Ken Macleod

Finished Ken MacLeod’s Newton’s Wake, which I’d recommend. Unlike many of his stories, it’s self-contained in one book, although the door is open for more stories from this particular version of the future. It’s not that different from those in his other books.

Ken’s unique slant on invented futures is that the world of the 24th
century is dominated by the culture of the late 20th and early 21st,
particularly Scottish culture, particularly West of Scotland culture.
Not as in most sci-fi because it happens to resemble it in ways which
give the writer some fun and the reader something to identify with, but
because in many of his books the central characters were born between
the 50s and 70s and find their lives extended – by nanotech, by
absorbtion in artificial intelligence, or other sci-fi means – over
centuries. The chief characters of the Stone Canal start their
adventures in the beer bar of the Glasgow University Union in the
benighed 70s. Ken’s other main themes are politics – the in-fighting of
small ideological groups in particular – and computers. He really has
some fun with the latter in Newton’s Wake – the network of wormholes
that traverse the galaxy is controlled by a Glasgow gang, the Carlyles,
who drive around in heavily armoured ‘search engines’, practising their
‘combat archaeology’. Another major power bloc controlling many planets
is America Offline. Before soldiers go into battle they take backups of
themselves. (This sounds comic but some of the most fascinating and
thought-provoking passages are about death and resurrection and how
they feel.) In truth, if you’ve never tinkered with computers you might
find some of Ken’s stuff hard to follow. The crusties among us will be
delighted – or dismayed? – to discover even MS-DOS survives for
centuries as an arcane branch of alchemy!

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