Evening's Empires by Paul McAuley

8/10 Not just a space opera, also it is about families, companionship and the past.

In the far future, a young man stands on a barren asteroid. His ship has been stolen, his family kidnapped or worse, and all he has on his side is a semi-intelligent spacesuit. The only member of the crew to escape, Hari has barely been off his ship before. It was his birthplace, his home and his future.

He's going to get it back.

McAuley's latest novel is set in the same far-flung future as his last few novels (The Quiet War, Gardens of the Sun, In the Mouth of the Whale), but this time he takes on a much more personal story.

This is a tale of revenge, of murder and morality, of growing up and discovering the world around you. Throughout the novel we follow Hari's viewpoint, and as he unravels the mysteries that led to his stranding, we discover them alongside him. But throughout his journeys, Hari must always bear one thing in mind. Nobody is to be trusted.

This is cerebral, imaginative and ambitious. Author Paul McAuley has built fantastic worlds, with impressive geology and eco systems. His focus is not just on exotic planets, but also beaten up old space stations and desolate wastelands. None of this would grip by itself, so it is also a bonus that at its heart, Evening’s Empires has a mystery for its hero, Hari to solve. He must go on an intergalactic ‘walkabout’ to unlock the secrets of his family’s past, to better understand himself and his current predicament.

This is full of high drama and interesting locations and set pieces, yet I did feel a little detached from many of the characters. They walk in and out of the plot and introduce new problems or situations for Hari to escape from or solve, but they were not as fleshed out as they perhaps could have been. That said I really enjoyed the journey, following Hari’s progress as he navigated his way through the minefield.

Clearly McAuley is a very skilled writer, and here he has constructed an interesting and original universe, so fans of this genre will not be left disappointed. This is not just a space opera, but also it’s about families, companionship and the past’s influence on the present. McAuley proves that you do not need epic space battles to make an exciting and gripping sci-fi story.

Evening’s Empires by Paul McAuley
Published 2013 by Gollancz
ISBN: 978-0575100787

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