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on 29 October 2009
This book is the second of a pair. The first was The Quiet War. See its reviews for the background to this one.

After the Quiet War, many of the Outers are rounded up into prison camps. The ones that escape capture, the Free Outers, flee to Miranda, a moon of Uranus, to recover and rebuild. They are forced to flee again to Triton, a moon of Neptune, after Greater Brazil sends ships after them. Again they are moved on, this time by Ghosts, fellow Outers who follow a reclusive leader who in turn follows orders from a future version of himself, who is supposedly on an extra-Solar planet. Orbiting remote Nephele, the Free Outers, now wary of permanent habitats, build the "Gardens of the Sun", detached bubble habitats that are closed eco-systems drawing extra energy from the Sun.

The Gardens of the Sun are but one of many types of long-term closed habitats, ranging from the many scattered emergency self-regenerating survival cabins Outers need in case of suit or major habitat failure to the artistic creations of the Outer 'gene wizard' Avernus, who delights in creating hidden 'gardens', each one following a completely different design in its combinations of 'tweaked' living organisms, based on archetypal animal and plant patterns. A more utilitarian approach is taken by Sri Hong-Owen, who creates 'cut' humans for various purposes, not all pleasant. Both women come to very different ends which signal how their approaches differ.

The Outers draw their strength as a community of individuals working together. The three Earth blocs against them, united under the banner of the Three Powers Alliance, soon start squabbling over the spoils of war. Earth's bloc governments are very much like many of Earth's national governments now: dictatorial, controlled by cliques, using a veneer of democracy. These governments use their own people, and there are some poignant moments for a spy and a war hero who discover the truth about their engineered roles and rebel. While things change on Earth, it appears a spent force, woefully contradicted by greed for, and Green zeal against, wealth and power. In contrast Outer society is very much idealised (apart from the cultist Ghosts). Even in defeat, these individualists never give up. Living a seal away from a killing vacuum presumably breeds discipline and endeavour.

While there is no FTL drive in sight, and robots are just clever, but not intelligent, workers, this novel re-invents optimism in space exploration. It sidesteps the dead end of building another Earth by terraforming Mars, and instead proposes a new goal of colonisation of the entire solar system, and hints at a new type of 'generation starship', built around Outer closed eco-system designs.
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on 12 November 2009
Paul McAuley is surely one of our best writers. This is intelligent, world creating, thrilling and optimistic space opera - without the naivety of much American SF. The world building goes on against a back drop of flawed humanity, full of politicking, jealousies and the small cruelties we all love to inflict on each other. So it is, so it will be. The context is biodiversity but this time its human biodiversity and the opportunity to build a post human experience as well as human one, a technological fueled optimism that resonates so much in 2009 . We can build and mitigate anthropogenic climate change. There are no hero's as such, just people muddling on doing there stuff not always well or even nicely .

It really must be read after the Quiet War though as i do not think it stands well alone

As an aspiring writer it makes insanely jealous . Nuff said
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What many people have yet to realise about Paul is that his writing it not only gripping but beautifully constructed from the characters he creates to the situations and worlds in which they inhabit. Each word is carefully chosen to fit the situation and whilst it can feel a tad spartan at times it's a novel that really will remain with you long after the final page it turned. In this, the sequel to The Quiet War, the reader is literally thrust into the struggles after the events in the previous novel unfurled and really won't be let go until the dawn breaks with you realising you've been up all night. A master of Hard Sci-Fi and an author who will be as revered as a number of predecessors in years to come, you really have to try him to see the quality. All in all, this is a great offering and one that left me clamouring for the next novel as I turned the final page. Dammit, its going to be a long wait.
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on 28 December 2009
The brilliant follow up and (I think) conclusion to the The Quiet War (Gollancz). And a true second part of the story at that, no boring padding, no irritating subplots and no silly cliff hangers just quality story telling. Every character is worthy of a book in their own right and each chapter is like reading a mini novel, that's how good this book is. It is a rich, exciting and ironically human tale of post human expansion in the solar system. The politics and interaction between all the different factions are fascinating and the author effortlessly combines achingly sad moments with beautiful optimism. Can't imagine how I will ever read a better book.
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on 5 August 2010
This is the sequel to The Quiet War (Gollancz), which is among the best and most thought-provoking science fictions published in recent years. McAuley is a writer of awesome skill, and his books reflect this in their scope, elegance and humanity. This novel captures realism in its characters, bringing to life its fictional universe, and making both its science and its fiction perfectly believable.

McAuley is one of the best science fiction writers at work today. He deserves more attention than he receives, and Gardens of the Sun is one of his best books to date. (Another fine example of his work is Fairyland.) I will spill no beans, and reveal nothing of the plot. I will only add my name to the list of discriminating, hard-to-impress, hard-core science fiction fans who loved this book. This is a great science fiction author at his best, writing for people who love science fiction. Its mass-market paperback edition is coming out on the 26th of August. It's well worth a read.
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on 24 April 2014
Gardens of the Sun is a great sequel (it relies heavily on your having read The Quiet War, so make sure to do that first), to my mind it's better than The Quiet War, which I felt was a little slow to get going. Because everything has been set up already, Gardens of the Sun can jump right in, and is the better for it. The pace is faster, the individual stories are compelling - my only small complaint is that the ending feels perhaps a little rushed, a bit too neat, but then again it's a bit churlish to complain about an author actually tying up all their loose ends...
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on 21 January 2012
This book is the sequel to The Quiet War. Having thoroughly enjoyed that book I expected great things from this novel. And I wasn't disappointed.

There's a smooth transition from the first book to the second. In fact, there are so many references to Quiet War characters, events and story lines, I can only encourage everyone to read that novel first. After all, it's an excellent book.

Once again, I found my imagination stimulated by the richly described gene-engineered gardens. Spectacular habitats created by gene wizard Avernus and Sri Hong-Owen (Sri is Avernus's biggest admirer and would-be successor). These passages endow a convincing sense of realism, no doubt greatly helped by McAuley's Botany Ph.D, research activities and lecturing experience.

Yet I'm also impressed by McAuley's ability to craft a rich collection of three-dimensional characters, high-quality dialogue and any number of fully believable scenes - whether they be on Earth, the Moon or within the gas giant systems of Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune. When combined with its great sense of pace and fast moving plot, I found the 439 pages simply whizz by.

The only low point for me was the weak penultimate chapter. It exhibited such a different voice, style and pace, I had to wonder if it was written by the same person. But it couldn't spoil my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

There are more of Paul McAuley's words at his 'unlikely worlds' blog site.
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on 16 June 2014
I quite enjoyed "The Quiet War" - excellent characterisation and plots - but found the initial premise rather unbelievable. However, given that the events of the Quiet War have taken place, then the way the broad story of Gardens of the Sun unfolds makes perfect sense. There's great characterisation again, which you would expect, as many of the personae are carried over, and more fast-paced interlocking subplots.
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on 19 August 2014
I've enjoyed some of Paul's previous, but this is tedious, uninteresting and self indulgent. None of the characters have any character, the narrative is interwoven with long passages of pseudo science and physco babble.
I gave up at 70%
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Loved this book. Often the book 2 of a series can seem to be a shadow of the first book. But not this one. The usual intrigue and adventure continues and I just couldn't put the book down. Now I'm on to the next one (Evenings Empires) and just can't wait.
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