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Descent Paperback – 18 Nov 2014

4.0 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (18 Nov. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841499420
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841499420
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 89,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Descent is politically engaged, brimming with smart ideas and shot through with a mordant wit. The novel is dedicated to the memory of MacLeod's friend Iain M. Banks, and one feels that the future of Scottish SF is in good hands. (James Lovegrove The Financial Times)

Book Description

Ken MacLeod, author of 2013 Arthur C. Clarke Award-nominated Intrusion, tells a science fiction story for the twenty-first century - this is what happens when conspiracy theorists meet Big Brother

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By D. Harris TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 16 April 2014
Format: Hardcover
I was looking for ward to this book, although with slight concern – Ken MacLeod’s last book, Intrusion, was so good that it was hard to see how he could match it.

“Descent” has at its centre Ryan Sinclair, who has a strange encounter as a boy and is never the same again. Or, who didn’t have a strange encounter, and was never the same again. Because there is room for doubt, and out of the doubt grows the change in Ryan. The book spins layer upon layer of delicious, nested, inside-out alternate theories, each of which relies on the previous one as a cover.

Besides the central motif (what did Ryan and his friend see on that hill?) the device is echoed in subplots (or are they part of the main mystery? It’s never clear). Revolutionary agitators joining the business world and ending up fronting for a right wing security apparatus... or are they? Genetic divisions in the human race going back to the Ice Age which may also conceal stranger truths (but the evidence rests on an ancient book which may or may not be genuine). It all nests and intertwines until you don't know what to trust.

And besides that, there’s Ryan’s stormy personal life and his growing up, his finding a place in the world. The story is driven as much by that as by what happened (or didn’t happen) at the start, and he ends up a desperate figure, using the new 21st century surveillance, available to all, to spy on his ex-girlfriend. He is at rock bottom, and needs to find his way to the truth - or to some truth - to climb up again - descending and then ascending.

MacLeod’s portrayal of a credible, near-future world is one of this book’s great strengths – his development of this proceeds from book to book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ken MacLeod has delivered another interesting near-future adventure that touches on political and ethical issues of today in a “fictional” world. Issues included relate to the surveillance environment made possible by technology, the role of journalism, and the complexities of personal relationships. As always, Ken’s fictional world is very credible and his characters’ actions plausible.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is no Conspiracy. But there are plenty of conspiracies. Starting out almost like Famous Five meets E.T. by way of The X-Files and early Star Trek, Ryan Sinclair ('Sinky') and his mainly best pal Calum ('Duke') have a strange (but classic) UFO type experience, up on the hills above Greenock.

The ramifications of this play out over the following years as they grow up, go to university, meet Sophie and Gabrielle, get jobs and live lives. All set against a backdrop of a society in seemingly mild but chronic disarray, of the 'Big Deal' (international nationalisation of all banks), low-tech revolutionaries in running shoes and top-secret avionics companies. Their lives become entwined and complicated by visits from occasional Men in Black, secret evidence of 'genetic speciation' and references to Neanderthalers, all mixed in with a bit of marital intrigue.

Set slightly in the future; as the time goes by the growing ubiquity of drones (both state and commercial), smart phones and tablets plus the economic and political upheavals, the world portrayed becomes, in a realistically messy sort of way, a hotchpotch of state and commercial surveillance, always 'connected', always watching, but always watched too. Typically, in such a transparent world, there is the feeling that perhaps everything is not as visible and open as it outwardly appears to be.

It starts with a dream and ends with one too. Along the way, themes that have already come up in Ken MacLeod's books make re-appearances. The idea that we effectively have a kind of socialism, all we have to do is recognise the fact (which he wrote about in '
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Strong characterisation and a coy investigation / satire of the idea of conspiracy theorizing are the books main strengths. The strong characterisation is a big attraction because so much scifi doesn't have it. The main character is not one of the world's most appealing but this makes him all the more compelling. The book maintains a mystery until almost the conclusion of what really is going on here, but again I think this kept you turning the pages. I think some plot clarity got lost in the final third. Overall I enjoy the themes of speciation and I think MacLeod is one of the smartest and least generic of current SF writers.
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By P. G. Harris VINE VOICE on 19 Aug. 2014
Format: Hardcover
I find Ken Macleod to be something of an inconsistent writer. When I first read the Fall Revolution novels they blew me away, with their mixture of hard science fiction and a very Scottish combination of politics and wry cynical humour. The Engines of Light series, on the other hand, did nothing for me, I just found it a bit dull. The Night Sessions I found to be a curate's egg in the true meaning of the phrase, basically bad, but with some good bits.

The good news is that descent is definitely at the Fall Revolution end of the range. It is set in Scotland (where else) in the very near future, and tells the story of a young man, Ryan, between his late teenage, and becoming a father in his late twenties.

Bunking off from exam revision, Ryan, and friend Callum walk up a nearby hill where they have a close encounter with a mysterious flying object which leaves them unconscious for several hours. This is the cue for Macleod and the reader to have tremendous fun as conspiracy theories, apparent alien abductions , and X-files plot lines twist around each other in what is basically a political and economic thriller. Add in neanderthal bloodlines, the ongoing evolution if the human race, and mysterious bibles which seem to describe extraterrestrial life and you get some idea of the intricacy of the plot.

Of course his sadly departed fellow scot is a clear reference point, but while this is a science fiction novel, it is probably closer to the works of Iain Banks, without the "M", being as it is a very male coming of age story. Indeed, Macleod could be accused of lifting the Prentice/Ash love story from the Crow Road. That isn't a problem as Banks himself stole it from David Copperfield.

Overall, this is just great fun. It is one of those novels where it is easy to believe one can sense the novelist enjoying himself, and that sense of enjoyment was certainly passed on to this reader.
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