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The Quiet War

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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 . . .

403 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2008

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About the author

Paul McAuley

220 books374 followers
Since about 2000, book jackets have given his name as just Paul McAuley.

A biologist by training, UK science fiction author McAuley writes mostly hard science fiction, dealing with themes such as biotechnology, alternate history/alternate reality, and space travel.

McAuley has also used biotechnology and nanotechnology themes in near-future settings.

Since 2001, he has produced several SF-based techno-thrillers such as The Secret of Life, Whole Wide World, and White Devils.

Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award in 1988. Fairyland won the 1996 Arthur C. Clarke Award and the 1997 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 172 reviews
Profile Image for William.
675 reviews316 followers
April 18, 2020
WOW. This book changed my view of the solar system forever.

McAuley shows a superb understanding and vision of the post-Global Warming catastrophe on earth, clearly presented, fascinating. One of the best and most likely scenarios:
1. Global Warming causes severe disruptions to society and agriculture
2. Sudden Methane release from ocean clathrates - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clathra...
creates the "Overturn" - a total catastrophic climate change collapsing society.
3. The rise of the super-rich, powerful families and power-blocks.

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The author also presents plausible, detailed, hard science fictional worlds and ecologies as they might exist on the moons of the gas giants; plausible spaceship propulsion and mechanical technologies; and stretched but plausible gene manipulation technologies. Sometimes a bit dense and long-winded, but mostly superior... Well done!

Into this mix he throws Earth characters caught up in or directing naked power (often cloaked as religion) for family/personal gain, as well as "Outers" living ultra democratic lifestyles on the moons, creative, successful, and somewhat chaotic.

The first 3/4 of the book expands at a comfortable pace, never leaving the reader behind, and accelerating towards a horrific, brutal climax. I was reminded of the power grab and greed for money and oil which foreshadowed the US invasion of Iraq, which clearly could Never succeed.

*rant* (Only generates continuing obscene profits for the few, continues to wreck an entire country, and increases daily the death so far of 400,000+ human beings -- benefitting only corporations and the super-rich) */rant*

The climax of the novel is both typical of overweening power (militarism gone mad), the ability to break things but not repair or better them, and a quite astounding view of the gene-manipulator Avernus' whimsy and skill on the surface of Titan -- Brilliantly imagined and realised.

4-stars for the first 3/4 of the book, and then Highest marks 5-stars for the climax.

In his own words, McAuley's story of the writing of The Quiet War and subsequent of the series -- http://upcoming4.me/news/book-news/st...

I am proceeding to the sequel (#2 of 4?) in this series. Quite good so far.

Paul McAuley

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Profile Image for Dirk Grobbelaar.
550 reviews1,051 followers
August 6, 2013
This kind of thing reminds me somewhat of Ben Bova’s Grand Tour of the Solar System series. OK, it’s not quite the same, since The Quiet War leans a lot more towards Space Opera. But still, there’s a vibe that corresponds, and it’s not just the hard science, either. The concept of war between Earth and the Outers received the treatment in other novels as well, such as Charles Sheffield’s Cold as Ice. Then there’s the blurb on the back cover that cites similarities with Peter F. Hamilton (is it me or is there a lot of that going around?) So… I’ve already name-dropped three different authors and my review isn’t in its second paragraph yet. Bad form. But here’s the thing: my initial impression on reading this was that it would be easy to disregard it as a mish-mash of Science Fiction’s greatest hits. That, however, would be an unfair assessment: The Quiet War does an admirable job of making these conventions its own.

This isn’t a light or easy read. Not only is it a bit of a slow burner, but there is a lot of Hard Science in here (Botanical, Ecological et al). Early on in the book there are a number of expositions on everything from the attributes of mud to Genome Sequencing. I’m no scientist, so it often happens that this kind of thing goes right over my head anyway. However, the story is fascinating, and there are lots of exotic locations and big ideas to sample. Once I was immersed, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. What I’m trying to say is, stick with it, even when it gets technical. It’s worth it.

There is a sequel, Gardens of the Sun. You will want to have it close once you’ve finished The Quiet War.

Profile Image for Claudia.
946 reviews524 followers
Shelved as 'dnf-not-my-cup-of-coffee'
August 28, 2020
Gave up at 55%. Can't make myself read further. I find it too much of a chore with its many schemes, intrigues and politics.
Profile Image for Liviu.
2,240 reviews626 followers
July 24, 2014
Blockbuster hard sf/space opera in Mr. McAuley Greater Brazil future history

In the 2200's, a century after the big Overturn - an ecological and social catastrophe that left vast swaths of Earth disaster area - Earth is rebuilding under 3 big powers dominated by "Families" that rose with prominence with their "Green Saints"

The religion of Gaia is dominant though in Greater Brazil it is mixed with traditional Catholicism, in the EU with secularism and in the Asian Sphere with traditional Asian religions.

After the destruction of the Mars colonies, the "outer" humans live in thousands of small towns, habitats, domes, all over the moons of Jupiter, Saturn up to Uranus and Neptune.

Practicing mostly direct democracy - though politics by polling is not particularly better than other kind as the events of the novel show - genetic engineering, the "outers" are split between older, more conservative factions that want peace and cooperation with Earth and the younger generation that wants to explore the starts, move as far out from Earth as possible and even fight with Earth if it comes to that despite the heavy odds against them

When leaders of the peace faction in the great Families of Earth start dying and the initiatives of cooperation are sabotaged, it is clear that war is coming.

We follow 4 main characters from different walks of life though all from earth since through their eye we see the strangeness and diversity of the outers.

Dr Sri Owen is the top geneticists on Earth - at least in her opinion - and a subordinate of the Peixoto family though as a personal favorite of the family Green Saint the elderly Oscar Ramos she is quite powerful on her own. However in secret she cooperates with the war faction led by General Avram Peixoto and she helps with top secret projects like the superbright "children" that make scientific and tech breakthroughs that make the defeat of the outers all by certain, altering pilots to be more effective and so on. Though her dream is to become a disciple of the legendary outer space gene wizard Avernus, so she wants peace with the outers, "needs must"...

Macy Minot had a tough life in the slums of Pittsburgh after running away from home. Getting a break by coming to the attention of the Fontaine Family, she becomes a soil treatment specialist and crew leader so when she is chosen to represent her lords on an Earth-outer cooperative habitat on Callisto under a the top engineer on Earth she thinks she got a break.

Dave #8 is another of Sri' secret war projects. Super warrior, spy from a batch of clones altered to look like outers and trained from birth in the arts of war, spying and sabotage, Dave #8 nurses secret doubts about his humanity and the goals of his superiors but when mission time comes he will go to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting outers.

Cash is a special forces pilot altered by Dr Sri as another war project and he is eager for war and to teach the "abominations" a lesson

Superb book and while the ending is good and ties most threads, there is ample scope for sequels.

Highly, highly recommended and a sf blockbuster on the Hamilton scale.

113 reviews2 followers
March 23, 2010
I've enjoyed several of Paul McAuley's novels, and bought this book the instant I saw it. The back cover promised an exciting, intelligent story. After 70 pages I did something I rarely do--I put it back on the shelf. This book needed a strong editor.

If the following excerpt from page 68 excites you, or if you love Kim Stanley Robinson's novels, or if you have a lot of time and patience, you would probably like this novel.

"Soil was not a random mixture of inorganic, organic and living material; it was highly structured at every level, fractally so. Stratified and textured and dynamic, it supported a myriad complex chemical reactions that were still not completely understood, mediated by soil water and air moving through pore spaces that occupied up to fifty percent of soil by volume. Soil water also transported material through processes such as leaching, eluviation, illuviation and capillary action, and supported a rich and highly diverse biota--hundreds of varieties of soil bacteria of course, and cyanobacteria, microalgae, fungi, and protists, as well as nematodes and worms, and insects, and other small arthropods--that recycled macro- and micro-nutrients, decomposed organic material, and mixed and transported and aerated mineral and organic components. In natural conditions on Earth, it took about four hundred years to produce a centimetre of topsoil; a thousand years to produce enough to support agriculture...."

I see that there is a sequel to this novel. If passages like those above had been excised, and the exposition tightened up, perhaps the story could have been told in one better volume.
Profile Image for Andreas.
482 reviews127 followers
December 7, 2020
A global catastrophy called the Overturn devastated Earth. We write the year 2210, and Earth is slowly reconstructed by fundamentally Gaia-oriented states like oligarchic Greater Brazil and the EU. Gen manipulation is necessary to get back exterminated animal races but otherwise mostly despised. This honourable path of humanity is contrasted by the Outers, a group of humans who escaped the Overturn to the planets of the Solar system. They developed a grassroot democracy and freely alter their genome, led by an ingenious gen-wizard Avernus. Some ten years before the start of the novel, a war between Earth and the Outers led to extinction of the Mars colony.
Pre-war tension is high at the start of the novel, and we witness the creation of human clones trained to be spies, and of neurally enhanced space pilots.
Warmongers work against pacifistic oriented characters like Earth's ingenious geneticist Sri and main character Macy Minnot, a soil chemicist. Macy first engages to a peace project on a Jupiter Moon but has to flee through the outer Solar system. As a side-note, I'd like to point at that McAuley has written a short story featuring Macy Minnot, cf. my review of Macy Minnot's Last Christmas on Dione, Ring Racing, Fiddler's Green, the Potter's Garden.

This novel can't decide if it wants to be a Kim Stanley Robinson or an Alastair Reynolds, i.e. vivid science and landscape detours or a juicy popcorn space opera.
I loved how it juggled both aspects through Antarctica, the moons of Jupiter and the Saturn ring without any of the balls falling. Most male characters were war oriented, whereas females tended more towards peace, so it is a kind of female novel with lovable characters in a realistic setting. It is also not exactly a war novel but more the slow build up to war. I found a good piece of action stretched with philosophical discussions and said detours. This style is certainly not everyone's favourite dish but I really liked it.
I'll put the second part of the trilogy, Gardens of the Sun, on my TBR shelves.
Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 12 books1,267 followers
February 8, 2010
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

The more genre books I do critical reviews of, the more I'm coming to realize that one of the biggest things genre fans crave is the sort of consensual cloud of topics that all the writers in that genre will form at any given time, and how indeed this cloud eventually coalesces as to define an entire era in that genre's history -- just to cite one example, I in particular am a big fan of science-fiction from the 1950s and '60s (a.k.a. that genre's "Silver Age"), and love that nearly every SF title from that period tends to touch on one or more of roughly a dozen common subjects, from nuclear fears to moon colonization to the growing civil rights movement. But this is also the curse of most genre fiction, in that those who aren't natural fans of that genre tend to look at these books as hacky endless reshuffles of the same old tired cliches, over and over again -- to cite another example, I am not much of a fan of crime novels, and tend to look at titles in that genre as a never-ending mishmash of crazed serial killers, cynical detectives, weasely low-level henchmen and the like. It's this dichotomy that so fascinates me about genre work, and why it is that such titles make up the vast majority of all books sold in a given year, yet are constantly struggling for respect from anyone outside of that particular cliquey circle.

I got to thinking about all this again last week while reading through veteran SF author and multiple award-winner Paul McAuley's latest, 2008's The Quiet War (itself a nominee for the 2009 Arthur C. Clarke Award); because it's essentially a textbook example of a well-put-together genre novel, one where every topic being explored can be traced back to multiple novels in the past that have already given that subject a whirl, yet with McAuley putting them together here in an utterly original way that makes the book stand on its own. And in fact, just the basic premise underlying the entire story as a whole is almost as "ripped from the headlines" as you can get; set 200 years in the future, it posits a post-disaster Earth where unchecked climate change ended up wrecking a huge swath of the industrialized world (the US bearing most of the brunt), leaving the charred remains mostly in the hands of the planet's former third-world countries, who themselves are now governed by radically green political philosophies. (In fact, in McAuley's universe, it's the government of Brazil that now manages almost the entirety of both South and North America, where the barely civilized remains of the US population are forced to live in a handful of crowded urban centers, while allowing the majority of the environmentally destroyed continent to "go to seed" and essentially revert back to its natural state.)

Ah, but also like many post-apocalyptic novels, these surviving governments are not actually run in the way we think of it, but are rather controlled by a series of all-powerful royal-family corporations, those ruthless individuals who rose up as warlords in the wake of the "Overturn" (as it's known in the book), whose Mad-Max fiefdoms a century later have evolved into entire private city-states, territory most famously explored in the "cyberpunk" books of the 1980s and early '90s. But then McAuley adds yet another SF cliche to this speculative world, by building into its history the fact that humans had already started colonizing the solar system long before the Overturn, leading to an entire "Outer" culture that has long been at odds with Earth's, freedom-loving societies predicated on a radical form of direct democracy (in other words, electronic town halls for each and every decision their community makes); and in this you can see a direct parallel to, say, Adam Roberts' Gradisil which was reviewed here last year, with of course both books heavily indebted to the work of Robert Heinlein, who many credit as the inventor of the entire "libertarians in space" meme now so popular in SF. And so are there both liberals and conservatives in both these societies, who alternately wish to create alliances or go to war with the other, which is what mostly drives the complex, politically dense plotline actually fueling the three acts of this traditional "space opera."

And this isn't even all the well-known themes that McAuley pulls into The Quiet War: he also touches on the Strossian idea of using genetic engineering to usher in a transhuman age, riffs on Cory Doctorow's concept of a reputation-based economy in a post-scarcity society, and even borrows heavily from Orson Scott Card's idea of cruel, spartan compounds designed to turn children into unstoppable warriors. And this is why those who aren't natural SF fans can easily complain about a book like this, and why McAuley has never reached the kind of mainstream recognition of, say, his peers William Gibson or Neal Stephenson, because this book is essentially a regurgitation of topics that have already been explored in better and deeper ways in other books; but this is also what makes McAuley such a favorite among hardcore SF fans who are "in the know," because he's able to magically weave together a nicely unique and original story out of these well-known elements, one worth sitting and reading even if you've already read the dozen older books that inform this one. (And on a related yet side note, let me mention my pleasure in watching the pure glee that McAuley [a biologist during the day:] takes in exploring the issue of terraforming, of how there are literally now "artists" in this post-disaster future who know how to mix together just the exact right combination of minerals, bacteria and other organic compounds in order to, say, "reboot" a former wetlands area.)

It adds up by the end to something that will be a real treat for existing genre fans, but mostly likely not for those who have to be talked into every science-fiction novel they read; and that of course is why it's receiving a score of 8.9 today, because as regular readers know, that's the highest a book can score here without appealing to a wide general audience, no matter how well that particular book is written. It comes highly recommended to fans of any of the other authors mentioned today.

Out of 10: 8.9
Profile Image for Terence.
1,151 reviews385 followers
February 17, 2010
Paul McAuley’s The Quiet War was the second course in my “Presidents’ Day Brain Candy” Weekend (see my review of The Caryatids: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33...), and I wound up liking it more than The Caryatids. That despite the fact that it suffered from a very slow beginning – I almost gave up but the action picked up after section one and the info-dumping largely ceased. The info-dumping was the second factor that almost made me stop reading. One of the main characters, Macy Minnot, is a soil chemist/geologist. I understand that McAuley might wish to establish her bona fides by describing her work – to an extent – but I learned far more about soil chemistry than I really wanted to and for no reason. The story never, for a moment, depends upon Macy’s knowledge of proper phosphate levels.

Other moments of info-dumping are mercifully brief and usually relevant at some point later on. Though I still could have wished McAuley was able to incorporate them more smoothly (and invisibly).

The set-up: It’s 2210 and Earth has been devastated both by climate change and the ensuing political, economic and social chaos that followed. In the wake of the Overturn (a never-fully-explained catastrophe in the 21st century), a new, increasingly fanatic religion has emerged that places a premium on restoring the planet to its pre-climate-change state (some want to restore it to its pre-human state). The most powerful state of this new Earth is Greater Brazil, which is an oligarchy – almost a feudal state – dominated by a small group of “families.” During the Overturn, a group of humans escaped from Earth orbit and established colonies on Mars and among the moons of Jupiter and Saturn – the Outers. They’ve developed a radically democratic, noncentralized society that freely alters the human genome, adapting to the nonterrestrial environments they find themselves in. In the eyes of Earth, they’re tampering with the natural, God-given order of things. Worse, the Outers offer an alternative to the authoritarian, stratified terrestrial society outside of Earth's control. A century before the novel’s opening, a war between Earth and the Outers results in the obliteration of the Martian colony and a large residue of ill feeling and misunderstanding between humanity’s two branches.

The novel concerns itself with the beginnings of a second war between Earth and the Outers. The two chief protagonists are Sri Hong-Owen, Earth’s premier geneticist, though her work is more and more restricted by the growing fanaticism of the government, and Macy Minnot, reluctant refugee from Earth and the aforementioned soil chemist. There are a few other characters who play prominent, though lesser, roles – especially Dave #8/Ken Shintaro, a genetically enhanced Earth soldier/spy – but it’s Sri’s and Macy’s stories that take up the bulk of the plot.

Annoyingly, McAuley treads dangerously close to deus-ex-machina territory in the character of the Outers’ super-genius geneticist Avernus but I hadn’t invested too much interest in the story so it didn’t bother me all that much. The character’s actions don’t alter the plot too much, and they don’t determine any plot points.

As with Sterling’s book, no character peaked my interest, though I did become interested in the societies McAuley was creating. He left enough loose ends in this book so that he can further develop them. Of great interest to me was a theme only touched upon, and that late in the book, of how to reconcile two “noble” causes – reclaiming Earth and adapting to life off-planet – that pits two strands of humanity against each other, and factoring in common humanity’s mob-like idiocy. If McAuley continues to explore that kind of issue, future volumes set in this universe would be worth my time.

Not a bad book. I can’t quite give it 3 stars considering some of the other stuff I’ve been reading lately (see my reviews of Lolly Willowes and Mr. Fortune’s Maggot) but a decent read overall.
Profile Image for Mike.
654 reviews41 followers
December 23, 2009
In a future where Earth has been ravaged by economical disaster humanity is split down two divergent paths. Down one path are the Outers, exiled first to the moon then to Mars and now settled on the moons surrounding Jupiter and Saturn they espouse the ideas of Ancient Greek Democracy and use genetic manipulation to modify their bodies in ways both practical and cosmetic. Meanwhile, on Earth the powerful Brazilian government, ruled by a class of powerful families, follows a nature based religion predicated on restoring the Earth, or Gaea, to her former glory. These two societies find themselves at social and ideological loggerheads not only with each other but within divergent faction within each society as well. It isn’t long before the spectre of war looms on the horizon.

The Quiet War is a novel I really wanted to love but ended up just liking. Part of the problem is what I felt was a tendency towards exposition that frequently felt unnecessary and often served to jar me out of my enjoyment of the story. The exposition often seemed tied to Sri Hong-Owen’s perspective to the point where every time the story shifted back to her I’d register and internal groan. I think part of it was her characterization as somewhat of a cold, purely scientific individual that made reading these portions of the story feel almost clinical. The chapters I looked forward to most were those featuring Macy Minnot and Dave #8.

Macy is a microbiologist who typically engineers mud for biomes. She is brash, forthright and one of the most believable characters in the story. Through Macy I felt we get some of the more fascinating glimpse of McCauley’s world. We get glimpses into the world beyond the concerns of the novel at large; tantalizing snippets of the wonderfully imaginative ideas like the religious cult Macy ran away from. Ideas that are only explained just enough to light one’s imagination on fire. Overall I found that from Macy’s perspective as an outsider operating in a society not her own the information we learn about Outer culture felt more natural and seemed to flow as part of the narrative. This stood in direct contrast to the information we learn about Earth from other perspectives which frequently felt as asides that never actually contributed to forwarding the novel’s plot. The other character I enjoyed was Dave #8. Dave #8 is a clone being raised and bred to fight the Outers. It is a fascinating perspective and McCauley does a great job of illuminating the diverse personalities amongst the clones particularly with the religious minded Dave #27. I did feel that the concluding section of Dave #8’s arc was lacking something but given the quirks in his personality seen from the very beginning his final decision has an air of inevitability that is difficult to argue with. While his early chapters detail the training and indoctrination he receives are fascinating in their detail I found the later sections during his first mission a little less engaging. Those later section do manage to provide another grounds-eye glimpse at Outer life but the relationship that forms the crux of Dave #8’s internal crisis comes off a bit forced.

The character I wanted to like but just could never get a handle on was hot shot pilot Cash Baker. Baker, as part of an experimental program to integrate an augmented nervous system with a new fusion engine powered fighter craft, forms the crux of one of the coolest ideas in the book. Unfortunately, I never felt this aspect of the story really developed and the final conclusion of this plot line provoked an incredulous “Really?” Which is shame since it’s hard to get much cooler then a guy who pilots his fighter with his frickin’ mind!

Eventually politics and the exploration of the differences between Outer and Earth society gives way to big set piece type action which is a nice change of pace and made for a thrilling conclusion to the novel. In the end The Quiet War was novel full of big ideas that were like ambrosia for the imagination but suffered when attempting to tie those same ideas to characters who were emotionally engaging. While Macy Minnot was a resounding success as a protagonist, almost the very definition of scrappy hero, I never felt the rest of novel’s cast really reached the same level of believability each character seemed designed more the serve a purpose rather then be a person. The truth I was perhaps let down by own high expectations for The Quiet War my problems with characters aside it is still an exciting read full of thrilling scientific ideas and the beginnings of what could be an epic story. The sequel, Gardens of the Sun (Amazon , Book Depository) , is out in the UK already and will hit the US from Pyr in March and I’ll certainly take a look when it does.
Profile Image for Liviu Szoke.
Author 28 books359 followers
March 23, 2016
Mult prea multă informație științifică și mult prea multe personaje și fire narative ca să reprezinte o lectură agreabilă și antrenantă. Destul de interesantă, dar trebuie să stai pe o insulă pustie și să n-ai absolut nicio grijă pe cap ca să te poți concentra suficient de bine încât s-o înțelegi pe deplin. Recenzia pe Blogul FanSF: http://wp.me/pz4D9-2nw.
Profile Image for Tomislav.
957 reviews68 followers
November 12, 2021
Paul McAuley’s The Quiet War tells the story of the build-up towards a Solar-System based space war, that features advanced plausible technology and planetary realism. Unlike some space operas, such as The Expanse (begins with Leviathan Wakes), there are no mysterious, meddling, and near magical aliens. Well, this is the first of a series, and so I have yet to see where it goes from here – but so far, it is all a play on human conflict.

After the overpopulation, environmental collapse, and political disarray of the 21st century, known as The Overturn, Brazil has risen to global authoritarian dominance, with two lesser powers in Europe, and in the Far East. Meanwhile, the humans which had settled on the Moon and Mars during the Overturn, and rebelled against the new authority, have been driven further out into the Solar System in prior conflicts – especially to the Saturn system. Explaining all the history, and technology, and the contemporary political intrigues within Greater Brazil and within the peoples of the diaspora, takes quite a while. The narrative bogs down until a few of the characters finally emerge as protagonists. But then I enjoyed following those characters, through the machinations that are preparatory to war, without direct conflict breaking out. Our studies of history seem to emphasize the acts of war, while the preparatory acts are a more advanced topic, and sometimes are taken for granted. This story focuses on the steps towards war, and is allegorical to real history in that way.

McAuley’s sequel, Gardens of the Sun, follows immediately upon the end of The Quiet War, and extends the stories of the same characters. If you start this, plan on reading both. There is an omnibus edition available.
Profile Image for Adam.
558 reviews346 followers
September 3, 2009
Soon to be released in the U.S. this book is definitely one of the science fiction books of the year. The third book by Mcauley I’ve read in a row, and I have found each more absorbing than the last. This is a space opera with all of the romanticism and swashbuckling removed. Playing almost like a nasty John le Carre spy thriller with the characters being drawn into increasingly claustrophobic situations as their societies plunge towards an idiotic war. A spare style that at first didn’t grip me and didn’t quite build an atmosphere, Mcauley with great characters, scientific detail, and a fully realized world soon completely absorbed me in his vision. The tension builds to unbearable fever pitch in the last third of the book (for anyone who finds the first part slow going) with some amazing set pieces. The dialogue may be a tad expository at moments but with the complexity at play most of the time I’m willing to forgive. A contemporary fable with its eyes set on the future, Mcauley satirizes our present cultural nightmare and throws down an overload of ideas and edge of your seat thrills. On a side note Mcauley seems to have an unabashed loved for space travel and exploration that I find rare today

Profile Image for Robert.
Author 4 books631 followers
January 12, 2010
A strong sci-fi story with deep socio-political resonances. Much easier to read than many of the recent additions to the genre. Furthermore, the characters had depth, complexity, and were very well developed. A wholesome, entertaining, and all-around good tale.
Profile Image for Adriana Porter Felt.
288 reviews74 followers
February 12, 2020
Of the many apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novels I've read, The Quiet War is the most believable. Climate change and the resulting scarcity wars scar the Earth, but civilization recovers without fully disintegrating. New technology begins to heal the Earth and transform nearby worlds. It's an optimist's view of the end of the world.

McAuley uses this backdrop to write about nuance. His complex characters are at turns selfish, heroic, sympathetic, and evil. The multiple forms of government display both strengths and weaknesses. Even humanity itself is depicted as a spectrum in a society with frequent gene editing.

The Quiet War lays out a detailed technical vision, some of which I find directionally probable. I agree with the emphasis on bioengineering and habitat reconstruction out of necessity. I found it interesting to think about.

I overall enjoyed this book very much, for both its science fiction and its commentary on humanity. Its primary drawback is McCauley's occasional too-long passage about direct democracy or ferns or something else distracting and not completely relevant to the plot. I found some sections a bit dry, and I could imagine some readers might be put off unless they like detailed descriptions of science and technology. Its second drawback is an over-reliance on sci-fi tropes, all of which are crammed into a single novel (Ender's Game children, environmental apocalypse, pioneering new worlds, etc.). These two flaws were forgivable in this book because I still found so much to love, but they weigh the next book in the series down too much to be enjoyable. I recommend reading this book without reading its successor.
Profile Image for Phil.
1,537 reviews88 followers
May 21, 2020
McAuley utilizes a host of scifi tropes in this novel that readers of the genre will immediately identify with (for better or worse). We are about 200 years in the future, and Earth has suffered through climate change from hell; what is left is divided among three super powers-- Brazil, the EU and the Pacific league. A new religion-- gaiaism-- has emerged and humanity on Earth works to restore the ecosystem with a religious fervor. Meanwhile, humanity thrives on the moons of the outer planets and the divide grows between the 'inners' and the 'outers'. While Earth's super powers are ruled by 'families' in a fascist way, the outer moons have been experimenting with an array of political systems straight out of Plato. Soon there will be war.

What makes McAuley's novel unique concerns his scientific background in biology as he carefully details a wide range of genetic engineering that has taken place in the solar system; in part to restore Earth's ecosystem and in part for humanity to thrive in low G environments. Unfortunately, McAuley's novel suffers from the same issues as many 'hard' scifi novels-- an over emphasis on the tech coupled with weak character development. McAuley writes well, however, and that makes up (somewhat) for issues mentioned above as well as his usage of standard tropes. 3.5 stars rounding up to 4.
Profile Image for Dmitry.
34 reviews
November 5, 2015
Tried and succeeded in finishing this yesterday. It took a bottle of wine to polish it off. More than a year i spent picking it up and putting it down.

Too quiet for my tastes, but full of useful science. Some may like it but ive heard it before and it annoys me greatly. Its like reading the infodumps in a CJ Cherryh novel but without purple aliens. In some stories these are easy to skip. This is not one of them.

The plot: when dying earth is a distant memory, theres bound to be a rebellion on mars. Its so far away its almost another country. Para bellum!

Im not sure the rest is worth it. Its too esoteric, too calculated, too droll for my tastes - ill probably never pass one. But there are people who should read this because their brains havent had a chance to soak things up in the slow rhythm of reading scifi for decades. A shortcut for pseudo nerds i think theyd call it on facebook.

Two stars really and one for the cover that drew me here in the first place.
Profile Image for Matt.
427 reviews11 followers
January 12, 2010
Quite clever in its exploration of the social "process" of going to war ... from the demonising of the opposition amongst the populous to the engineering of diplomatic incidents and the exaggeration of the enemies threat (weapons capability).

(Almost) all of the viewpoint characters are greedy, self-serving, politically ambitious scum.

Anyone else detecting some not-too-subtle parallels with recent events?

On top of that there is some fairly detailed exploration of issues of environmental management and the requirements for living in the outer system. Some interesting "hard" SF, although much too often delivered in direct "lecture mode".

Overall the unsympathetic viewpoint characters and the books tendency to lecture rather spoilt the experience for me.
Profile Image for Mike.
478 reviews368 followers
April 15, 2012
I was disappointed with this book. It started off with a lot of potential: really interesting setting, promising plot line (intrasolar cold war of sorts), and a wide cast of characters that could tell the story from different vantage points. Sadly the book did not deliver on this potential. All of the POV characters reacted to their situation instead of taking control of it. It seemed the only reason they did anything is because circumstances forced their hands. All the interesting major plot developments and machinations occurred in the background, relayed to the reader by an omniscient narrator. The book suffers form too much telling and not enough showing.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews256 followers
March 7, 2012
2 Stars until I can push through this one. I have read 33% but really remember very little of it. Great writing, great vocabulary, and some cool science fiction ideas. Flat and dull characters, the only one that I remotely like is Macy. I will try to comeback and start this one over again, as I really want to read this book.
Profile Image for Pilars Scott.
183 reviews1 follower
January 22, 2010
Very oldschool (but not dated at all!) science fiction with some fantastic world building. Had a slow burn on the entertainment value but was overall very enjoyable. I didn't really feel like there was enough resolution at the end of the book. I'd be pissed if I didn't know there was a sequel... but now I have to decide whether to import it or wait for the US release. The marketing for the book was a little off as it was described as space opera-ish. I'd say this was more of a hard science fiction book with political intrigue.. i had to readjust my reading to fit that but I quite enjoyed it when I did. I look forward to getting to read more great british sf in the future.
Profile Image for Tamara.
258 reviews77 followers
January 3, 2012
Really, really enjoyed this book, though i'm not sure if it's really because it's outstandingly good (it's definitely plenty good though) or because it hits all my favorite space opera buttons - lots of extra terrestrial geography, fleets of spaceships, varied quasi posthuman space colonization, etc. All of it is well written and well plotted, and I liked the characters too (look, lots of women and none of them are whores!) though sometimes it seemed as though their motivations and arcs were spelled out in the narration more than being shown by their actions. A few subplots seem more like setup for the next book too. Which i'm going to go read now, so that may be a minor quibble.
Profile Image for Ed Dragon.
102 reviews2 followers
March 14, 2020
Has everything that constructs a great novel for me. World building, characters and right pacing. Interesting politics with bad characters concealed doing bad things to others. Parts about science were also top for me, more so even, if based on the fact that I understood some of them intrinsically. Space opera in the Solar System and on its worlds.
Profile Image for Ove.
130 reviews27 followers
March 18, 2010

Quiet as in space no one can hear you scream quiet and also as in you can't detect it until its too late. It starts with the Callisto Biome Peace Project and a murder. Crafty young soil-engineer Macy Minnot is reluctantly drawn into the struggle for war or peace among the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. The title gives the result away...

From the teeming cities of earth to the scrupulously realized landscapes of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, The Quiet War, an exotic, fast-paced space opera, turns on a single question: who decides what it means to be human?

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...

My book was printed by Pyr and have a cover made by Sparth (left above)
There is also a print by Gollanz (to the right)
The book starts with us getting to know the characters and background, the setting is quite complex and there is multiple points of views but I would say that our main protagonist is Macy a young soil-engineer from Greater Brazil sent to Callisto to participate in the work of her life, the Biome Project. It was supposed to be a peace gesture but things start to go awry when the project leader dies in what at first seems like an accident. Suspicion and mistrust is strong among both sides and different fractions takes advantage of the situation for their own good and they don't hesitate to blackmail Macy into helping them to her own ultimate disadvantage.

One of the villians of the book is Loc Ifrahim a minor diplomat on Callisto and a small petty man that we get to follow in his ups and downs.

There is some good action in this part but I did have difficulties and getting into this book at first, I am not used to putting down a book and letting it simmer for a day or two.

There is many fractions involved in this. The earth governments want stability and stasis and they are especially afraid of genetic manipulation and expansion considering what happened on earth. But those that want war are gaining ground at an alarming speed.

The holy grail of the Outers that both sides wants is Avernus, the genetic genius that created the vacuum flora that allowed the Outers to survive after being cut off from earth. The Earthers wants her for her knowledge and the Outers wants to protect her. She is a somewhat mysterious entity almost alien in the book. Her motivations and the secrets she is protecting are never explained in this book to the frustration of the reader, I hope the next book will provide more of an answer to that. She is for peace with earth.

Long term preparations for war is revealed, Greater Brazil has created and trained a group of super soldiers to be used against the Outers. They where cut by Sri Hong-Owen, an acclaimed gene wizard, she gives us a point of view of the cutthroat life working for the Piexoto family, one of the great families that run Greater Brazil. Sri is very much a force in herself by ruthless determination, fortitude and sher brilliance. She is also obsessed with Avernus.

One of the cloned soldiers is different Dave #8, he starts to ask questions, only to himself of course he is not dumb.

They have also developed sleek and fast single fighters that require cybernetic and genetically enhanced human pilots. We gets to follow one of the pilots Cash Baker.

There are outers that wants to show the Earthers that this is Outers space and prepare for war. The Mayor of Paris, Marisa Bassi is one of them.

There is also a generation difference among the Outers, the young generation wants to expand, move on, reach for the stars but the old generation wants more paced innovation and expansion.

The Ghosts are an extreme group of transhumans (according to themselves) that believe that their leader is talking to himself from the future. They are very confrontational towards earth.

Paul also sends a message about social media, on earth there is no social media, on the Outers worlds there is but that can also go too far, becoming too invasive as Ghosts follow Macy around broadcasting everything she does.

They all move towards a war without much meaning.

World building
The world building is excellent and you can feel Paul's background in biology in the biological marvels in the dept of Jupiter or the scenery of Sri's fortress of solitude in Antarctica. You understand that he is on familiar grounds when he writes about the moons of Jupiter and Saturn and the Outers cities, homes and lifestyle comes to life in vivid detail.

Sometimes the information dumps are borderline, I think that's the reason I put down the book so many times in the beginning.

It took me a long time to warm to any of the characters in the novel partly because they all lacked control of their lives and much of their motivation seemed to lack positive sides. But that proved to be part of the greatness of this novel as I finally warmed to them. In the beginning of the story the character are not in control of their lives but they grow as the story grows. Their motivation also becomes more detailed.

The weakest part of this novel is the characterization, not because it is bad but because you have to go the distance to reap the rewards.

My View
The Quiet War is propably the most realistic book of interplanetary war I have seen. It's told from the cogs of the war machine, those never told the whole background. I would recommend this book to informed readers of science fiction.


Paul McAuley's homepage: unlikelyworlds.blogspot.com
602 reviews3 followers
December 21, 2021
Anyone familiar with The Expanse will recognize the solar system politics at play in Paul McAuley’s excellent novel. Earth is run by three conglomerate families controlling different geopolitical regions and the remainder of the Solar System is the domain of the Outers, who embrace genetic technology and have forcibly mutated into lower-gravity forms. The shadow of a recent destructive confrontation between Earth and the Outers has left a bitter divide festering and a new and more devastating conflict seems certain. A gene wizard, Avernus, is being sought by Earth but she is a pacifist and another gene tailor, Sri, is desperate to have Avernus’s secrets; so desperate that a secret program involving cloned super-soldiers has been conducted to kidnap her if necessary. When a piece of ice asteroid is launched at Phoebe the quiet war hots up and Avernus must flee. This predates The Expanse books and in its own way is equally gripping and entertaining. With the escape of a major villain at the end it seems that a sequel (or two) was necessary. Well worth the effort!
Profile Image for Radu Harabula.
82 reviews9 followers
January 28, 2019
In 2210 Pământul e praf din cauza schimbărilor climatice, omenirea împărțita în tabere a colonizat sistemul solar pană pe sateliții lui Saturn și Jupiter (și în 2312 colonizaserăm pana pe acolo), o parte din oameni sunt pe Luna.

Baza de aici e deținută de Marea Brazilie (dictatură/juntă militară) devenită puterea globală dominantă pe Pământ ce se întinde pană în California și Texas și poate mai departe, spre Canada. Mai e în peisaj și UE și chiar și SUA chiar dacă ultima e în ruine

In baza de pe luna piloții sunt testați și modificați a.i. sa fie interconectați neuronal cu un nou tip de avion de lupta spațial (vezi și Hamilton), ultimul răcnet în materie de luptă și IA (he,he, unde esti tu MIGule 21 Lancer :( ).

Exteriorii erau cei care plecau de pe Luna spre Marte și mai departe spre Jupitern și Saturn și care se foloseau de genetică pentru a face modificări (cele mai multe din motive foarte pragmatice : adaptare/refacere la/după radiații, adaptare la gravitația scăzută, etc), modificări care uneori ii făceau non-umani sau cel puțin asa erau percepuți dinspre tabăra braziliană
Politică, fracțiuni pro și contra Exteriori, tratate politice intre UE și Marea Brazilie, negocieri intre Exteriori și cei de pe Pământ, democrație iliberala pe Pământ (ca tot e un termen la modă), democrație participativă în Exterior.
Clasa politică/conducătoare e organizată pe principiul castelor/fami(g)liilor consangvine care pare un model nu numai in Marea Brazilie dar și în UE și Comunitățile Pacificului

Cei de pe Pământ (unde Marea Brazilie era vioara întâi) au un sfânt verde în viată, din aceeași familie care conducea țara și care era un fel de guru al ecologiștilor, traind departe de lume undeva prin California.
Conservatorism ecologic pe Pământ (de înțeles după Apocalipsa Climatică care a avut loc) și doctrine și filozofii utopice cu mult accent pe cercetare și inovație la cei din Exterior, cam astea erau cele doua tabere / ideologii, bineînțeles cu mistificările și manipulările de rigoare pentru marile public.
Marea Brazilie are și ea un proiect secret de clonare, cu clone spălate pe creier care se pregăteau pentru război în orice condiții și cu orice tip de armă, un fel de comando pregătit pentru cine știe acțiuni tip ataca-distruge-ucide , univers concentraționar, ședințe de critica și autocritica, spălare de creier ca la manual.

Pe Pământ se lucrează la re-ecologizarea planetei, la curățirea zonelor supra-poluate cu reziduuri de tot felul și la redarea acestor zone în circuitul vieții (multi termeni de micro/nano/biologie, ecologie și genetica, fie o deformare profesională a autorului, fie o încercare de a epata de tipul "uite ce multe știu eu și cum m-am documentat și pregătit pentru cartea asta" )
De asemenea vor să facă un biom (dom ecologic) și pe Calypso, într-un proiect de colaborare pământeni-exteriori încercând o îmbunatățire/detensionare a relațiilor intre cele 2 tabere

Când vor să înceapă construcția, inginerul ecolog principal (brazilian) moare la ieșirea din hibernarea indusă pe durata zborului. Si cum trebuie să avem o conspirație, cam în același timp moare și generalul pro-reconciliere care conducea junta (soțul președintei republicii, ca în orice țara sudamericana care se respectă) și ii ia locul altul care face parte din fracțiunea dură care vroia război cu Exteriorii.

In ultimii ani societatea Exteriorilor s-a maturizat, cercetarea se pare că a stagnat mulțumindu-se să îmbunătățească și să modifice cate ceva pe ici pe colo, fără a crea cu adevărat ceva nou.
Poate și pentru ca cei mai în vârstă (durata medie de viată a fost împinsă spre 150 de ani) și care au ajuns primii pe sateliți, punând bazele coloniilor, au un cuvânt greu de spus, iar cei tineri (care vor să împingă limitele mai departe, spre Neptun și Uranus sau chiar dincolo de aceștia) nu au majoritatea.

Nu e lălăiala și gargara aia a lui Kim Stanley Robertson dar nici nu are un ritm și un fir narativ care să te captiveze și să te tină legat de carte.
Un stil sec, asemănător cu Asimov și Clarke, de unde se întrevăd și ceva influente, o space opera combinata cu ecologie.

Un hard SF fără viteze hiperluminice, fără salturi prin hiperspatiu de la o stea la alta, se păstrează în limitele a ceea ce ar putea însemna evoluția umanității în următorii x sute de ani, în limitele sistemului solar... Dar din păcate nu are același zvac și nici aceeași narațiune care sa se lipească de tine cum au Războiul Etern și Războiul Bătrânilor
Așadar:Parcă lipsește ceva, poate o fi diferența intre un scriitor mare și unul doar bun...
N-am terminat-o, m-am împotmolit după un timp, m-am apucat de altceva... E atât de liniștit războiul asta că am adormit ... și n-am mai revenit :)

... si vreme(a) e ca sa citim
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,903 reviews1,232 followers
April 19, 2013
The Quiet War is certainly what is advertised in the title: a war so quiet, no one knows it is happening. Not even me.

It’s the future. The not-so-distant but not-quite-near twenty-third century. No warp drive or United Federation of Planets, though. In fact, we can barely colonize the solar system without squabbling about it. The various powers of Earth—though we largely concern ourselves only with the Europeans and the more powerful Great Brasilia faction—are working on a way to control or otherwise subdue what they perceive to be the growing threat from the Outers, humans who have colonized the moons of the Jovian planets. The Outers are dangerous politically but also, the Earth governments believe, scientifically. Various Outer scientists and governments have embarked on programs of genetic engineering designed to improve the human species and take control of humanity’s evolution.

Paul McAuley follows characters on both side of the conflict. Unfortunately, discerning which characters are the principal ones in this tale proved to be quite a challenge. I found myself halfway through the book with little to show for it in the way of comprehension. Had someone asked for a summary, I doubt I could have managed a cogent response. I doubt I could have explained which characters mattered the most or who was fighting for what. Although, in many ways, The Quiet War has all the elements for a good science-fiction thriller, it is also too messy.

This is particularly true for that crucial first half. I only barely followed the machinations of Macy Minnot and Loc Ifrahim—and I certainly didn’t care that much about them. There were two barriers. First, as I’ve already mentioned, McAuley was slinging too many characters at me with no clear guide as to who was important and who wasn’t. Second, there was an insane amount of technobabble. I can get behind technobabble when it later becomes important to the plot—and to some extent, a little technobabble here and there is an appropriate spice to flavour the pages. McAuley takes it too far, though, dosing us with terminology and explanations that, while appropriate for the milieu, do little to further the plot. Hence, the technobabble moves beyond the tenuous realm of reasonable exposition into the territory of total gratuitousness. (And it’s not even the kind of gratuitousness that gets censored in the cable version!)

Suffice it to say, then, that The Quiet War just isn’t very welcoming to its reader. There is a story there, and a plot, and worthwhile characters. But it really demands that the reader is willing to sit down, strap in, and scrutinize the situation. I’m willing to do that for War and Peace; for this book, not so much.

I actually considered giving up, even though I was more than halfway through, simply because I wasn’t sure how I would be able to review this. I perservered, though, and I’m glad I did. The second half of The Quiet War picks up—the war’s volume increases—and the characters solidify into more distinct groups with clearer motivations. The political machinations become easier to understand, and with my confusion set aside, I was able to allow myself to sink into the suspense and paranoia McAuley was building up with each round of events.

McAuley does a good job depicting how the government of Great Brasilia manipulates various factions within the Outer community and showing how this can exacerabate tensions that lead to war. There’s certainly a lot of that going on in the world today, with various governments (not naming any names) manipulating other countries for their own ends. The issues might not be the same—but they could be, in a few years’ or decades’ time. As our science and technology develops, so too will people’s appetites for altering our bodies and our genome. We have to be ready for the political and sociological questions that will come along with such procedures. The Quiet War, for all its flaws, is a good look at one possible type of conflict that could result.

I wish, however, that there had been more emphasis on the consequences and questions surrounding this aspect of the Outer ideology. McAuley spends so much time on the political side of the story. Aside from the bacteria-focused technobabble near the beginning and some allusions to various, more mild genetic tweaks here and there, the issues that get mentioned don’t otherwise take centre stage. So, while they serve their purpose as a motivating factor in the plot, they don’t quite approach that “big idea” level of significance that I tend to expect from my science fiction.

Trite phrases like “perfectly serviceable” or “admirable attempt at a political thriller in space” come to mind when I think about how to summarize The Quiet War. It isn’t bad, but it holds itself back from being good. I’ve got the sequel as well from the library, expecting that I would want to read it. Alas, now I’m not so sure.

Creative Commons BY-NC License
Profile Image for Mitchell.
Author 12 books19 followers
October 29, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Ian Mond.
486 reviews74 followers
February 10, 2014
If I didn’t have this compulsion to finish everything I start I would have stopped reading The Quiet War around page 50. But in spite of the voice in my head telling me that life is too short to be reading stodgy prose, endless descriptions of space plants and space engineering and the potted life history of dull characters, I kept reading. And you know what? Eight days later, after turning the last of 439 pages, I decided that I wanted to read the sequel.

Much of this has to do with the fact that after about 100 pages the book calms down and starts telling a story rather than describing everything in obsessive detail. McAuley, who has written pot boiler-like thrillers in the recent past (which I’ve enjoyed) starts too ramp up the tension as the war between Earth and the outlying colonies on Jupiter and Saturn becomes inevitable.

Earth, of course, is frightened that if the colonies becomes too independent they’ll start throwing asteroids at the mother planet. It was what the colony on Mars was planning to do until Earth stepped in and blew them away. So, not surprisingly, the Brazilian Government (who have control over the Americas – both South and North) and the Europeans want to retain a stranglehold on the colonies. War seems the only option. Others on Earth and out in Saturn are looking at more peaceful solutions and that’s where the dramatic drive of the novel lies. Though as often happens voices for peace are drowned out by those on both sides looking to show off their vast array of killing machines.

There’s plenty going on here, which probably explains why McAuley spends so much time explaining the back history – the environmental disasters, the war for water and natural resources, the Overturn where the power dynamics on Earth changed forever. And yes, I’m willing to admit that to appreciate the last half it’s worth knowing all that stuff. But bugger me it’s a slog. And it means that it takes along time to actually get to know or even like any of the characters.

I know, though, that there are a number of SF fans who’ll love those early pages, with the future history and especially all the vast engineering projects that allows life on Jupiter and Saturn to exist and even flourish. For me though, it’s the politics and the reasons for the war and the way this leads to such hatred and racism of the other, that makes this book one persevering with. The siege of Paris on one of the moons of Saturn is genuinely gripping and disturbing and tragic.

From a gender point of view this is a strong book with a number of strong female characters moving the novel along. Macy Minot is a particularly wonderful example, a woman constantly hated on by others for being not like them, but who’s willing to push back against the prejudice.

Ironically, in a book that’s about the other, there’s a whiff of unintentional racism with a number of the evil characters being people of non white heritage – I’m thinking here of Loc Ifrahim and the Peixoto family, ostensibly the rulers of Greater Brazil. But there are enough shades of grey that it becomes increasingly difficult to know who is good and who is bad.

So, yes, I will read the second book. I’ll grit my teeth and power through all the space plants and space engineering just because I know that at its heart The Quiet War series is about human destiny. About prejudice and hatred and hope and survival and adaptation in impossible places. And when it deals with those subjects it’s a wonderful read.
Author 7 books11 followers
March 20, 2014

Paul Mcauley’s Quiet War is the first book that I have read of this very interesting Science Fiction Author. I’m actually quite conscious of writers of Science Fiction, as you may have noticed I read a great deal of Science Fiction. I started reading at an early age and Science Fiction was my choice then, as it is now. So I’m a bit ‘Nuts’ about the Genre.

Oft times a writer of Ambition, and there are no more ambitious writers than those of Science Fiction, get lost in the imagination necessary for those who write Science Fiction. Oft losing the reader in the process.

It is amazingly difficult to ‘put it all together’ in Science Fiction.

There are very few actual writers of Science Fiction, my friends. Like 10 or so living!

In The Quiet War, the first book of four so far, of Mr. Mcauley’s Opus, the Earth has apparently had an Environmental Breakdown, for lack of better terminology, and there are colonies throughout the solar system, operated by those known as the Outers. These are men and women who are looking to extend their ‘human’ knowledge into something beyond present dynamics. The Outers are at War, or at least a Quiet one with the men and women they left behind on Earth, very Powerful Families who rule the Earth and are very intent on keeping Religion and Order for everyone, everywhere.

This Power Struggle is the general conflict of this first Quiet War book.

Mr. Mcauley, and many other writers of Science Fiction, Alastair Reynolds, Kim Stanley Robinson to name a few are lately ‘keeping it close’ with new stories, in our Solar System, that are perhaps more ‘realistic’ to what the future may be, as far as ‘Space-Combing’ for Humanity/Huwomanity = Man and Woman.

The Quiet War has some very interesting characters within it and as I said up above, how a writer brings these characters about is what puts the Write in Writer. Mr. Mcauley is not an easy read, he has a Dense and Cryptic sense of knowledge that can be off-putting to the ‘casual’ reader. His descriptions of Bio-Technology are oft over the layman’s/woman’s head!

I must say I didn’t know a tomato was so interesting! Is what you might be saying inside.

Still, you’ll want to keep with The Quiet War, Mr. Mcauley has a very good sense of action, something that isn’t actually all that necessary in Science Fiction writing.

His Female characters especially, are very strong women, in fact, don’t go to a woman writer of ‘Chick-Lit’ to find a Strong Woman.

Male Science Fiction writers have the strongest women characters of all or any writers today.

I am very pleased to have found a new writer! I do hope you read the Quiet War, I think you will enjoy its pages.

Very much looking forward the next 3 books!

(ps... I will return here soon to put in my url for my original review of this book on my Website Stuff! This review won't go live until 14 days on http://clayscottbrown.biz/kindle)
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