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4.2 out of 5 stars
18
The Stone Canal: A Fall Revolution Novel (Fall Revolutions)
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on 2 January 2015
Bought because I read The Cassini Division several years ago and thought I ought to get the rest of the series. To be honest none of them so far have been as good as the 3rd book. All but book three have a lot of political 'pratting around' and frankly I just can't believe in any of his proposed future history.
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on 12 May 2015
A wild imagination with great ideas for technological innovation - but too much obsession with politics.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 March 2004
The Stone Canal is a very crisply written novel about life on, and life before, the planet New Mars, which is in a system some distance from Earth.
The story on New Mars initially concerns an android that has walked out on her owner and claimed self-determination; and a human clone, Jon Wilde, that has been brought into existence by another android for reasons as yet unknown.
The story before New Mars concerns Jon Wilde's (that is, the original Jon Wilde) life on earth and his involvement in the whole New Mars journey.
Both threads start simple, and stay simple for about 5 seconds. After that the weft becomes increasingly entwined and tangled, although never beyond understanding.
This novel is second in the sequence that began with The Star Fraction, and in terms of storyline, there is no connection. The common link is the interest in politics, power games, factions and fractions.
MacLeod has a profound understanding of the political game and of human interraction, and his enthusiam shines through his writing. In fact, The Star Fraction was more politics than sci-fi. The balance swings over towards sci-fi this time and the story is more enjoyable for it.
Where MacLeod's first novel showed promise, this, his second, shows distinct talent.
Four stars.
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on 18 March 2016
yes i am now obsessed with future anarchist worlds
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on 15 March 2016
Preferred this to Star Fraction - interesting concept and looking forward to reading the rest in the series
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VINE VOICEon 9 August 2000
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! ).
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on 29 October 2003
This is the second MacLeod book I've read, and once again he impresses me with his breadth of concepts, original ideas, depth of political insight, and rigorous plotting. Told as a dual time-line story structure, one based on the immediate continuation of our current world (with a large overlap with the time-frame of The Star Fraction), and the other as a (real time) far future colonization of a new planet, united in the person of the protagonist, Johnathan Wilde, the two story lines slowly merge into one coherent whole that provides a good explication of his entire future universe. And his universe is filled with mind-boggling societies and technologies, from self-aware robots working towards some rights in a human society, to using the resources of Jupiter to build a worm-hole whose other end is literally at the end of time and the universe, to computer entities (the 'fast folk') originally modeled on humans whose thought processes become so fast that waiting for things to happen in the physical universe becomes excruciating ennui, to a society where murder is punished by fines for the 'lost time' of the victim until he can be re-incorporated in a new body-clone.
But although this book has all these great ideas, I found I didn't like this one as much as the Star Fraction. I think one of the major reasons for this was his depiction of his far-future colony. While several great details were introduced about this society, like the 'abolitionist' movement, an anarchistic and computer aided court/legal system, a mix of robot and human territorial infrastructures, what was missing was the fact that Wilde does not actually get to 'live' in this society. Instead he spends all his time running away from or fighting his old rival Reid from Earth, and has no chance to do ordinary things on an ordinary day. This made the society too much of an intellectual exercise, and not a vibrant, breathing thing the reader could experience. This same 'distancing' effect occurs with the earlier Wilde's experiences in interacting with the 'fast folk', and the whole rivalry between Wilde and Reid seems to be at the philosophical discussion level, with the effect of their battle on the 'common folk' seen only remotely. The net effect was to leave me somewhat emotionally disconnected from this book, even though Wilde, Reid, and several other secondary characters are well drawn and potentially emotionally engaging.
In short, a book of wonderful ideas that will certainly make you scratch your head and excite your sense of wonder, but not one that will grab your heart or make you long for being born into MacLeod's world instead of your poor, mundane earthly one.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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VINE VOICEon 18 July 2000
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! ).
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on 28 October 1999
There are really two novels here -- one a gritty, futuristic picaresque straight out of the Bruce Sterling tradition (part "Schismatrix", part "Taklamakan"), and the other a down-to-Earth tale of people and ideology that owes more to Iain without-the-M Banks (think "Espedair Street" with a bit of "The Business").
The former is stronger, with some beautifully evocative description and brilliant, snappy dialogue, as well as a tongue-in-cheek yet sincere take on the anarcho-capitalism that seems to be the in thing in SF these days. The colony world of New Mars is one of the most real places I've found in SF for a while; its inhabitants are not just three-dimensional but fun to hang out with.
The latter is at its best, story-wise, when its characters are excitable 1970s undergraduates; as it follows them into the next century they seem to fade against the brightly painted background of "Snow Crash"- style nation-dismantling and Prague-style reactionary backlash. It picks up again at the end of the next century, as it jumps closer to the inevitable connection with the first storyline; there are some throwaway ideas in there as brilliant, and as surprising, as you'd find in, say, Greg Egan.
The ending isn't quite satisfying, but it's worth it for the ride -- and besides, you can always go on and read "The Cassini Division".
It's not MacLeod's best work, but it's better than the best work of a lot of authors out there. And having read some of his other stuff, I know it gets better from here.
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on 18 February 2004
After a couple of times through the Fall Revolution cycle I finally realised that Macleod isn't really a radical left winger. At least not in any traditional sense.
Far from being preaching any political ideology, these books - and Stone Canal in particular - are a fascinating study in the sociology of radical movements. The details, from the brands of beer, the incessant smoking, the black denim jackets, the badges and the jargon, are fascinating and engaging.
It is in these details that Macleod is at his strongest, not the fairly familiar SF themes of computer science, artificial intelligence and artificial life. My favourite passage in the book is where the narrator talks of 'warping space' to rescue his daughter balanced precariously at the top of a climbing frame. The story of an individual and family progressing from near to far future is powerful and moving. The scenes from the parallel story-line in Ship City are, by contrast, unconvincing.
In the endless maze of galactic empires modelled on our feudal past and onanistic ten volume fantasy nonsense, this book is the exit sign. There are few like it in the SF field today. Read it. Don't agree with it or believe it. Be provoked, and question the version of political history written by the victors.
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