11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing installment in a promising series....,
This review is from: In the Mouth of the Whale (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. What I find worrying is what someone totally new to this 'universe' is going to make of it, as I struggled. Where are the introductory 'info-dumps'? Ironically, they appear and interrupt things at the end, way too late to save newcomers to this universe who may have given up long before.
Finally, this work seems to use more cliched sf elements than the first two novels and the originality that fueled them seems not to be being extended into new areas. There is also a bleakness about it, in that freedoms won in the preceding novels seem to be on the wane again....