Monday, April 04, 2005

Paul McAuley: White Devils

Paul McAuley is a writer whose work I found by the simple expedient of wandering round my local public library and trying to find something that looked interesting; and White Devils certainly is interesting.

The book is science fiction: perhaps a techno-thriller, though precise I cannot be, because I don't go in for defining genres in any more detail than crime, romance, et cetera, though I believe true fans do. In any event, this one is set in the future: the author doesn't tell us exactly when, but various references to earlier events suggest that the date is somewhere between 2040 and 2050.

White Devils, once it gets going, turns out to be a man of integrity takes on big business type of thing. It's set in a ruined Africa, where corruption of all sorts reigns supreme. And it's long: 521 pages.

Let's deal with a few shortcomings first. In the first few chapters there is too much authorial recounting of backstory for my taste. The dialogue is distinctly clunky in places, with characters telling each other stuff that they mostly already know, but which the reader also needs to know. And there are too many characters to begin with.

Now the virtues. The author seems to know his science -- he has worked as a researcher at various universities -- and he is able to make his vision of the future convincing (at least to me). He describes violent action extremely well. All in all he had no problem in holding me to the page; and I am far from being one of those who goes on reading out of a sense of duty.

In short, the book is thoroughly recommended if, in principle, you are open to that sort of thing. And I am not the only person who thinks so: White Devils has been widely reviewed, and highly praised.

On investigation, McAuley turns out to have been around for quite some time. He has written lots of other novels and many short stories. He has also won several prestigious prizes in the field of SF, or scifi, or whatever the approved shorthand term is. I can't keep up with these things, I'm afraid.

Incidentally -- and this is one of those serendipitous little snippets that you find out when you start looking up an author and his books and publishers and things -- McAuley has a book of short stories out. Its title is Little Machines, and it's published by an outfit called PS Publishing. And the thing that made me gulp a bit was that Little Machines is available in two formats: slipcased hardcover at £60/$90, and plain old hardcover at £35/$50. And editions like these apparently sell out fairly quickly.

Hmm. There must be more dedicated fans of this type of thing than I had realised.

Meanwhile the PS Publishing site is a useful resource if you are looking for more of McAuley's kind of book.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great a few reviews after reading "Cowboy angels" which was a great read so went looking for more...the precis of White devils sounded quite convulated and maybe a touch of early J Ballard so i was both intrigued and put off at the same time..however this reviewer has set me straight with his lack of guff and cut to the chase observations and so I will read this book. Thank you.