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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The start of another epic?
First off, I really enjoyed this book. I read The Star Fraction a long time ago and got hooked on Ken Macleod, reading everything that he wrote subsequently for quite a while, but then slowly lost interest. The Star Fraction has a wonderful plot, insanely complicated politics which somehow seemed realistic, was not set too far into the future and was full of...
Published on 4 May 2007 by Diziet

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A so so sf thriller
I didn't think The Execution Channel ever quite delivered either as an sf novel or as a thriller. (Robert Harris's Fatherland is a good example of a book which does.) MacLeod doesn't exploit the intriguing possibilities of his near future (and alternate) world to the full - Kim Stanley Robinson and Stephen Baxter are just two examples of authors who, by contrast, create...
Published on 11 April 2008 by Sarah A. Brown


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The start of another epic?, 4 May 2007
By 
Diziet "I Like Toast" (Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Execution Channel (Hardcover)
First off, I really enjoyed this book. I read The Star Fraction a long time ago and got hooked on Ken Macleod, reading everything that he wrote subsequently for quite a while, but then slowly lost interest. The Star Fraction has a wonderful plot, insanely complicated politics which somehow seemed realistic, was not set too far into the future and was full of possibilities. But slowly the books that followed lost that fizz. But with The Execution Channel all that energy is back. And I'm sure more will follow.

I found it pretty difficult to get into at first; the writing seemed slightly stilted, the plot dark and rather unappealing. But it quickly picks up pace and starts to get more intricate, more engrossing and the possibilities start opening out. I can't help but compare it to The Star Fraction - in that, the main character is haunted by the legacy of his father. In The Execution Channel, there are similarities. Although the father character is there and (this time) alive and well, he still, in a sense, dominates the book, through the actions of his two adult children.

At times, it seems less a sci-fi novel and more a spy thriller, but the references to James Blish which, at first , seem totally out of place, slowly take on more relevance and importance. I won't say more as I don't want to give away the plot. Plot, ah yes, well there is one in there somewhere. But it's funny the way that several characters seem to feel responsible for what actually happens; it's funny because you get the feeling that ultimately none of them made the slightest difference. Still, somehow it's a gripping read.

One thing though - I wish it had been proof-read better.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Won an award, it did..., 6 Sep 2008
This review is from: The Execution Channel (Hardcover)
The Execution Channel is set in an alternate near future ... one where terrorism and the war against it can often mean the same thing. In the fight against terror, certain civil liberties have been lost, and states sponsor conspiracy theories ... with devastating results.

It wasn't until I was a little way through the book that I actually realised it was an alternate future. It was interesting to see that with a small change things could be completely different, but often, with a big change things stayed the same. Take Al Gore as President of the USA for example -- in The Execution Channel it was his attacking of Arab soil that led to 9/11 ... except it wasn't the Twin Towers ... and people were wishing that George Bush had become President, after all he'd had known from his father's mistakes not to attack the East, and it's inconceivable that 9/11 would have happened just out of the blue...

While those are slightly morbid musings, it was a good comment on the inevitability of certain things, but also a warning that instead of just hoping things will be different, we should try to make them different. Of course, it was also a political comment ... and there are lots of warnings in The Execution Channel, e.g. over the loss of certain human rights, and how paranoia can set special relationships into hostile beginnings of another world war.

The Execution Channel wasn't a dry rant on politics and social climates, though, even if MacLeod's anger at the injustice at what's going on presently and what will happen is clearly palpable. Far from it.

Travis, a British citizen, angry at the special relationship with the US, works under cover for the French secret service. But when something goes nuclear up in a Scottish army base -- where his daughter, Roisin, a peace protester trained in espionage by her father, just happens to be -- his cover is blown, and worse, the authorities are after her, too. She will have to flee, while around the UK, chaos ensues, as it seems that not only Al-Qaeda, but European countries, are launching their own plans, and making their own assumptions. With countries, former allies, biting at each others throats -- their own operations often ending up looking like terrorist attacks -- Roisin, Travis, Mark Dark -- the runner of a conspiracy website -- and a group of unlikely -- and too few -- allies will have to do their best to avert Armageddon.

While I thought that MacLeod managed to very convincingly create a paranoid, terrified atmosphere, and the story raced along at breakneck speed, with plenty of twists and turns, dark humour and clever comment, the ending did slightly let me down. It had been building up for such a while, all the threads in place, that when it actually happened, the explanation -- while otherwise very cool -- seemed a little out of place. It could perhaps be that my grasp of science wasn't quite up to touch, and I didn't realise the full implications of what so and so meant.

There isn't that much science in The Execution Channel, though. Just a bit, and those bits are explained fairly well. Even if Faster Than Light travel does pop up occasionally...

I really enjoyed The Execution Channel; it was clever, very subtle and absolutely riveting. Taking my minor disappointment with the ending into account, 8.5/10.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A return to top form., 2 Jun 2008
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This is MacLeod's best book since "The Cassini Division". Everything he writes is worth reading, but with the exception of "Newton's Wake" his last few books have seemed a bit staid and lacking in the real passion of his earlier work.

No-one could accuse "The Execution Channel" of being a passionless work, it's filled with righteous anger at the amoral cynicism of the War Against Terror, and the corrosive effect this has on the morality of everyday life.

There is a splendidly complex conspiratorial plot and plenty of action to speed along the storyline, and the novel finishes with a terrifically uncompromising Hard SF finale, which has enough optimism and faith in the future of humanity to wipe out the sour taste of government corruption and brutality.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 5* book with 3* ending, 22 Sep 2008
This review is from: The Execution Channel (Hardcover)
Really enjoyed this book up until final chapter.

The credibiltiy rating of the plot bubbled along throughout the book at a high level until the end. Then it went off the scale, in a -ve direction.

The ending was too "Outside Context".

Up until that point I really enjoyed this book and will definitely stick with the author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A so so sf thriller, 11 April 2008
By 
Sarah A. Brown (Cambridge) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Execution Channel (Hardcover)
I didn't think The Execution Channel ever quite delivered either as an sf novel or as a thriller. (Robert Harris's Fatherland is a good example of a book which does.) MacLeod doesn't exploit the intriguing possibilities of his near future (and alternate) world to the full - Kim Stanley Robinson and Stephen Baxter are just two examples of authors who, by contrast, create absorbing and convincing worlds which are subtly unlike our own. I wouldn't have minded this so much if the novel had functioned satisfactorily as a thriller. But the narrative wasn't well paced, the plot was tortuous - I kept on forgetting who people were partly because I wasn't sucked in enough to read it very quickly - and the ending was frankly silly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK but not vintage Macleod, 21 Nov 2009
By 
The novel starts off in cracking form as Ken Macleod builds up a credible complex dystopian world of the near future; extrapolating and extending the issues of today, terrorism climate change, world wide web together with a few original ideas of his own. The action switches between four locations and sets of characters and while it occasionally becomes a little difficult to orienteer oneself the plot drives forward and keeps one onboard.
Almost till the end that is, when unlike some of Ken Macleod's earlier novels, which while starling in the complexity of the worlds created are wonderful in that it all adds up and the end makes sense of what came before and gives one something to think about . In this case he doesn't pull it off. The plot is wrapped up rather peremptorily with a frankly over the top and decidedly unfeasible /incredible ending, as if the publishers suddenly gave Ken a couple of days to finish everything off and so he had to pull a magic rabbit out of a hat to close everything down. So much so that the book finishes with an interview with Ken, as if even the publishers realised that the ending wasn't quite enough. So it's OK but not vintage
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars MRE = Meals Read to Eat, 12 May 2007
By 
Tony P "Tony" (North East England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Execution Channel (Hardcover)
Macleod is back to the stuff that he does best - politics.

After his brilliant first book, he has been going down hill (slowly, but still down hill). This book has put him back on the top.

He does use a few too many TLAs (Tree Letter Acronyms) for my taste (hence the odd title - you'll come across MRE on the first page), but he does know his stuff (and for someone who hasn't been in the forces, his military characters aren't bad).

I felt the ending was a bit soft, but then that does seem to be his weakness.

All in all a VERY good read.

One point though, I notice that Amazon are suggesting that you buy this book and a Alastair Reynolds book. I can't think why, as I've found Reynolds work to be dreadfully disappointing.

Oh, and one last thing: don't ever try doing a handbrake turn in a Landrover. All you'll do is break half-shafts (the handbrake is really a transmission brake), you'll understand why I mention this when you read the book.

And I do recommend that you read this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very, very good, but for the ending..., 6 Sep 2008
The Execution Channel is set in an alternate near future ... one where terrorism and the war against it can often mean the same thing. In the fight against terror, certain civil liberties have been lost, and states sponsor conspiracy theories ... with devastating results.

It wasn't until I was a little way through the book that I actually realised it was an alternate future. It was interesting to see that with a small change things could be completely different, but often, with a big change things stayed the same. Take Al Gore as President of the USA for example -- in The Execution Channel it was his attacking of Arab soil that led to 9/11 ... except it wasn't the Twin Towers ... and people were wishing that George Bush had become President, after all he'd had known from his father's mistakes not to attack the East, and it's inconceivable that 9/11 would have happened just out of the blue...

While those are slightly morbid musings, it was a good comment on the inevitability of certain things, but also a warning that instead of just hoping things will be different, we should try to make them different. Of course, it was also a political comment ... and there are lots of warnings in The Execution Channel, e.g. over the loss of certain human rights, and how paranoia can set special relationships into hostile beginnings of another world war.

The Execution Channel wasn't a dry rant on politics and social climates, though, even if MacLeod's anger at the injustice at what's going on presently and what will happen is clearly palpable. Far from it.

Travis, a British citizen, angry at the special relationship with the US, works under cover for the French secret service. But when something goes nuclear up in a Scottish army base -- where his daughter, Roisin, a peace protester trained in espionage by her father, just happens to be -- his cover is blown, and worse, the authorities are after her, too. She will have to flee, while around the UK, chaos ensues, as it seems that not only Al-Qaeda, but European countries, are launching their own plans, and making their own assumptions. With countries, former allies, biting at each others throats -- their own operations often ending up looking like terrorist attacks -- Roisin, Travis, Mark Dark -- the runner of a conspiracy website -- and a group of unlikely -- and too few -- allies will have to do their best to avert Armageddon.

While I thought that MacLeod managed to very convincingly create a paranoid, terrified atmosphere, and the story raced along at breakneck speed, with plenty of twists and turns, dark humour and clever comment, the ending did slightly let me down. It had been building up for such a while, all the threads in place, that when it actually happened, the explanation -- while otherwise very cool -- seemed a little out of place. It could perhaps be that my grasp of science wasn't quite up to touch, and I didn't realise the full implications of what so and so meant.

There isn't that much science in The Execution Channel, though. Just a bit, and those bits are explained fairly well. Even if Faster Than Light travel does pop up occasionally...

I really enjoyed The Execution Channel; it was clever, very subtle and absolutely riveting. Taking my minor disappointment with the ending into account, 8.5/10.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rivetting stuff, 24 Oct 2007
This review is from: The Execution Channel (Hardcover)
I found some of his earlier works heavy going at first, but finally got into them.
This one is like a cross between his earlier works and some of the darker style of thriller of Brendan duBois. I realise from the American Amazon that some readers are disappointed, either because of the conspirancy stuff or in most cases the lack of new fangled high tech. (It all exists already with the exception of the spindizzies, and the execution channel's cat brain). For me I couldn't care less what sort of tech is involved. The story holds together and is the most important part.

Would I recommend this book?. YES!!.

Do I think it will ever make the big screen? I doubt it, since it isn't gung-ho enough, doesn't quite show the US in a good light, and doesn't have much of a 'happy ending'. But thats life I suppose. It would still be good to see a more UK centric thriller on the big screen though.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, but a bit of a paradox overall, 24 Oct 2010
By 
D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Execution Channel (Hardcover)
I've found it hard to sum up this book, and I'm slightly bothered that I can't rate it higher than 3 stars. Perhaps explaining the problem might be a way into a review...

Well, first, I really enjoyed "The Execution Channel". It was gripping, fun to read, and kept me turning the pages (and up till midnight to finish it). Nothing wrong there. The story has three layers. (1) It's an expertly told thriller, full of spooks, tradecraft and technology. (2) It's a convincing - and disturbing - near future story, set in a world where terrorist outrages have provoked a slew of wars across the Middle East and Asia, with the UK/ USA drawn into ever more dubious tactics and tensions boiling over with France and Russia. This is all troublingly credible, and the most frightening part of the book. (3) Finally, there's a science fiction twist, hinted at, but only really taking off at the very end.

The story unfolds against this triple background, told through the eyes of a bunch of spooks, a sort of Lone Gunman blogger, a team of counter-bloggers employed to sow disinformation and - the main protagonists - James Travis and his daughter Roisin. James is a French agent in the UK; Roisin is a peace activist. Both are drawn credibly and their motivations and actions convince.

Over and above the human characters is the Execution Channel itself, an almost intelligent network selecting and transmitting video of murders and executions worldwide, seemingly to inflame the conflict. This is an ingenious idea, but I don't think it was central enough or explored well enough - certainly not to have the book named after it! Yes, it plays a key role in the plot - once - but unless I'm missing something, no more than that.

However, the real reason I'm wrestling with how to judge the book concerns the ending, which is where the SF deus ex machina comes in. There is what seems set to be a blinding denouement, with layers of spooky bluff, double bluff and information stripped away over a couple of pages that have to be read and read again - reminding me of the best of le Carre, for example The Looking Glass War. However, the final revelation - while hinted at earlier in the (very well done) murky world of the bloggers - comes so far out of the blue that it reads like the ending of a completely different book.

So I'd rate it as something like 4 or 5 stars for most of the book, and 1 or 2 for the ending. Not that it's a bad ending, I think it would be a very good ending for a different book. That puts the overall rating down, but, as I said above, I wouldn't want to suggest anything other than this being excellent and a great read.
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The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod (Hardcover - 30 Jun 2007)
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