I recently took a long hiatus from reading. Things tend to get in the way of pursuits of passion…typically work. When it was time to pick up another fiction book I scanned my sagging shelves and decided I wanted something new and fresh that I hadn’t looked at every time I walked in to my office. A book by an author I’d never experienced before. A standalone book that didn’t involve the investment of months to wade through ten volumes for a payoff. Off to the bookstore we went. After browsing for about 30 minutes I decided on Newton’s Wake: A Space Opera by Ken MacLeod.
MacLeod is often mentioned in hard scifi and/or space opera circles and an author in high regard. All the propaganda on the cover indicated it would be right up my alley…wrong. Maybe I’ve just become jade from reading speculative fiction for decades that I have an ingrained (and warped) perception of what I expect to get out of a book. Perhaps I go in with inflated expectations and often turn the final page to a feeling of disappointment. I’m not sure, but I’ve waded through a spate of books recently that have left me a bit cold.
There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the Newton’s Wake other than I didn’t find it was “stylish, witty, and engaging” as claimed on the front cover. MacLeod sprinkled contemporary satire throughout, mostly at the expense of AOL, Microsoft, and Napster (among others) that really had no place in a serious scifi (even a space opera) novel. Call me a purist but when I read an escapist book I don’t like my mental vacation being interrupted by spurious contemporary references. That reminds of reading Timoth Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy back in the day when he made a reference to hot chocolate…but that’s another story for another day.
“MacLeod sprinkled contemporary satire mostly at the expense of AOL, Microsoft, and Napster that really has no place in a space opera.”
Newton’s Wake had its moments. I particularly liked the storyline that involved Carlyle going after the ancient quantum teleportation device, her ultimate death, and the resurrection of her downloaded persona. The storyline that had to do with Winter and Calder made me want to skip those entire sections. He handled the concept of persona downloads and resurrection correctly as opposed to most science fiction writers, so I give him credit for that.
The overall story had promise, but the pieces were too jumbled to salvage the whole.
The unfortunate result of picking up this book is that I have no real interest to delve in to more Ken MacLeod offerings at this time. I know many fans rave about his works, but Newton’s Wake was a miss for me.
It probably didn’t help that I was reading three books at the same time.
Newton’s Wake by Ken Macleod
Genre: Science Fiction/Space Opera
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