February 16th, 2010

breaking bad

Gardens of the Sun

I went to Waterstones just before I got knackered, and I couldn't find any of the BSFA-award-nominated novels, so I bought Gardens of the Sun by Paul McAuley, and read it just now. It is the sequel to The Quiet War. If you are wondering whether to buy it, the answer is simple, if you liked The Quiet War you will like this.

Gardens of the Sun is dedicated to Stephen Baxter, and the business of eking a living on the outer fringes of the solar system is probably strongly inspired by Baxter. However, the whole book reminds me more of Kim Stanley Robinson (who I think is McAuley's mate). The Quiet War seemed to be a friendly riposte to Robinson: alluring as your eco-lefty future might be, the future will be more brutish and constricting. I felt that this second volume eases back, back towards the values of the Mars trilogy, with reconciliation and redemption for the characters and history. It was like a reversed tide of history. It finishes on a somewhat similar note to the Mars trilogy.

Like the Mars books, the story is told through a wide range of diverse characters, including loads of strongly-defined women. And not all amazons or courtesans either. It's so great to read that kind of thing.

Two of my favourite characters though were men: a super-soldier who like Jason Bourne gets into all sorts of exciting fights (the one on pages 348-350 is particularly good I thought). Also a nasty weasely diplomat called Loc Ifrahim who was a bit like Arnold Rimmer, though more socially adept, who falls in with a no-nonsense soldier-lady called Captain Neves, who is just the kind that Rimmer used to get pushed around by.

ETA I think the quality of writing is excellent. I'm going to type out a paragraph from that fight I mentioned, because this is a good example. Collapse )