On My Bookshelf: The Quiet War and Gardens of the Sun

The Quiet WarA few years ago I read Paul McAuley’s The Quiet War and enjoyed it. I didn’t realize that a sequel had come out. A few of them, actually. The immediate follow-up is Gardens of the Sun, which I read earlier this week.

These are good books. They struck me as two halves of the same story: Earth battles space colonies. Earth wins the war but not the peace. After much sacrifice and suffering, the good guys win in the end. There are casualties along the way.

A few things distinguish these books. First, the travelogue of the solar system. It’s not anything we don’t know from real-life space probes. Kim Stanley Robinson sort of did a similar thing in 2312. But Mr McAuley covered more ground. I think he hit up most of the major moons of the outer solar system. Since I like those moons, I was impressed.

Gardens of the SunSpeaking of Robinson, these books reminded me somewhat of his Mars series. It hit a large number of characters, some mostly admirable, some very bad, and a few very secretive. Watch out for those hermits: they manage to save the day in the end.

Women rise to the occasion. Some are driven, some achieve a degree of redemption, and mostly they save the day in the end. There are a lot of women in science fiction these days–authors and characters.

There are homages to a few science fiction works. Or maybe they’re influences. The combination of everything makes this a largely original effort.

There are stretches of narrative in Gardens that move events along somewhat to get you and the characters to the next moment. The action of the book takes place over several years.

A character who is introduced in book one as a ruthless spy and clone is on an arc of redemption. At first it comes out as rather creepy. But redemption of sorts is eventually achieved. Other characters struggle with flaws and demons, and while their troubled lives aren’t always so neatly wrapped up at the end of the book.

Religion is touched on here and there. There are cults. But the Catholic Church is still around centuries into the future. One bishop gets martyred like Oscar Romero. Maybe it was me, but that seemed a little too familiar.

Not the very best science fiction I’ve read, but very good. Better than most of what’s available these days.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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One Response to On My Bookshelf: The Quiet War and Gardens of the Sun

  1. Science fiction often expresses the potential of technology to destroy humankind through Armaggedon-like events, wars between worlds, Earth-imperiling encounters or disasters (i.e., The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), When Worlds Collide (1951), The War of the Worlds (1953), the two Hollywood blockbusters Deep Impact (1998) and Armageddon (1998), and The Day After Tomorrow (2004), etc.). In many science-fiction tales, aliens, creatures, or beings (sometimes from our deep subconscious, sometimes in space or in other dimensions) are unearthed and take the mythical fight to new metaphoric dimensions or planes, depicting an eternal struggle or battle (good vs. evil) that is played out by recognizable archetypes and warriors (i.e., Forbidden Planet (1956) with references to the ‘id monster’ from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the space opera Star Wars (1977) with knights and a princess with her galaxy’s kingdom to save, The Fifth Element (1997), and the metaphysical Solaris (1972 and 2002)). Beginning in the 80s, science fiction began to be feverishly populated by noirish, cyberpunk films, with characters including cyber-warriors, hackers, virtual reality dreamers and druggies, and underworld low-lifers in nightmarish, un-real worlds (i.e., Blade Runner (1982) , Strange Days (1995), Johnny Mnemonic (1995), and The Matrix (1999) ).

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