The sort of hard science fiction that Arthur C. Clarke would have written if he had been more interested in politics . . .

by Paul McAuley, Gollancz

It is no mistake that the paperback edition of The Quiet War market author Paul McAuley as the “winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award.” The Quiet War is the sort of hard science fiction that Clarke would have written if he had been more interested in politics when it comes to his literary output . . .

Several centuries from now the Earth has undergone several environmental crises and is in the process of repairing its ravaged ecosystem. Only problem is that the devastating wars and environmental disasters that befell humanity means that democracy is long gone.

Earth is now ruled by a handful of very powerful extended families – a bit like the de’ Medicis that ruled Renaissance Italy or Columbian drug lords today. (These “families” – or dynasties – are also every bit as ruthless and repressive as well.)

The planet is dominated by a mixture of old-fashioned religions such as Christianity and Islam mixed with Green environmental sensibilities – almost an eclectic type of Gaia-ism.

In contrast huge chunks of humanity have emigrated to settlements on moons around the solar system’s various planets such as Saturn, living in deep underground settlements to escape the inhospitable atmospheres and living conditions outside. The society of these so-called “Outers” missed out on the global upheavals that reshaped Earth society and thus are much freer and democratic than their Earth counterparts.

Trouble is however brewing: Earth wants the Outers’ advanced technology, in particular when it comes to genetics and are spoiling a fight. The fragile peace is in danger of being broken. As any student of the recent Iraq War will know, if a good excuse for war can’t be found, one will be invented. Yup, the Outers have “weapons of mass destruction” . . .

The Quiet War jumps round in narrative as it follows several characters, amongst them an Earth scientist who finds herself caught up in a diplomatic tug of war when she goes to an Outer settlement on a goodwill mission to child soldiers being trained for the coming struggle. Obviously the various characters’ paths cross eventually, but the jumps in focus can be a bit off-putting. This aside, The Quiet War is a must-read for hard SF junkies looking for an intelligent page-turner. There is something quite bona fide about McAuley’s vision of future humanity – this is probably our planet’s future one day . . .

Followed by 2009′s Gardens of the Sun.

IN SHORT
Practice makes perfect and this 2008 novel The Quiet War is one of British sci-fi author Paul McAuley’s best. Recommended.

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Category: Books, Reviews

About the Author

James has been running The Sci-Fi Movie Page since Before the Beginning of Time Itself (TM), i.e. since the site's inception in 1997. In addition to sci-fi James also likes 1970s motorbikes and chili dogs although he doesn't own the former and no longer eats the latter. He currently resides in Kiev, Ukraine for reasons best left unexplained.

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