Top critical review
8 people found this helpful
on 5 January 2002
There is an old joke that runs as follows: - Q: What is the Golden Age of Science Fiction? A: Between thirteen and fifteen. This novel feels a bit as if it was written with that age group in mind, yet at the same time it manages to carry some fairly technical and complex political and scientific ideas as well.
This is not a great Ken MacLeod novel - but by his standards that makes it still a more than halfway decent piece of science fiction. It is Golden Age sci-fi/space opera in its main concerns (god-like ancient aliens with an apparent Erik Von Daniken complex, interstellar commerce, space drives and so forth), but also typically MacLoed in its concerns with economic and political ideologies and agendas (growth capitalism versus steady state socialism). It has echoes of his earlier novels - bit of the narrative on the planet Mingulay read like "The Sky Road", bits of the parallel narrative in the 21st century have echoes of "The Star Fraction" and "The Stone Canal". As a consequence, it feels a bit like re-treading old territory, but in other ways this is a lighter novel, less dark and complex than his first four novels, more open and accessible to the first time MacLeod reader.
The main problem, as the start of a new "sequence", is that it simply does not quite grab you the way to should. It's good, but not outstanding, inventive, but not really all that original. And, some of the characterisation, and in particular the love story sub-plots are rather on the juvenile side - catering (it seems to me) to male adolescent fantasy.
On the other hand, it throws up enough interesting puzzles (although the answers to some of them were obvious from within a few chapters) to make me want to read the next instalment. I only hope that "Dark Light" is more engaging and challenging.