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Evening's Empires
Paul McAuley
Gollancz, 375 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: In the Mouth of the Whale
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

Evening's Empires It's been fifteen hundred years since The Quiet War, and the evening's empires, as Bob Dylan put it, "have returned into sand." The once solar-system encompassing civilization has fractured and decayed, leaving a multitude of smaller communities living amongst the ruins. Gajananvihari Pilot, better known as Hari, and his family are scavengers, roaming the system for salvaged technology and supplies. It's a pretty good life until their ship is attacked and stolen, leaving Hari, marooned, as the only known survivor.

Hari is left with a thirst for revenge and the need to find out who did it and why. He's also got one item salvaged from his escape, the head of Dr. Gagarian, an eccentric researcher who was a passenger on Pabuji's Gift. The head, it turns out, contains technology that a lot of people would like to get their hands on.

Hari's quest leads him from the outer reaches of the solar system to the inner asteroid belt, eventually all the way to Earth. In the process, he meets lost relatives, finds unlikely allies and friends, confronts unexpected enemies, and grows up.

That's plenty of story for any novel, and Paul McAuley places it in a setting that is both decaying, and, from our perspective, full of wonders. For the characters, life in the solar system is akin to Europe after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, with pockets of civilization and relative prosperity separated by lengthy and dangerous travel. It's a far cry from the beginnings of a solar system wide civilization depicted in The Quiet War and Gardens of the Sun, and from the cultural struggles going on in distant Fomalhaut in In The Mouth of the Whale, yet McAuley provides enough of an historical background to tie them all together. The life of genetic engineer Sri Hong-Owen is one of the connecting threads in the novels and, in a way, influences every character in Evening's Empires, though it is separated from the other novels by vast distances in time and space.

The novels are also connected in their depictions of societies in a state of flux, where the possibility of sudden and violent change looms large, and the desire to confront past wrongs often leads to new, and bigger, problems. Hari's adventure in Evening's Empires recapitulates the themes of the entire series on a personal level, to the extent that his motivations lead him to places that he couldn't have expected, but now can no longer avoid. And that's not all bad.

One final note for the meta-readers among us. The sections of Evening's Empires are titled after science fictions of the past, such as "Childhood's End" and "Marooned Off Vesta." Have fun deciding just how much each section does, and does not resemble and/or pay tribute to its famous predecessor.

Copyright © 2013 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson is wondering what the True Empire has ever done for us. 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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