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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Meditative, moving SF, 7 Nov 2008
OxfordHacker (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Song of Time (Hardcover)
Roushana is an aging violinist, dying of a degenerative disease in her cottage on the Cornish coast. She's preparing for the end by looking through her keepsakes, mentally arranging and reassessing the memories that they summon. Also, she just found a buff, naked, amnesiac dude on the beach and he's hanging out in her house, listening to her talk and play, and cooking her food.

I know, it sounds bloody awful: the sort of tiresome novel that's all emotion and no action, beautifully told and cleverly constructed, no doubt, probably even symbolic in a somewhat nebulous fashion, but ultimately just a worthy fun-free mope towards the inevitable. Fortunately this one has a redeeming feature: the universally improving ingredient that is science fiction! Our heroine appears to have been born in about 2000 AD, she's survived a century of race riots, nuclear exchanges, killer diseases and environmental catastrophes, and she's now living in a world where dying need not be the last thing that you do. And yes, she's /also/ experienced love and loss, complicated relationships with friends and family, obsession, ecstasy and remorse. And it /is/ all meticulously put together, with vivid characterisation and evocative scene-setting. And while the framing device /does/ distance one from the action, the sense of melancholy inevitability that it imparts is entirely appropriate given the circumstances.

I'm given to understand that this is 'Literary SF', which I generally take to mean 'SF from which one could excise the SF elements without materially affecting the story'. That's not /quite/ true in this case, yet the narrative inevitably focuses on Roushana's experiences and reactions, and hence the constants of the human condition rather than the more superficial changes. Coupled with the bleakly unobtrusive plausibility of the extrapolated history, this keeps the world of the future very much in the background. While you may gather that this style is not to my usual taste, it really is a very well written book; to the extent that I genuinely enjoyed it rather than simply being forced to acknowledge that it was Good. I hope I've done it justice.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read!, 25 Jun 2009
This review is from: Song of Time (Hardcover)
This is one of the best books I've ever read. The only one I know that is better is Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. What makes it so beautiful is the deep humanity and emotional richness of the lead character Roushana. Her recollections of our future, events of the twenty first century, somewhat foreseable from today 2009, are spectacular for their realism and depth of feeling. Global warming underpins much of what unfolds. Not just extreme weather in Birmingham, floods in London, Venice disappearing under the waves, but also the impact of floods of refugees from Bangladesh and elsewhere are described as sea levels rise and monsoons fail. The nuclear war between India and Pakistan is so well described, in the international chaos that enues. The book dwells frequently on classical music and does it so well as a metaphore for the richness of the human experience. This is one of those rare books that really touches your heart. Read it!
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Song of Time
Song of Time by Ian MacLeod (Paperback - 1 Oct 2013)
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