Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Quiet War - Paul J. McAuley

Outer-Earth generational conflict.

I've been looking forward to something like this from McAuley for a while.

Earth is recovering from centuries of ecological and economic abuse, which involves a lot of people and hard work. Outer colonies on Jupiter and Saturn have higher technology levels, and stable populations, so, barring the need the spacesuits to walk around outside problem can be nicer places to live, if more restrictive.

People in this future are longer lived, and the older generations being capable for longer have tended to hold onto power longer. Which means the younger generations are restless and resentful. 'Grandpa, let's do something' becomes an even worse, 'Great-great-great Grandpa, let's do something!' They want to move on, go further, start colonies on other moons and worlds.

Their conservative elders want the status quo, and long slow deliberation before anything happens - and preferably not to get into space war with Earth. Starting a war may get the youth what they want, to some degree, at least those that live through it, anyway. There are also always the Earth hawks who are happy to shoot people and blow things up, too.

The book follows several characters. A specially bred warrior boy - genetics technology is a feature, and modifying humans is commonplace - a pilot of a new type of fighter spaceship, a technician trying to get along who gets caught up in the games of her political masters and ends up moved from place to place, an Earth 'gene wizard', and the various people they interact with.

Most see conflict as inevitable, but are not exactly sure what to do. This unpredictability is a feature of this novel, not knowing what to expect. So, in style perhaps a cross between bits of Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars, without the lengthy self-absorption of the people involved in that planetary romance, and something a little more space opera by Charles Sheffield. In fact, there's a mention of a 'Tierra' - a habitable world outside the solar system, even though no such people appear in this particular book.

There are also other Quiet War stories, associated to various degrees for those further interested.

Certainly not a cut and dried novel, so definitely scope for more. A welcome, solidly good book.

4 out of 5

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