This is a superb book. (I actually read its sequel, Castles Made of Sand, first, as it was in our local library; read that in one sitting and went out and bought this the next day.) It's set in a recognisably near-future England, where devolution for Scotalnd and Wales is just about to become independence, anti-capitalists and the lunatic fringe of the environmental movement have grown from a minor nuisance to a serious threat to society, and a government even more devoted to focus groups than Tony Blair has decided that the best way to tackle the problem is to instigate a Counter-Cultural Think Tank to give it street cred. Add to this a double-cross which leaves most of the said Think Tank dead, and an armed uprising by Islamic militants in Yorkshire, and you have all the ingredients of a total social collapse - which Ax Preston, brilliant guitarist and committed, driven social idealist ("I don't want to be a politician, I want to be a leader") is determined to avoid. His allies are rock stars, his methods range from a small shooting war through rock festivals to religious conversion, and the whole thing is played out over some of the most historically resonant bits of the English landscape.
The real strengths of the book are the writing, which is magnificent, and the characterisation of the three principal actors, Ax, Fiorinda and Sage Pender, which is deep, subtle and brilliantly drawn. (Though I do think the portait of Ax the strategist - super-competent, driven, frighteningly prepared to sacrifice anything for the greater good - needs the balance that we get with Ax the lover (decidedly more human, actually *making mistakes*) in Castles.) The evocation of England - people, history, landscape and myth - is also beautifully done. Having been raised in Scotland, I was suitably flattered that my adopted country copes much better with Jones' set of future disasters than England does - but in all honesty I think that's a literary device to keep the focus tight.
Okay, so I do have a few quibbles, mainly with the basic scene-set, which seems curiously old-fashioned: I'm not convinced that rock music has the sort of high profile these days that it has to have for Bold As Love to work, and would a techno-wizard whose performance consists of computer imagery, a seriously acrobatic stage act, and "vile noises" really idolise - and take his stage name from - the Grateful Dead? And comment, not criticism: for a Clarke award winner, this has a rather tangential relationship with science fiction (if Iain Banks had written it, I think it would have been a black-and-white-cover and no middle initial job).
Summary: good plot, fine writing, engaging characters. I've put a few hatchet-job reviews on this site: it's nice to be able to redress the balance with a wholehearted recommendation!