In Which I Get Reviewed
Paul McAuley's Quiet War series (The Quiet War, 2008; Gardens of the Sun, 2009; plus the discontinuous but related In the Mouth of the Whale in 2012, and a bunch of stories) are among the defining works of the notable renascence of solar system fiction in the last decade or so, and McAuley's evident passion for extrapolating the surface and subsurface details of the various gas-giant moons and myriad artificial habitats he calls "gardens" is a good indicator of the appeal of such settings: we have just enough hard astronomical data to understand the challenges for a hard SF writer, but with plenty of room for narrative tooling around. In Benford's playing-with-the-net-up metaphor, we at least have a good idea of where the net is, and writing planetary fiction about worlds that we know something about must seem like a kind of formal constraint, a kind of hard-SF version of sonnets or villanelles. At times, McAuley appeared so enamored with working out these settings that the detailed planetology interrupted his already complex, multiviewpoint narratives, but in Evening's Empires he uses the settings quite effectively as a backdrop for a classic revenge-and-redemption space opera focusing on a single character's quest, and which pointedly pays tribute to a broad swath of SF history. Part of the fun of reading it is name-checking those homages - section titles borrowed from Asimov, Clarke, Godwin, and Silverberg, locations named Trantor and Tannhauser Gate, a scene of man-apes capering before a giant monolith, even a couple of swooping flying-scooter chases worthy of Star Wars set pieces . . .
McAuley is having a good deal of fun laying out what amounts to a tribute to classic space opera, and Evening's Empires, while not lacking in the snazzy mise-en-scene spectacle or the philosophical debates of the earlier novels, is the most purely enjoyable straight adventure tale in the Quiet War series so far.
Extra special bonus from the same issue, Gardner Dozois on my short story collection A Very British History:
I won't even pretend to be impartial about the work of Paul McAuley. I bought and published lots of it when I was editor of Asimov's and reprinted other stories in my Best of the Year series, both before and after my stint at Asimov's. Suffice it to say that I consider McAuley to be one of the two or three best writers working in SF today, and believe some of the stories collected in A Very British History: The Best Science Fiction Stories of Paul McAuley, 1985-2011, especially "The Temporary King", "Gene Wars", "Recording Angel", "Second Skin", "17", "Sea Change, With Monsters", "City of the Dead", and "The Choice" to be among the best science fiction stories published by anyone in this period, not just the best of Paul McAuley.