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Evening's Empires Review

Review: Evening's Empires / Author: Paul McAuley / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: Out Now

Paul McAuley has established himself in recent years as one of the doyens of hard SF, and his latest book confirms that reputation. Its hero, Hari, is the scion of a family of space age scrap merchants. At the start of the novel, their ship, the Pajubi's Gift, had been hijacked and Hari, who has escaped and is a hunted man, is stranded on a lifeless asteroid. If he has any hope of winning his ship and the surviving members of his family back, he must get to civilisation, and his one bargaining chip is the severed head of a cyborg philosopher whose files might reveal the true meaning of the Bright Moment, a strange energy pulse that has passed through the universe, causing controversy and strange awakenings...

From the first page onwards, this is a tense, gripping, cinematically vivid read. Narrow escapes; dodgy spacecraft prone to falling to pieces; various trading towns and off-world city states, some Byzantine and Machiavellian, others just downright shady – these all figure in Hari's quest, and there's a nice mix of intrigue, plotting, detective work and gunplay. Hari himself, sadly, is a bit of a cipher, but he soon acquires a couple of interesting comrades in arms – namely, Rav, a wheeler-dealer with leather wings and a streak of obsessive paranoia, and Riyya, the daughter of a murdered scientist. The whole thing is wrapped in a melange of weird cultures and mind-boggling tech and steeped in a thoughtful and intelligent vision of the future, but, unlike some of his peers, McAuley delivers a tight-knit, propulsive storyline too. Grown-up SF that still manages to pack a punch.

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