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White Devils
Paul McAuley
Tor Books, 464 pages

Paul McAuley
Paul McAuley was born in England in 1955 and currently lives in Scotland. He worked as a researcher in biology at various universities before going to St. Andrew's University as a lecturer in botany for 6 years. He's chosen to move on to become a full-time writer.

His first novel, Four Hundred Billion Stars, won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award and several subsequent novels have been nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, winning one for Fairyland which also won the 1997 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. His short story, "The Temptation of Dr. Stein," won the British Fantasy Award. Pasquale's Angel won the very first Sidewise Award for Alternate History (Long Form) in 1996. McAuley also produces a regular review column for Interzone and contributes reviews to Foundation.

Paul J. McAuley Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Making History
SF Site Review: Fairyland
SF Site Reading List: Paul J. McAuley
SF Site Review: Whole Wide World
SF Site Review: The Secret of Life
SF Site Interview: Paul J. McAuley
SF Site Excerpt: The Secret of Life
SF Site Review: Shrine of Stars
SF Site Review: Pasquale's Angel
SF Site Review: Ancients of Days
SF Site Review: The Invisible Country
SF Site Review: Child Of The River
SF Site Review: Fairyland

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

White Devils On the surface, White Devils is a near-future thriller energized by the specter of a world both devastated by and dependent upon bio-tech. The story concerns Nicholas Hyde and his attempt to discover the secret behind a mysterious species of white-skinned, ape-like creatures who have viciously attacked humans in a remote part of the African jungle. Paul McAuley uses unexpected intrusions of violence mixed with characters whose actions are often surprising to craft a story full of twists and turns. Underneath the form of the modern, near-future thriller, though, the author makes it clear that he has more serious concerns. White Devils may invite comparison to Jurassic Park and Michael Crichton, but by the end of the novel it's apparent the author was thinking a lot more about Apocalypse Now and Joseph Conrad.

White Devils is a novel in which nothing is as simple as it looks. We meet Nicholas as he is working to document atrocities in an on-going civil war, and eventually learn there is more to his past than meets the eye. In a like manner, all the characters have hidden agendas and secrets, some worse than others, that help turn the story into a maze of conflicting loyalties and temporary alliances.

The same is true for the African setting, a continent which, like the rest of the world, has been devastated by the Black Flu and suspected bio-weapons. Now European companies have returned to re-build Africa, but the spectre of old colonialism hovers in the background. Indeed, racism and colonialism infuse the background of White Devils, coming to the fore in the form of characters like a snake-handling American con artist who hunts down suspected bio-terrorists in the name of God, and a corporate executive whose company is the de facto ruler of the Congo. The white devils, and the horror they represent pull everyone together, but there are no easy answers to be found. In the end, even the seemingly straight-forward decision of whether to kill a white devil, the persistent symbol of horror and evil in the novel, turns out to be not simple or straight-forward at all.

That refusal to resolve the story into a satisfying set of yes and no answers will probably limit its cross-over sales to fans of the popular thriller, but should maintain McAuley's appeal for SF readers who appreciate more complexity in both the story and the characters. White Devils is meant to provoke, and does so with its characters ideas and sudden, unexpected flashes of intense violence. The violence, and the way it's presented, serves to shock the characters into action and unnerve the reader, helping to make White Devils a novel that hits you like a quick punch in the gut, and then leaves you standing there to think about it.

Copyright © 2004 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson is still thinking about it in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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