White Devils is the first Paul McAuley novel I have read, so I cannot compare it to any of his other books. Based on my experience of reading it I cannot say that I will be rushing to purchase the author's extensive back catalogue.
Its not that White Devils is a terrible book. Its competently written, although the fact McAuley has chosen to write the entire book in the present tense takes some getting used to. It also tackles some interesting ideas and issues, including genetic engineering and the future economic and political fortunes of central Africa. The possible near future that McAuley has created is well conceived and believeable but isn't pushed to the fore at the expense of the plot or the characters. Those characters are for the most part interesting and well drawn.
Where White Devils falls down badly is in the pacing and structure of the plot. After an exciting opening, with the first attack by the titular Devils and our introduction to Central Africa of the near future, events slow to what can only be described as a crawl. What should have been a fast paced adventure takes an age to actually go anywhere, with McAuley spending far too long setting up various subplots and introducing characters. By the halfway point of what is not a short book I felt that the story really hadn't gone anywhere and my interest was waning.
Matters improve slightly in the second half as the two lead characters finally meet each other as their separate plot strands intertwine and the book becomes more focused. The truths behind some of the many mysteries introduced during the first half of the book are also revealed. The problem is however, that none of these mysteries or the truths behind them are very compelling or particularly surprising. The truth behind Nick's origins for example is patently obvious from early on so the revelation about his parentage early in the second half of the book has little impact.
In fact even the book's central mystery, namely what are the White Devils and where did they come from, never really grabbed me. By the time the book concludes in the middle of the 'Dead Zone' at a camp that is part Colonel Kurtz's compound from Apocalypse Now and part Island of Dr Moreau I really didn't care that much who created the Devils or why. The book hadn't really grabbed me at the beginning and had taken too long to get me from the start of the story to the finish whilst taking too many blind alleys along the way.
Pared down, with a far more streamlined narrative, clearer motivations for the characters (even at the end I wasn't really sure why Nick was still pursuing the truth behind the White Devils) and less padding 'White Devils' would have had the potential to be an entertaining near-future thriller. As it is, whilst it contains sporadically entertaining moments, it feels slow and self-indulgent and failed to really grip this reader.