Book Review: The Quiet War – Paul McAuley

The Quiet War - Paul McAuley

The Quiet War - Paul McAuley

There is not much to say about this novel, not because it is bad but because it is extremely good. In fact there is nothing to find fault with. The setting is
the solar system, after Earth has been devastated by global warming, and is beginning to rebuild, while thriving colonies have been established on the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.

All sounds idyllic but it is not. Earlier, colonists from the Moon fled to Jupiter and Saturn after the colony on Mars was nuked by China. Earth is now controlled by three power blocs, Greater Brazil,
the European Union and the Pacific Community. All are run by powerful families who squabble behind the scenes. The poor live in overcrowded cities, denied access to the regenerating countryside. Science is fostered, but mainly to
create weapons, sometimes involving brutal biological and psychological
re-structuring of people.

In stark contrast, the descendants of the Moon colonists, known as the Outers, live in free communities, run by continuous e-ballots. They delve into the physical and biological sciences, especially genetic engineering, to improve their technologies and bodies and to spread new forms of life by creating new ecosystems on previously sterile moons. The ‘Quiet
War’, a low-intensity conflict with little all out fighting, deliberately
engineered by factions in Greater Brazil, breaks out after a reconciliation
mission to build an Earth-like habitat on Callisto is sabotaged.

On one
hand the novel succeeds as a classic space opera, with a militaristic regime
trying to control freedom-loving individualists. There is plenty of action, from
a ground assault on a domed city to balletic space battles, using clever weapons
and some effective ‘dumb’ ones, like asteroids used as missiles. Heinlein would
be proud. On the other hand, this is very ‘modern’ science fiction, with subtle
insights into politics, very well drawn characters on both sides, awe inspiring
new science, like organisms adapted to life in a vacuum on cold, dead moons and
beautiful, poetic descriptions of vistas on the various moons and planets. This
book is a perfect blend of a mainstream novel with a rigorous approach to
science fiction.


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"the Schow must go on"
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