Descent Paperback – 18 Nov 2014
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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)
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 BrotherSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
“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.Read more ›
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 '...Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Wonderfully good stuff as always from Ken MacLeod. Sound plot, characters you care about, quotidian Caledonian setting with the occasional peep into gigantic extraterrestrial and... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Captain Book
I really liked the glimpses this gave of next years tech. I like the dystopian present leading into a better future. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
I loved this novel! It is like an X-Files episode set in Scotland.
The near future MacLeod portrays is very believable, frighteningly so, and the lead character is a... Read more
This was the first novel I'd read by this author and I found it occasionally an oddly frustrating experience. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Benjamin Frankly
This was an interesting inverse story, with lots of twist and turns, but I am not sure if I liked the protagonist's character.Published 22 months ago by Amazon Customer
Great character definition and building. Plot is slick, moves quickly and evolves nicely. As someone who knows the cities it is set in I enjoyed the descriptions and depth of... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Stephen J Macpherson esq
THE referendum’s long past and Scottish Sci-Fi superstar Ken McLeod’s country is free at last in this latest disturbing but fun number. Read morePublished 23 months ago by J. Wise