Usually when an author crams so many ideas into a novel, it reflects the author's bubbling imagination and scarcity of outlets. Not all these ideas have to be worked out in full, only just enough so that the reader understands the basic concepts to the ideas and their inclusion in the greater scheme of things. MacLeod has included many concepts into his novel Newton's Wake but fails in connecting the reader to his thoughts.
MacLeod has had two relatively mediocre sci-fi series and a handful of equally-as-mediocre stand-alone novels. The wide premise of Newton's Wake would lead one to believe that the book is part of a series but is actually only a stand-alone novel which feels very much like it was condensed from 740 pages to the current 370 pages. Even if the novel were to be expanded I doubt that it would be any more interesting than reading about breeding techniques of pygmy goats. I seriously have no idea how MacLeod could have produced a novel of such boredom even though it's chalked full of good ideas.
Where did MacLeod go wrong? Well, right from the start. There are too many human factions which are all equally as vague in goal and creed, including the Japanese-esque Knights of Enlightenment, the farming sect of America Offline [god-awful pun] and some other schlepping sects which hardly require more than a sentence to describe. Atop this lame cocktail of humanity is the sour cherry which is the hardest bit of it all to swallow- Winter and Calder, the reincarnated musical duo and their benefactor the dramatist Ben-Ami. Maybe MacLeod didn't know that the sci-fi sub-genre of `space opera' doesn't need to have an actual opera in it! Nor does it need incomprehensible song lyrics about the raise and fall of whatever-the-hell-the-plot-was-about.
Newton's Wake: how does the title apply to the novel? Search engine me! It gets one extra star simply because I like all of MacLeod's ideas taken by themselves. Post-Rapture humanity and the separate sects and exploration of the skein could have been taken in a better direction. How did it all go so wrong?