A global catastrophy called the Overturn devastated Earth. We write the year 2210, and Earth is slowly reconstructed by fundamentally Gaia-oriented states like oligarchic Greater Brazil and the EU. Gen manipulation is necessary to get back exterminated animal races but otherwise mostly despised. This honourable path of humanity is contrasted by the Outers, a group of humans who escaped the Overturn to the planets of the Solar system. They developed a grassroot democracy and freely alter their genome, led by an ingenious gen-wizard Avernus. Some ten years before the start of the novel, a war between Earth and the Outers led to extinction of the Mars colony.
Pre-war tension is high at the start of the novel, and we witness the creation of human clones trained to be spies, and of neurally enhanced space pilots.
Warmongers work against pacifistic oriented characters like Earth’s ingenious geneticist Sri and main character Macy Minnot, a soil chemicist. Macy first engages to a peace project on a Jupiter Moon but has to flee through the outer Solar system. As a side-note, I’d like to point at that McAuley has written a short story featuring Macy Minnot, cf. my review of Macy Minnot’s Last Christmas on Dione, Ring Racing, Fiddler’s Green, the Potter’s Garden.
This novel can’t decide if it wants to be a Kim Stanley Robinson or an Alastair Reynolds, i.e. vivid science and landscape detours or a juicy popcorn space opera.
I loved how it juggled both aspects through Antarctica, the moons of Jupiter and the Saturn ring without any of the balls falling. Most male characters where war oriented, whereas females tended more towards peace, so it is a kind of female novel with lovable characters in a realistic setting. It is also not exactly a war novel but more the slow build up to war. I found a good piece of action stretched with philosophical discussions and said detours. This style is certainly not everyone’s favourite dish but I really liked it.
I’ll put the second part of the trilogy, Gardens of the Sun, on my TBR shelves.