This book is the sequel to The Quiet War. Having thoroughly enjoyed that book I expected great things from this novel. And I wasn't disappointed.
There's a smooth transition from the first book to the second. In fact, there are so many references to Quiet War characters, events and story lines, I can only encourage everyone to read that novel first. After all, it's an excellent book.
Once again, I found my imagination stimulated by the richly described gene-engineered gardens. Spectacular habitats created by gene wizard Avernus and Sri Hong-Owen (Sri is Avernus's biggest admirer and would-be successor). These passages endow a convincing sense of realism, no doubt greatly helped by McAuley's Botany Ph.D, research activities and lecturing experience.
Yet I'm also impressed by McAuley's ability to craft a rich collection of three-dimensional characters, high-quality dialogue and any number of fully believable scenes - whether they be on Earth, the Moon or within the gas giant systems of Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune. When combined with its great sense of pace and fast moving plot, I found the 439 pages simply whizz by.
The only low point for me was the weak penultimate chapter. It exhibited such a different voice, style and pace, I had to wonder if it was written by the same person. But it couldn't spoil my enjoyment of the book as a whole.
There are more of Paul McAuley's words at his unlikely worlds blog site.