars's colonies had been obliterated to teach everyone else a lesson and the humanity had split into Outers and the ones from Earth (and even that is not completely true because the different nations on Earth are still around and in disagreement). Climate changes had not help matters and as a result of a really bad event a few decades earlier, Earth had lost most of its bioforms. And now the gene wizards are working to restore what was lost on Earth and to build anew in the new worlds. And you would have thought that this would keep the world busy. But it being humanity, nothing is that easy.

The Greater Brazil is controlled by the families and it wants world domination. But the families, especially the one that seems to be in charge (Peixoto) are divided between wanting a war and wanting a coalition with the Outers. Things get a bit worrisome when the people that support the alliance start dying and when one of the biggest projects, a biodome that was supposed to be built as a sign of the cooperation, is targeted and sabotaged. Add to this some clones (although they spent 3/4th of the book doing pretty much nothing and barely being mentioned, the book opens with them and they become pretty important later on), pilots that had been changed to feel their spaceships, genetic and other cuts (anything from genetic manipulation to plastic surgery) and a diplomat who seems to be always getting in the right place at the right time to cause mischief.

The book moves from very technical to character driven and back and the sections are uneven. Most of the technical parts are dry - the style is getting better as the book is going (or maybe I got used to it). It drags a bit during the big battle at the end and then it ends... with all the major characters either dead (or are they?) or running or spinning their own stories. It feels like a part one of a book, not as a complete book.

It takes a while to start caring about any of the characters - any time you think you know on what side everyone is, thing shift. Betrayal and second chances run through the story and change the idea of what is really going on. And in some cases the motives are a bit unbelievable - a man starved for love risks everything he had worked for a woman, a woman almost sacrifices her child chasing a professional success. And the whole war starts because an overreaction. But once it starts, there isn't too much anyone can do about that.

It is a dark novel about the future. But there is also hope somewhere there. I will be reading the next novel to see what happens to everyone and I will be interested to see any other stories in this world. I just hope that the technical parts will be a little less dry. ( )
1 vote AnnieMod | May 1, 2016 |
The Quiet War, by Paul J McAuley.
This was the book I read over Christmas, and I like McAuley, so that wan't a problem, but do you know what I prefer? For years I'd save books by a particular author for my Christmas book, the one I actually dipped into on Christmas Day, and lay about in front of the fireplace with on Stephen's Day, and that was Kim Newman. Paul McAuley won't mind, they're good mates. But there hasn't been a Kim Newman novel in years! Where's my new Kim Newman novel? Fair enough, there was The Man From The Diogenes Club and Secret Files Of The Diogenes Club, fix-up novels with more than enough new material to justify their purchase, but, frankly, I devoured them as soon as I got them. No will power, me. But where's the English Ghost Story book or the new Anno Dracula book? I want them! I want them noooooow! So I can put them aside for eleven months until next Christmas.
McAuley, on the other hand, well, his last two books were relatively poor. Cowboy Angels wasn't up to much and Players was downright mediocre. For heaven's sake, Paul! You wrote Fairyland! FAIRYLAND! One of the best science fiction novels of the nineties! Not to mention White Devils, whch was, amongst other things, a Michael Crichton book by someone who isn't scared shitless of science and who didn't structure their entire book around that fear.
The Quiet War is a return to form, a space opera about the growing schism between a conservative, ruthless Earth-based society and the more adventurous, genetically advanced but fatally complacent settlements scattered throughout the solar system. The book charts the slow buildup to war through the eyes of an ambitious geneticist, a hard-nosed bio-engineer, a gung ho fighter pilot, a genetically engineered sleeper agent and a ruthlessly ambitious diplomat.
McAuley's a reliably good writer, and this stuff is potter's clay in his hands. An entertaining mix of hard science fiction, espionage, social upheaval, political intrigue and high tech warfare, it turned out to be a damned fine Christmas Day book. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
I picked this book up from recommendations saying that it would be a "similar" book to Peter F. Hamilton's sprawling space operas, which I adore. However, I guess I just wasn't in the mood for this book -- I found it tedious and frustrating, and just wasn't getting into the politics. Maybe the infodump at the beginning spoiled me, since I found myself skimming it quickly.

I do want to try this again when I'm more in the mood for it -- I saw a lot of promise in its pages, but they just weren't clicking with me when I was reading it. Quit about 40% of the way through. ( )
  lyrrael | Oct 17, 2015 |
Two hundred years from now, following catastrophic climate change and devastating wars, the remaining people of Earth have been united under a handful of super-states: the Pacific Community, the European Union, and Greater Brazil (encompassing most of the Americas). In the solar system, meanwhile, genetically altered human colonists called “Outers” have fled to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn after a war with Earth saw their colonies on Mars totally eliminated. As the Outers intend to spread further and deeper into space, and the repressive, conservative governments of Earth feel uncomfortable with allowing what they see as a new species to prosper, war seems to be brewing once again.

The Quiet War is at least in part a parable about the Cold War, with two sides holding diametrically opposed philosophies and conflict seeming inevitable despite the fact that most people don’t want it to happen. Or one could read it as an allegory for the Iraq War (not that either side matches up), given that it’s instigated almost entirely by a small group of people on one side, and the reader is led to sympathise with the large but ultimately marginalised peace movement. The novel is told from the point of view of a few different characters, the most important amongst them being Macy Minnot, a American scientist sent as part of a team to work on the construction of a biome on Callisto by the government of Brazil. The biome is a good faith gesture which elements of the Brazilian government want to sabotage, and through a series of events Macy is framed for murder and forced to defect to the Outers. McAuley is thus given the opportunity to take us on a grand tour of his invented world as Macy begins her new life as an exile in the outer system, the drumbeats of war growing louder.

You can easily see the influence of Kim Stanley Robinson in this novel, not just in the thoughtful scope of his futuristic world-building and the repeated scientific infodumps, but also in the sort of worldviews he, as an author, seems to possess. There’s an awful lot of exposition when it comes to both scene-setting (understandably hard to avoid in this type of story) and character motivation (less tolerable). His two major characters are both scientists – rational, intelligent, level-headed people constantly troubled by the lesser minds around them. There’s one particularly telling scene on Ganymede, where Macy is trying to settle into her new life and is constantly harassed and bullied by a “cosmo angel” named Jibril, a narcissistic performance artist who films and disseminates her reactions. Jibril is the only “traditional” artist of any kind in the book; certainly the genetic creations of some of the more genius scientists are presented as art. The presentation of this character, along with a fellow Ganymedean’s suggestion to Macy that she should “video them videoing you and post it; make your own art that critiques Jibril’s,” gave me a fairly clear idea of what Paul McAuley, hard science fiction writer, thinks about the respective importance of art and science.

But as with Robinson, it’s hard to fault him for it, when he’s presenting such a beautiful vision of science as art: of the human race spreading out across the worlds, harnessing technology to create new life, building floating gardens in the atmosphere of Saturn or treetop cities on low gravity moons where humans fly between the branches. It’s a compelling vision of a possible future for humanity, war and all, which makes you vaguely depressed to look up from it and remember that it’s 2014 and we still have no plans to go to Mars. I can see why it won the Arthur C. Clarke Award; it’s a pretty classic candidate.

It’s a shame, on the whole, that The Quiet War’s story – with its clunky exposition, constant political subterfuge and doublecrossing, and unmemorable characters – doesn’t quite live up to the world it takes place in. (Story of science fiction’s life, I guess.) It also ends on a somewhat abrupt note, with the war over but the outer system in disarray, and the characters treading water. There’s a sequel, which I’ll probably read, but I’m in no rush to do so. ( )
  edgeworth | Oct 29, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
This novel is one of the best SF novels of the past couple of years. It is fullthroatedly SFnal, distinctly "hard."
added by sdobie | editSF Site, Rich Horton (Dec 1, 2009)
Though flawed, The Quiet War makes you want more precisely because there's so much promise in its primary characters and settings. McAuley makes science incredibly exciting, and you'll have his weird images and ideas in your brain for days after you put the book down. War may not have been the best plot device to get this story in motion, but the vacuum organisms and communes on Uranus make this a novel well worth your time.
added by PhoenixTerran | editio9, Annalee Newitz (May 6, 2009)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paul McAuleyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cooke, Jacqueline NassoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Twenty-third century Earth, ravaged by climate change, looks backwards to the holy ideal of a pre-industrial Eden. Political power has been grabbed by a few powerful families and their green saints. Millions of people are imprisoned in teeming cities; millions more labour on Pharaonic projects to rebuild ruined ecosystems. On the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, the Outers, descendants of refugees from Earth's repressive regimes, have constructed a wild variety of self-sufficient cities and settlements: scientific utopias crammed with exuberant creations of the genetic arts; the last outposts of every kind of democratic tradition. The fragile detente between the Outer cities and the dynasties of Earth is threatened by the ambitions of the rising generation of Outers, who want to break free of their cosy, inward-looking pocket paradises, colonise the rest of the Solar System, and drive human evolution in a hundred new directions. On Earth, many demand pre-emptive action against the Outers before it's too late; others want to exploit the talents of their scientists and gene wizards. Amid campaigns for peace and reconciliation, political machinations, crude displays of military might, and espionage by cunningly wrought agents, the two branches of humanity edge towards war.… (more)

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