Gardens of the Sun by Paul McAuley (Quiet War 2)

A Hundred murdered ships swung around Saturn in endless ellipses. The Quiet War [read my review] is over and the democratic Outer city states on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn have fallen to the three Allied Powers of Greater Brazil, the European Union and the Pacific Community. The Outers are herded into prison camps while their heritage, their cities, their scientific achievements are systematic plundered by earth forces. A chilling ‘final solution’ on the Outer problem is also in the works by the ‘green’ fascists of earth.

Title: Gardens of the Sun
Series: Duology with The Quiet War
Author: Paul McAuley
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Gollancz 2009 | Pyr
Paperback: 411 pages
Copy: bought it myself
Order from: Gollancz | Amazon US | UK | B&N | sfbok

The winning Alliance soon fracture with a major war on earth looming on the horizon. Political power struggles back in Greater Brazil have major repercussions on the leadership of the occupation forces. The Outers different way of life, social structure and outlook makes it hard for the occupation to cash in on the victory and the Outers tradition of democracy and freedom starts to infects the masses back on earth.

The few Outer refugees that survived the gauntlet around Saturn flees to Uranus’ moons to rebuild their free society on Miranda the smallest of the large moons, but they are driven out by earth forces sent after them. They opt to flee to Neptunu’s Titan but discover that there is already a settlement there of Ghost, an Outer cult with trans human aspirations with a leader who the members believe talks with himself in the future from an earth like planet outside the solar system, their utopia. On mercy and with restrictions the refugees are allowed to stay. The refugees themselves are now afraid to build any permanent settlement as they expect the earth forces to come after them. So Macy develops a plan …

The book is divided into six parts War Damage, the School of Night, Changing of the Guard, Rebel Rebel, Chimes of Freedom and Everything That Rises Must Converge that works well but sometimes I feel like it’s all one big book, The Quiet War and this one. The chapters jump between the different characters.

Although the characters are the same as in The Quiet war, I feel that they are more distinct here. In this dualogy Paul write about ‘ordinary people’ with more complex motivations and personal failures than what is common in space opera and he doesn’t go for the obvious protagonist types either. In the Quiet war the characters often reacted and were out of the decision loop while here they are acting. That is true especially concerning my favorite Macy Minnot who in my eyes steps forward as something of a hero in the story. It’s not that simple in McAuley’s world of ‘ordinary people’.

Another character to note is Loc Ifrahim, a diplomat from Greater Brazil who was an opportunistic villain in The Quiet War. He finds it hard to cash in on the victory and sees others with blood connections take the plume positions and he is assigned to scrap yard duty taking care of the graveyard circling Saturn. He is the most surprising character in this book, in the end I found to my surprise that I liked the guy even if he is mainly motivated by personal survival.

Cash Baker is the singleship fighter pilot that where shot down by his own forces when his ship threatened to shoot down a ship containing the outer’s gene wizard Avenrus. Instead of being court marshaled he is sent back to earth as a hero for the propaganda machine. He is used to exemplify the cynical machinery of war propaganda and the internal power struggle in Greater Brazil and among the families there. I liked the way he ended up being a bush pilot.

The other characters help drive the world building and plot forward like Dave #8 our tragic genetically engineered spy searching for his lost love for one and Yuli Avernus ‘daughter’ trying to evade capture is another.

Sri Hong-Owen is a scientist obsessed with the outers gene wizard Avernus and we follow her in the first half of the book before she becomes reclusive. She takes a different path than Avernus and there is a strong contrast between the two scientists. The one thing they both have in common is their inability to relate to their own children. Yet in the end they both achieve immortality.

That Paul has a background as a research biologist is evident in the detailed flora and fauna of the different gardens of Avernus, in the different ways he illustrates what humanity can change into and in the construction of the floating gardens of the sun. He also uses hard science to describe the moons and planets of the solar system including latest finding from NASA space probes with obvious delight.

I found I liked Gardens of the Sun better than it’s prequel The Quiet War mainly because I liked the way Paul McAuley treated the characters here, taken as one long book it’s fantastic. It can be one of the best books of this year and you should read it just to sample the ideas. Gardens of the Sun is fast paced, character driven and filled with intriguing science and ideas mixed with thrilling military action at the backdrop of some of the most interesting celestial bodies of the solar system.

This review first appeared on Temple Library Review April 6, 2010.