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18
2.9 out of 5 stars
Newton's Wake: Novel
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 11 March 2004
Although crammed with fascinating ideas and livened by moments of humour and irony, Newton's Wake disappointed me. It is by far the weakest of his stories so far. Why? It's hard to put a finger on it. Perhaps it's because the events are episodic and disconnected in time and place. Scenes of conflict and war bubble up with little preparation or justification, seemingly just to provide some action. Perhaps it is because few characters are developed beyond charicature (Winters and Calder, the folk singers, and Higgens being notable exceptions). Perhaps it is because the societies and systems of the future are quite 'cartoon'-like. The story is also strangely lacking in visual texture and description - my overriding impression is of drab and barren moorland.
Probably, it is a combination of all of these elements, meaning that Newton's Wake is an interesting essay, and very entertaining in episodes, but fails as a story. Still, that being said, it's better than 90% of the junk of the science fiction shelves at the moment, which fail in every way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 March 2007
I brought this after being pleasantly surprised by 'Learning the World' from the same author. I wish I'd read these reviews first! MacLeod introduces and occasionally even develops some nice ideas and concepts, but never really follows through. In some respect it's rather reminiscent of Charles Stross's works, being built around the ideas and aftermath of a singularity, and is just as incomprehensible. The use of pseudo-glaswegian dialect doesn't really help, either - it's easily read, but pointless complication. After a promising start, it seems as though the author has suddenly realised he's going to go over his page limit, and from then on, everything feels rushed and compressed, or at very least lost and looking for the punchline.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 3 June 2005
Oh Ken, Ken, Ken... Your early work promised so much. You created a uniquely British, nay Scottish, politically-informed cyberpunk. I learnt more about anarchist history and ideals from reading The Star Fraction, The Stone Canal and The Cassini Division than I have before or since... You created a beautiful, diverse, realistic, Balkanised future as an antidote for the monolithic uniform utopias of Star Trek. And then you wrote The Sky Road, which was... okay. And then you wrote Cosmonaut Keep, which was actually (and i whisper it almost inaudibly) not very good. So not very good that i didn't bother getting either of the follow ups. Then you wrote Newton's Wake and i thought, Aha, a New Start (snigger). Lets give this one a go... Gah. What happened? In the early days your puns were endearing, your chapter titles revolutionary (snigger) your programming in-jokes laugh-out-loud funny. No more. Newton's Wake simply annoyed me. The characters were annoying. The obscure plot was annoying. The sodding gags were annoying. I thought you couldn't get more daft than pot-smoking aliens. You did. Bad show.
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on 11 October 2011
Usually when an author crams so many ideas into a novel, it reflects the author's bubbling imagination and scarcity of outlets. Not all these ideas have to be worked out in full, only just enough so that the reader understands the basic concepts to the ideas and their inclusion in the greater scheme of things. MacLeod has included many concepts into his novel Newton's Wake but fails in connecting the reader to his thoughts.

MacLeod has had two relatively mediocre sci-fi series and a handful of equally-as-mediocre stand-alone novels. The wide premise of Newton's Wake would lead one to believe that the book is part of a series but is actually only a stand-alone novel which feels very much like it was condensed from 740 pages to the current 370 pages. Even if the novel were to be expanded I doubt that it would be any more interesting than reading about breeding techniques of pygmy goats. I seriously have no idea how MacLeod could have produced a novel of such boredom even though it's chalked full of good ideas.

Where did MacLeod go wrong? Well, right from the start. There are too many human factions which are all equally as vague in goal and creed, including the Japanese-esque Knights of Enlightenment, the farming sect of America Offline [god-awful pun] and some other schlepping sects which hardly require more than a sentence to describe. Atop this lame cocktail of humanity is the sour cherry which is the hardest bit of it all to swallow- Winter and Calder, the reincarnated musical duo and their benefactor the dramatist Ben-Ami. Maybe MacLeod didn't know that the sci-fi sub-genre of `space opera' doesn't need to have an actual opera in it! Nor does it need incomprehensible song lyrics about the raise and fall of whatever-the-hell-the-plot-was-about.

Newton's Wake: how does the title apply to the novel? Search engine me! It gets one extra star simply because I like all of MacLeod's ideas taken by themselves. Post-Rapture humanity and the separate sects and exploration of the skein could have been taken in a better direction. How did it all go so wrong?
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on 28 January 2011
I have read a few of Ken Macleods books and I have to say that there is something with his writing that simply not working. The Book is packed full with new ideas, concepts and other interesting items that would have been fun to take part of but there is simply to many items and to few explanations. After reading more than half the book I was more confused then when I started. Arriving at the end I have to say that I had simply lost track of the story. If half of the small items were lifted out, the rest explained and with a new focus on the story the book would have been a much better product. When you write for the general public and mass market consumption you can not have as a working idea that the readers need to read the book twice in order to understand it!

Usually in a story there are a few characters that are the core of the story. The "heroes" that you follow. In this one I simply do not know who the main character was. Probably Lucinda Carlyle but I am not sure. She simply faded away in the end.

As several others have pointed out the use of "scottish" English is a very bad idea. Every time you ran into this the reading slowed down and you lost track of the story in order to understand what was written. For those of us who do not have English as our first language it is even more difficult.

I think Ken Macleod needs a mentor and a publisher that helps him take all his creative ideas and turn them into a story. Focus on the flow of the story and build interesting characters that you get to know and get engaged in. All the other things that build the story like concept, technical ideas, funny items etc must take second place to the story. Also please add a few lines of explanations to some of the concepts so at the end of the book we are still not wondering about over what these "returners", the "Skein" etc are.

But it was funny with Brezhnev!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 August 2006
This is a lighter, more humorous take on the future from Ken Macleod. While humour has always been part of his work, this seems to be his funniest, most sardonic work. Less of the incisive political commentary we are used to seeing from him, but an interesting if highly unlikely future world. So, suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride.
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on 7 July 2010
I suspected something might be up when 5 characters each with mini-biographies were listed one after another on a page. I knew something was up when they were all removed from the plot (why did I have to know about their stereotyped histories if they were just going to be written out a couple pages later?) and I gave up when the main character was captured with no emotional reaction what so ever. Better than Ron Hubbard, but only just.

Might pick it up again but suspect I'll just stick to Ian Banks who can actually write this type of SciFi. In fact that's my review: Don't read this, go read The Algebraist, it's FAR better and if you've read The Algebraist already then you'll be too bored with this to finish it.
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2005
I bought this book because Iain M Banks gave it a rave blurb. I'm sorry to say I won't be doing that again. MacLeod's future feels forced into conformity with his late 20th-century sense of humor. He's designed whole future cultures as the punchlines to 20th century jokes. Glasgow thugs in space! Ha ha ha! Wait until you hear about the multiplanetary culture that originated in the USA: they're called America Offline! Stop it, MacLeod, you're killing me!
Lacking respect for his own story, this author constantly uses his characters like hand puppets to make conspiratorial gestures at the reader: nudge nudge, wink wink, they have musicals in the future about Bush and bin Laden! Maybe some people find this kind of thing amusing; I find it boring and silly. I'm giving the book two stars instead of one because its imbecilic vision is tolerably well executed.
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on 5 March 2007
I found this book started well, but became more and more confusing and disjointed. The end was just not worth reading, and I was thoroughly irritated at the way Ken kept using 'Scottish' English, which needed to be read out aloud a few times, to be understood.

Not up to Ken's usual standard I'm afraid.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 17 March 2004
That Ken MacLeod is one of the most talented SF writers currently around is beyond doubt, but one does wish he would get a new paradym to explore.
That’s not to say this isn’t an excellent novel, it is, and compared to the other major SF novel just released (Peter Hamilton’s Pandora’s star – coincidentally also featuring wormholes as a key plot device) it’s brimming with ideas and invention. Trouble is that many of these ideas have been explored before in one form or another in Ken’s previous work. True they are given a new twist here, but the familiar mix of neo-communist politics and post-human sentinance does contribute to a feeling of deja-vu throughout the novel.
It’s an enjoyable read nevertheless, but hopefully for his next outing the writer can take a step in a different direction.
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