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The Restoration Game Paperback – 7 Apr 2011
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Sly humour, deftly drawn characters and intricate plotting . . . this is a writer at the peak of his powers (SFX)
This is one of the great ironies of contemporary literature: the books that ask the deepest and most profound questions tend to be situated in the most marginalised of genres... Ken MacLeod's [novels] are works of science fiction so worryingly close to rea (SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY)
The compelling new near-future thriller from the award-winning author of THE EXECUTION CHANNEL and THE NIGHT SESSIONS.See all Product description
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Most of the book describes Lucy's (a young woman working for a games developer in Edinburgh) experiences as she is sucked into a bizarre conspiracy which combines the politics of the Caucasus (this is in 2008, the year that tension between Russia and Georgia spilled over), family history, smuggling and the CIA. This is a fast moving strand and there is a good contrast drawn between the stoically ordinary Lucy (who has, though, a dramatic past) and a strange gallery of figures (some relatives) who appear to overturn her life. I was reminded a bit of the setup of a John Buchan novel (though the politics are much further Left). Perhaps the only jarring note here is how readily Lucy agrees to drop everything and go off on a quixotic mission in Krassnia, the Caucasian republic at the centre of things. But that may be explained in the denouement (difficult to say more without giving things away). "Restoration", it turns out, is a theme throughout the book, with a number of different levels of meaning.
But this is more than an action thriller. Framing the book is a different perspective, which recurs here and there in the main narrative, not being resolved until the very end. You can then go back and read the opening section with a completely different level of understanding.
It's all very deftly done, and if this is typical of MacLeod's work, I need to do some catching up with his earlier books. I'd be grateful suggestions about where best to start!
It is, of course, well written, as you'd expect of a Ken Macleod novel. Narrated in the first person, singularly female, the story is set pretty much anywhere between Edinburgh and Auckland, but mainly happens in the small state of Krassnia, sandwiched somewhere between Georgia, Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Looking back on it, it is fairly obvious where it's going, but the tale seems to me to get a little bogged down in back-story, making it a bit hard going at times. It wasn't until half way through that the penny dropped, but that didn't stop my overall enjoyment.
It seems that what we've got here is one very powerful and interesting but not wholly original idea. And the idea does not really lend itself to a narrative. In that a story can be made of it at all is an achievement, and there are some appealing characters moving the action along, not least the heroine Lucy Stone. In the end, there is no great surprise. Still, putting that central idea into a narrative does allow Macleod to test out a few 'what if' scenarios and some of those are really fun. What if Spartacus's slave revolt had won? Would Latin still be the lingua franca? Would there be Romans on Mars?
There are several references to external events and characters - apart from Georgia and Ossetia, there are, for example, references to Slartibartfast,Lord of the Rings,Life Of Brian and many others. These, along with the possible 'alternate worlds' and the implied conspiracy theories (around an ancient tribe called the 'Vrai' - french for 'truth') give some thought-provoking perspectives on the central idea. Lucy Stone's uncertainty over who her father is, what her 'history' is, is also clearly a metaphor.
In the end, though, I'm reminded of Slartibartfast's response to Arthur Dent:
Arthur: All my life I've had this strange feeling that there's something big and sinister going on in the world.
Slartibartfast: No, that's perfectly normal paranoia. Everyone in the universe gets that.
It's a good read. Maybe not Ken Macleod's greatest, but still worth it.
"The Restoration Game" is definitely part of the second hybrid genre, and a good example of it. The central nine tenths could almost have been written by John Le Carre (which is in itself a recommendation), and it is only the top and tail that get the novel put on the SF shelves of the bookshops.
I liked the heroines, and a well-paced plot made the book a definite page-turner. It's the first Ken McLeod I have read, but I'll certainly check out some more of his stuff.
Mostly it's a good old fashioned spy story with some very modern twists. I really enjoyed it and so will you if you like your sci-fi populated with real people in real situations and not full of robots and Jedis.
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Most recent customer reviews
If you domt like his books you wont like this but I do so suits me
I've dragged myself to page of 189 of 342 waiting for something even vaguely science fiction-y to happen and have now given up.Read more
As i read this book I kept on coming up with questions:
Why the prologue...Read more