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In the Mouth of the Whale Paperback – 19 Jan 2012

3.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Paperback, 19 Jan 2012
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; Trade Paperback Edition edition (19 Jan. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575100745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575100749
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 2.8 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,229,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A writer of dazzling range, luminous intelligence and great humanity Alastair Reynolds" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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.

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
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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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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