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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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I'd never read any of Ken MacLeod's books before so wasn't sure what to expect (and I don't know if this one is typical). But I did find it absorbing, thought provoking and entertaining. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but it consists of two greatly contrasting elements - one might say universes. Precisely how they are linked,what is real, and what isn't, is hinted at but not made clear until the end (and I'm not sure even then if you can be completely sure).

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!
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on 8 July 2010
What an odd book. It starts at the end, takes a large number of detours, a few history lessons and then ends, Russian doll-like, back at the 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.
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on 11 December 2012
I suppose it is a sign of the increasing respectability of science fiction amongst literary circles, but there appear to be two new hybrid genres springing up: "serious mainstream/SF" and "thriller/SF", where the cores of the books aren't really SF at all, but they are set in a near-future with a veneer of speculative science. And they are generally pretty enjoyable. A lot of thanks has to go to Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood for essentially inventing the first hybrid, and to Iain (M) Banks for additional respectability, even though he doesn't hybridise.

"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.
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on 24 April 2012
I really didn't know what to expect from this book. I am a great fan of Ken MacLeod - he manages to write sci-fi in a way that does not get bogged down in too much detail. He does not have to describe/justify every leap of belief, just states it and you go with it. This story is set in the very near future, the distant future and ... at the risk of giving a little bit of the game away ... somewhere else.
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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on 4 July 2011
I have avidly read all of Ken Macleod's books, and was looking forward to this one greatly. The book is set in the near future and the protagonist Lucy Stone is a likable young woman with an interest in technology and a rather unusual upbringing.

There is a lot of rather complicated soviet era politics in the book, and in that it reminded me of The Star Fraction the start of Ken Macleod's unmissable Fall Revolutions Series. There is a bit of video game development, a bit of romance, and quite a lot of conspiracy.

The book's central idea is one that I found extremely thought provoking. I had to read the start and the end of the book twice before it all made sense!

I'm hoping very much Ken Macleod will use it as an opener for a new series of books tilting off into the future, which will allow him to open the ideas tap even wider.
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on 15 May 2011
This is a book about conspiracies, one which of which seems to involve me. I bought this novel in the Edinburgh SF bookshop, 'Transreal', mentioned in this novel. All of of the novel's locations in Edinburgh and New Zealand I have been to. This congruence slightly spooked me.

After an opening scene set on Mars in what appears to be a 'shooter' style computer game we are introduced to Lucy Stone, who is meeting her boyfriend at Auckland airport when she is paged that he has been 'delayed'. She knows that this is a euphemism for kidnapped. Over generations, the secret of the 'Vrai', a semi-mythical race inhabiting 'Krassnia', an erst-while Soviet republic, now the scene of a clash over oil, has been kept in Lucy's family. But this current spat has roots going way back into Russian history. Its current and past participants go right to the top in both Russia and the West.

This novel essentially re-interprets Russian and Soviet history around what is on one level an intra-family spat but which reaches out into wider and wider circles, all around conspiracies centred around the legend of the Vrai. Lucy gets drawn in initially when the computer game company she works for is given a contract to create a game around the Vrai legend. Her knowledge of Krassnia and its mythology is invaluable but draws her into plots which may involve other family members, for example her 'real' father.

While well-plotted, with a nice balance of humour and serious spy stuff, and lots to say about Soviet/Communist politics, the final twist is a little cliched. But I certainly enjoyed the ride, especially as so much of it was familiar.
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VINE VOICEon 2 February 2013
This is my fifth Ken Macleod, his early books had great ideas, but the writing and plotting didn't always live up to them. However, I greatly enjoyed The Night Sessions: A Novel so gave this a go. Where The Night Sessions mixed detective and SF, this one takes us into the realms of the political thriller and post soviet politics. In fact for a while it's not clear whether this is an SF novel at all.

Other reviews will give synopsis of the plot, what I'd say is it is well written, with well drawn characters, but dips a bit in the middle. At times there is also a bit too much exposition - there is a lot to explain. But on the whole it's engaging and the ending satisfying, an enjoyable read.
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on 22 May 2011
I won't fill in the details of the narrative as many others have already done this.

As i read this book I kept on coming up with questions:

Why the prologue on Mars and then the abrupt shift? Why all the attention on history, particularly the cold war, Russia and spying? Why does it feel as if the main sci-fi element is only incidental?

In fact most of the book feels more like a spy thriller than a sci-fi novel.

However, all is not as it seems....

Ken Macleod has written an entertaining novel that keeps you reading. As the main mysteries are nominally solved there is still the feeling of more going on.

This is because Ken MacLeod goes well beyond the sci-fi tropes he is using. Beyond the fun metaphysical speculation he is also saying something deeply serious about the state of our world today and our potential.

This ability of his to use standard sci-fi concepts to speak directly about our societies, where we've come from and where we might get to is really exhilarating and the mark of true mastery of the medium.

Don't think you've figured out The Restoration Game until you've read the last word. Then sit down and think a bit about it. It's an enriching experience.

Thanks Ken!
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on 5 August 2010
Ken MacLeod has produced a novel which incorporates post communist era turmoil in Eastern Europe; communist era intrigue, spying and oppression; revolution organisation; computer gaming; and Edinburgh.

I really enjoyed this book and was constantly fascinated by the plot twists and turns. The characters were excellently drawn and the riot scenes were realistic, as were the feelings and actions of people caught up on the fringes of the violence.

A really worthwhile read.

The Restoration Game continues Ken MacLeod's trend towards writing more "near future" tales where the policital environment is credible as something that could emerge in not too many years from now and the technology in common use is not significantly advanced to what exists today. (See "Execution Channel" and "Night Sessions".)

My problem now is the wait for Ken MacLeod's next novel.
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on 20 August 2013
I found this story gripping throughout, but ultimately disappointing. The first chapter gives away the entire science fictional basis for the tale, and the rest of it reads rather like a cold war thriller. Whilst it was very interesting to learn about Lucy Stone and her ancestry, I was much more interested in the "Krassnian Truth" and its obvious relationship to the first chapter. The info dumps on transcaucasion politics and history were also interesting , if laborious to read, but certain things jarred. What the hell was a "leatherman juice" for example? I had to google it. Gratuitious product placement in sci fi stories really gets on my nerves, particularly when unexplained. I dont even recall if she actually used the thing.

But anyway.

The story cracks on and she discovers her true parentage and gets zapped by an orbital kinetic weapon - splendid! Things finally get exciting, but just when you think its about to really kick off, its finished! She gets a quick visit from the higher whatsit, a brief explanation and thats it. Phut. Not the kind of damp squib I would expect from the brilliant Ken Macleod.
The sci fi premise of this story was done far better by Daniel F Galouye in Simulacron 3.
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