8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
an interesting, if flawed work,
This review is from: The Stone Canal: A Fall Revolution Novel (Fall Revolutions) (Paperback)
Macleod's second novel (not his debut!) is an interesting, if flawed work. Spanning time from the 1970's to some indefinite point in the far future, it follows the life of Jonathan Wilde, an incidental character from the "Star Fraction" through the revolutions, wars, and turmoils that formed the historical backdrop to that novel. Like "The Sky Ships" it also starts with the same group of seventies students in a Glasgow pub discussing anarchism. It ends with a bridge into the "Cassini Division", and as such is the real link between Macleod's first and later novels.
Wilde is a character reminiscent of Abelard Lindsey in Bruce Sterling's "Schismatrix". Like Lindsey he survives through political and social upheaval, inadvertently influencing many followers who come to view him as a libertarian anarchist messiah. However, there the resemblance stops. Where Sterling's novel is a complex analysis of a bewildering array of metaphysical concepts, with a cosmological climax, "The Stone Canal" is more prosaic and parochial, but none the worse for that.
There are some sophisticated political and scientific ideas being bandied around - from free market anarchism al la extreme Thatchersim, worker's stateism and British Republicanism, to wormholes, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence. Cyberpunk with a very British feel. However, the novel falls apart when what appears to be the main narrative falls by the wayside to Wilde's reminiscences of his life, and leaving the characters that were emerging as central to play only a minor role in an apparently rushed dénouement.
That said, MacLeod is a very promising author - this book has masses of ideas, almost casually dropped in as asides, which lesser authors would have made the basis of a whole novel! In this way he is much like Iain Banks, but he lacks his old friend's characterisation skills, and dark plotlines. However, he plays with social and technological idea in way that Banks never could - one can only wonder what kind of novel they could write if they came together! In time I would not be surprised to see MacLeod become a major SF writer.
All in all an interesting novel, and an essential read to anyone who has enjoyed his other novels (although I would heartily recommend reading them in the order in which they were written if you ever hope to make sense of it all! ).