Book Review : In the Mouth of the Whale by Paul McAuley

Andrew Stephens, Monday the 17th of December, 2012 in Books, Science Fiction

ISBN : 9780575100732

Sometime This post was automatically imported from my old sandfly.net.nz blog. It may look a little weird since it was not originally written for this format. In the Mouth of the Whale Coverin the far future, humanity has split into various sub-clades, driven apart by isolation, technology, environment and philosophic outlook. Around a distant star, members of these groups vie for control of a gas giant that may or may not harbour a sentient intelligence.

I am not usually a fan of post-human science fiction, any talk of a technological singularity strikes me as unlikely. But In the Mouth of the Whale takes care to introduce the world (actually a whole solar system) very nicely and steers away from some of the excesses of other sci-fi of its ilk.

A particularly nice touch is the way the story is told from the perspective of three characters, none of whom really know what is going on. One character's tale is told in first person, another strand is narrated by an detached observer, the last story is written in traditional third-person omniscient prose. These stories are intertwined throughout the novel and the different viewpoints help keep the plot lines distinct.

Having said that, I did find some parts of the novel hard to follow. There is so much going on at some points that keeping track of who is fighting who for what reasons (very important in this story) was difficult. This is compounded slightly by In the Mouth of the the Whale turning out to be a stealth sequel to two previous books I haven't read, although this novel does stand alone.

The climax feels a little rushed compared with the careful plotting and rationed revelations of the earlier chapters, but everything comes to a conclusion fairly well and the book ends on a somewhat hopeful note considering some of the grim stuff that happened in the preceding sections. Recommended if you like this sort of thing.