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In the Mouth of the Whale
Paul McAuley
Gollancz, 352 pages

Paul McAuley
Paul McAuley was born in England in 1955. 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. Some years ago, he decided 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.

Paul J. McAuley Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Gardens of the Sun
SF Site Review: The Quiet War
SF Site Review: The Quiet War
SF Site Review: The Quiet War
SF Site Review: Fairyland
SF Site Review: Cowboy Angels
SF Site Review: Mind's Eye
SF Site Review: White Devils
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

In the Mouth of the Whale In the course of human events, there are short-term and long-term consequences. In The Quiet War and its sequel Gardens of the Sun, Paul McAuley explored the immediate aftermath of a solar-system-wide clash of civilizations. A thousand years later, in the system of Fomalhaut, refugees, survivors and malcontents from the previous war are fighting a new one, still struggling with the consequences of that once quiet war in their distant past. And that's where In the Mouth of the Whale begins.

Fomalhaut was first settled by the Quick, who used biotech to adapt their environment and themselves. The True came later, found the Quick to be easy pickings, and set up an aristocratic culture with themselves as the aristocrats. Now both are threatened by mysterious newcomers, the Ghosts, whose goal is altering history to make themselves the winners. Meanwhile, in an Amazon rain forest, a Child is growing up.

In the Mouth of the Whale tells three interacting stories, each focused on a different character. Ori is a Quick, a drone pilot who finds herself at the front lines in the war. Isak is a True librarian, charged with investigating a mystery that leads him to the causes of the war, and the Child is a seemingly smarter than most human girls, but exactly who she is remains a mystery to near the end.

McAuley uses these characters and their story to explore many of the same issues raised in earlier novels. Biotechnology is pushing humanity to change its form, and the question is not only what shape those new forms might take, but also the societies that evolve around them. An interesting difference in In the Mouth of the Whale is the sense that the existence of a post-human society does not necessarily mean the end of traditional human societies. Too often, the post-human culture is portrayed as overwhelming powerful, with any remaining human society reduced or marginalized. In The Mouth Of The Whale portrays its post-humans, the Ghosts, not so much as better but simply different, adapted to a different style of living that has its own strengths and weaknesses. And those weaknesses mean that, in a fight, the post-humans don't inevitably have to win.

In the Mouth of the Whale has dramatic action scenes, characters whose lives grow with the story, and thought-provoking observations on humanity and its place in an increasingly strange universe. In short, everything we've come to expect from Paul McAuley at his best.

Copyright © 2012 by Greg L. Johnson

Politically, reviewer Greg L Johnson would describe himself as a True with sympathies for radical Quick causes. Greg's reviews have appeared in publications ranging from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune to the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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