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In the Mouth of the Whale [Paperback]

Paul McAuley
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

11 Oct 2012

A novel of a savage future war, perfect for fans of Alastair Reynolds and Peter F. Hamilton.

Humanity's future rests on the shoulders of a Child from the past, and she must never know of the battles being fought for her . . .

In the system of Fomalhaut, a war is being fought. The Quicks came long ago, refugees from the Solar System. The True arrived later, to find a declining civilisation and a system ripe for the taking. Then the Ghosts appeared, no longer human, unknowable, powerful and determined to drive out the Quick and the True. The battle continues, but the outcome is uncertain.

Three lives will intersect, because there is something at the centre of their universe, something dangerous and growing and powerful. Something that is worth fighting for. And it will change everybody's life.

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In the Mouth of the Whale + Gardens of the Sun (Gollancz) + The Quiet War (Gollancz)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (11 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575100753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575100756
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 233,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm the author of more than twenty books, including science-fiction, thriller, and crime novels, several collections of short stories, a Doctor Who novella, and an anthology of stories about popular music, which I co-edited with Kim Newman. My fiction has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the John W. Campbell award, the Sidewise Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and the British Fantasy Award for best short story.

Before I went over to the dark side and became a full-time writer, I worked as a research biologist in various universities, including Oxford and UCLA, and for six years was a lecturer in botany at St Andrews University. My chief research interest was symbioses between unicellular algae and coelenterates, including green hydra, sea anemones, and reef-forming corals. I'm still a huge fan of all things to do with science, and spend too much time tweeting about weird and wonderful stuff as UnlikelyWorlds; Time magazine listed me as one of their top 140 most interesting tweeters in 2013.

I live in North London, and haven't yet walked down every street in the A-Z. But I'm trying.

Product Description

Book Description

In the brilliant new hard SF novel from Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author Paul McAuley, a war between human and posthuman civilisations is about to erupt.

From the Inside Flap

In the system of Fomalhaut, a war is being fought. The Quicks came long ago, refugees from the Solar System, technologically advanced and, for the moment, safe. The True arrived later, to find a declining civilisation and a system ripe for the taking. Then the Ghosts appeared, no longer human, unknowable, powerful and determined to drive out the Quick and the True. The battle continues, but the outcome is uncertain...

In a damaged and perilous Brazil, The Child lives with her mother and nursemaid, kept safe from the risks of the rainforest. Precocious and dangerous, her childhood will define the future. But control of her story has been lost, and she will find her own path through the darkness around her.

Isak and the Horse, in endless Hells as punishment for a failure they will never live down, receive a summons. A mission has been found for them, one which will lead them into the dangerous politics of the Fomalhaut system, and into the most deadly Hell of all. The Library has been compromised, and that impossibility might mean the end of the world

On the skin of the Whale, suspended far above the planet Cthuga's surface, the Quick slaves remotely control drones and bots but have no freedom of their own. Ori dreams of flight, but there is no escape from her slavery - until the Ghosts attack the Whale. In the ensuing battle she sees a sprite in the corner of her mind, and comes to the attention of someone - or something - with a deadly plan.

These three lives will intersect, because there is something at the centre of Cthuga, something dangerous and growing and powerful. Something that is worth fighting for. And it will change everybody's life.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best SF book of 2012 23 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book, almost certainly the best novel I read this year, so it's a real disappointment to see it getting such indifferent and at times stupid reviews.

I'm sorry to admit that I'm sometimes more interested in plot than quality of writing, but even I noticed how outstanding McAuley's prose is here, with descriptive passages frequently achieving real beauty and poetry. The plot is both original and ruthless: the villains of the piece, the True, are utterly vile and despicable, yet the story is largely told from their perspective. It is impossible to find any single character to wholly identify with, all the "humans" in the story are to a greater or lesser extent alien from our perspective.

This is not a warm and cosy story, you get a real sense of the vast, immeasurable depths of space, and of how in trying to navigate them we could lose our own humanity.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big, bold and beautiful 17 May 2012
By Awlbath
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Paul McAuley has an amazing imagination and this meaty tome has a great blend of exciting characters, old friends (lots of spoilers so make sure you read The Quiet War first) and fabulous concepts. It may go on too much but this is counterbalanced by its bulging story lines and sequential threads. I look forward to reading it again in short succession to The Quiet War as I think this would be a great pair of novels for a long journey.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Having read and enjoyed The Quiet War and Gardens of the sun I was expecting a follow-on narrative which took the tensions between the different Outer factions to a different locale. What I found were three narrative streams which seemed to have little to do with the preceding novels.

One thread was related. It seemed to cover the early life of Maria-Hong Owen's daughter Sri, who became a gene wizard in the previous two books. The other two threads appear not to refer back to anything but cover the growing war for Cthuga (Fomalhaut's gas giant) and the adventures of a pair of 'cyberspace hackers' from the 'Library', who have been a chance to redeem themselves, after an earlier failure, by finding two individuals who have disappeared while on an important mission in the Library.

The 'Library' I found unconvincing. The sense of wonder at the the gene- and habitat-engineering carries over from the earlier books but the 'virtual reality' hijinks is hardly much in advance of Gibson, and feels out of place here. Who needs inner space when outer space is available as infinite, real, real estate?

All is not wonderful in this post-human world. Bottom of the heap are the Quicks,who have had humanity's worst traits gene-engineered out, but unluckily for them, this has enabled their enslavement by the True, exo-skeleton-wearing old-style humans, unfortunately still wreaking havoc with those bad old traits. The True want to confirm a hypothesis that a 'mind' inhabits Cthuga but have to defend it against a third post-human clade, the Ghosts, who have an even crazier reason for wanting it. The 'Whale' of the novel's title is a giant True construct which reaches down into Cthuga's gravity well.

All this the reader needs to piece together.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It all comes together 18 July 2013
By geodoc
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is the best SF book I've read in some time. I'm surprised to see it getting so little, and at times undeservedly negative, attention from reviewers on here.

"In the Mouth of the Whale" introduces a much wider range of elements compared to the first two novels in the Quiet War series-- which basically expounded a near-ish future history of solar system colonisation, with oodles of loving descriptions of habitat designs/ecosystem engineering. Here there are stronger characters, a much stronger narrative thread (in fact three of them, initially), some refreshingly different settings-- including a gas giant and various virtual environments, besides the obligatory hollowed out asteroids-- some stunningly good descriptive passages, and a real sense of the author starting to get solidly to grips with some substantive, timeless, human themes. Tyranny, love, the extent to which we have control over our destiny, you know the kind of thing. It's not that this stuff was absent from the earlier novels, just that it's explored with a surer hand in this one. Although the book describes a much altered and splintered version of far future humanity in the unfamiliar setting of another star system, it still manages to be a thoroughly human work (The True are Us, of course). Which is not to say that it's lacking in either hard science-y stuff, or some decent action sequences (indeed, one criticism of the Quiet War might be that it was too quiet- but with the one exception mentioned below, that's not a problem here).

It's true that there are echoes from other SF authors-- gas giant-based intelligence, virtual hells and the cryptosphere-like Library were bittersweet reminders of Iain M.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Rather disappointing addition to the series 27 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Compared to the previous entries to the "Quiet War" series, this novel was something of a disappointment, definitely nowhere near as good as McAuley's other work.

It's nominally set in the same universe as the the Quiet War series, but about a thousand years in the future. While it continues the story of one of the characters from those books (which makes it hard to understand for those who haven't read them), it's otherwise a self-contained story. It's set in a solar system where the posthuman "Quick" have been enslaved by old-school "True" humans, while the Ghosts from the Quiet War series make a reappearance.

There are three storylines: one follows a mysterious child from (apparently) the time of Greater Brazil, one follows Isak, a "True" investigator who protects a data library from age-old viruses, and Ori, a Quick slave who gets caught up in the larger conflict for the system. None of these plotlines really works, and they come together for a rather confusing and underwhelming conclusion. A lot of the worldbuilding is equally confusing, making the whole thing rather hard to follow. In particular, it's never really made clear how Isak's "exorcisms" of computer systems work- they seem to take part in a matrix-esque simulation, but quite how it works, as with much of the detail of this world, is never explained.

One final quib I have is the rather frustrating lack of information as to what happened to the solar system's civilisation after the Quiet War- there are a few vague mentions of it, but they are, like so much else, never properly explained, and it would probably have been more satisfying were this an entirely standalone novel.

In short, this novel is nowhere near as good as the excellent first two novels of the Quiet War series.
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