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The Light Ages [Hardcover]

Ian R. MacLeod
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Jun 2003
Come to Britain in an Industrial Revolution powered by Magic! Aether rules the world. Aether runs the engines, the telegraphs, the very lights of London. Through spells and aether, England has created a mighty Industrial Revolution. In that world, Robert Borrows is insignificant, yet his past holds the truth of the world's future...Growing up in the Yorkshire town of Bracebridge, a town dominated by the mighty aether mines and engines, Robert sees the way in which proximity to aether can poison a life when his mother gradually becomes the thing all families dread - a changeling, less than human, awful to see. Running away to London, Robbie encounters Anna Winters, who he first met on a trip with his mother in happier times. Mercurial and mysterious, Anna becomes his fata morgana. Exploring the Brobdignian city, all colours, smells and danger, Robbie comes into contact with myriad social classes and types, and people who take him back to Bracebridge and the mysteries of aether. This Age is ending, in fire and death...World Fantasy Award-winner Ian R MacLeod creates an England that is recognisable yet entirely different in this massive novel of an Industrial Revolution fuelled by m

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Earthlight; First Edition edition (2 Jun 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743462424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743462426
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.4 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,287,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Magical, visionary and enthralling, THE LIGHT AGES is award-winning stuff" -- SFX Magazine

About the Author

Since 1990, Ian R MacLeod has sold about thirty short stories to most of the main SF markets, including Fantasy and SF, Amazing, Interzone, Asimov's, Weird Tales, Pulphouse, Pirate Writings, etc. along with a few articles and poems, many of which have been repeatedly anthologised. His first sale, 1/72nd Scale, was nominated for the Nebula Award for the year's best novella. He also sold separate stories to the Year's Best SF, Fantasy and Horror in his first full year of being published. Since then, he has continued to make almost annual appearances in the Year's Best SF, and about every other year in the Best Horror. He has also been nominated for the British Science Fiction Association Award, and the James Tiptree Award. His work has been translated into many languages, including Italian, French, Japanese, Polish and German. His alternative history novella entitled The Summer Isles won the World Fantasy Award. He lives in Birmingham with his wife and daughter.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All-time classic 28 July 2004
By A Customer
Having written brilliant shorter fiction, Ian R MacLeod really comes of age in this massive novel which mixes Dickens and Peake. The author's intelligence can't have been in question for anyone who has read his work over the years. His ability to create characters and plotlines which work at book-length - and above all a wonderful, awe-ful, fascinating world - are now beyond question. From the lords and ladies to the Poor Bloody Infantry of this skewed Victorian Britain, MacLeod has birthed a list of magnificent characters. The all-pervading influence of Aether insinuates its way through every page.
A masterpiece.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
While there's fantasy in this alternative English history, the fantasy is more instructive than entertaining. The story remains dead serious and delves deeper into the motivations of society than sheer realism reveals.
We are told the life and times of Robert Borrows, an Englishman in a Victorian age which is influenced by a dark magic. It takes him from childhood as he first rebels against the society he's born into and then as an adult against the basic society. We're given the full story of his revolution and face essential questions which involve the issue of just what the revolutionary is truly revolting against and of the inevitable consequences of such revolt.
The story-telling is highly evocative and set against a darkly surrealistic backdrop. Idealism is portrayed along with the traps that go with this idealism. Obsession is looked at and dissected.
This novel isn't for Jordan and Tolkien fans, at least not for those unwilling to look deeply enough to see what is real at the bottom of the fantasy.
A key point to understanding this book is the protagonist's discovery that his lifetime adversary is merely human and that this discovery is somehow a disappointment. Then comes the question as to just who is the true adversary.
This is not a book for fast reading, but more of one to allow oneself to become absorbed in.
Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Light Ages makes for some heavy reading 5 July 2003
Ian R. MacLeod is most definitely a talented writer capable of making his words dance across the written page, but I have to admit I found The Light Ages a slow, sometimes frustrating read. The actual events and experiences driving the story are disjointed, and while the highly literate prose ebbs and flows at times like a beauty of nature, it proves incapable of assembling the whole into something completely intelligible. This is fantasy of a high order that many readers will surely enjoy more than I did, and any question of MacLeod's talent can be easily swept aside by noting the World Fantasy Award he won for his novella The Summer Isles. As this is MacLeod's first novel, though, I personally cannot help but wonder if he tried too hard to reach a lofty pinnacle of success. The words, as beautiful and carefully crafted as they are, just seem to get in the way of the story at times. There are several quite compelling scenes, but these inevitably fall away into a sort of miasma not unlike the alternative London MacLeod constructed for his novel.
The primary backdrop of The Light Ages is a future London wherein a Dickensian sort of social order has prevailed for a full three centuries, fueled by the discovery of aether, a magical substance that is mined from the earth. Industrialization failed to progress, to a large degree, because aether and the spells guarded zealously by the guilds could magically make inferior items, including those making up the industrial infrastructure of society, perfectly workable. On their own, such structures as the low-quality train tracks and flimsily-constructed buildings could never stand, but aether kept everything in working order.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An impressive, readable parallel history fantasy 28 Jan 2005
The Light Ages is excellent, highly recommended, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page. It's a fantasy novel with a twist, set in a technologically advanced Victorian era where the wheels of industry are fueled by magic. Our working class hero comes from the grimly cliched North of England where the miracle-working fuel Aether is mined, and grows up to mix with the London based upper class whose fortunes are made by exploiting the need for the magical energy to flow. The writing has a period flavour which suits the material, and the characters and their world are fully enough fleshed and detailed to satisfy the imagination and hold your attention.
There is something for everyone here. There is a nuts and bolts science fiction premise, there are two love stories, secret lives, conspiracies, witches and mutants. Fantasy fans will find enough more than enough romance and magic to satisfy. If you don't like fantasy, the cod-scientific logic of Aether power puts this on the borders of steam-punk. If you don't normally like period drama, this is the prose equivalent of Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, something that puts the rule to proof.
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