Gollancz, 2008, 439p.
Set in a time well after what is called The Overturn when global warming and other environmental disasters devastated Earth, humanity has spread through the Solar System with settlements on the Jovian and Saturnian moons large and small – even as far out as Neptune. A previous war has destroyed the Mars colony. On Earth the main political entities are Greater Brazil (which encompasses North America,) the European Union, the Pacific Community and a Chinese state. The citizens of the outer Solar System regard themselves as bastions of freedom and all Earth states as repressive. Genetic alterations known as cuts allow all sorts of bodily modifications.
The laying out of all this involves a lot of dry backgrounding and the story takes a long time to get going. Our main protagonists are Macy Minnot, who is forced into becoming a refugee from Great Brazil, Loc Ifrahim, a diplomat who is fixated on capturing her, and Sri Hong-Owen, a gene wizard who is seeking out the best in her trade, Avernus, on one of the planetary moons.
A quiet war might be thought of as one which involves little or no deaths, interfering with computer systems and such, disrupting the control mechanisms of utilities etc. We do get some of that and also the political ramifications on how a perceived threat can be parlayed into a restriction on civil liberties; an aside on recent events in our own time perhaps.
Of course the moon habitats are inherently fragile. The war when it finally arrives at around page 300 is therefore less than quiet. The focus in The Quiet War is on the politics and the various habitats McAuley describes so lovingly.
Non-review aside:- McAuley’s time as a research biologist at St Andrews University has not gone to waste. He deploys the wonderful Scottish word scunner at one point. He does though imply that the intermolecular attraction that holds water molecules in a solid array in ice occurs between hydrogen atoms. What is known as a hydrogen bond is in fact an attraction between a hydrogen atom in one molecule and an oxygen atom in a separate molecule. (Hydrogen atoms can form similar attractions to nitrogen atoms and fluorine atoms – of which of course there are none in water.) The possibilities of these attractions multiply with the number of molecules.