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Ken MacLeod – Newton's WakeFrom the uncharted depths of my reading pile comes Newton's Wake, a stand-alone novel by Ken MacLeod, featuring Glasgow gangsters, a number of post-singularity civilisations, Combat Archaeologists (focus on the first part for a picture of what they do), resurrected 21st Century Folk Singers, and rather unusual answers to questions around 'reality', 'identity', 'memory', and the reasons for not joining the Raptured uploads ...


Ken McLeod is a Scottish SF writer, with, as this is written, 13 Novels and some collections to his name – his latest book, 'Intrusion', has been out since March 2012, with the paperback edition expected next January. And yes, I'm planning to get round to that one, too...


Newton's Wake plays in a world, nay, a Universe, after the 'Hard Rapture' (somebody mentions the 2040s for that – something to look forward to!), a military-driven singularity which took its operators, scientists, and the most of the rest of the 'wired' world with it. What's left are the new civilisations – America Offline (top pun!) who escaped the Hard Rapture for being non-wired technology luddites; the Knights of Enlightenment (Japanese hands-off technology fetishists); DK (essentially the remains of North Korea). And the Carlyles, who control the Skein, the network of wormholes connecting the known Universe.

But now Eurydice, a world populated by a group who ran when the Rapture began, has been discovered; including a huge, potentially Alien artefact full of war machines. Who activate when Lucinda Carlyle, one of the Combat Archaeologists, starts prodding around it, which promptly leads to a firefight and a lot of other, interesting effects ...

This is in most part a fun romp through a rather substantial number of SF tropes and MacLeod standards. Maybe slightly too many, as the story kept changing more than I felt was good for it. We get, always with Ken, politics, factions and fractions, plus loads and loads of puns and fun misrepresentations of history, especially in the plays of Ben Ami, a Eurydicean Playwright...

Overall I found this lighter than Ken's usual fare, especially when it comes to politics, and political discourse. Appreciated. The occasional lapses into Scottish accent are slightly jarring, and didn't feel entirely necessary...


On the technology front we get wormholes, FTL (with protection against causality violations – can this really exist, or is this mutually exclusive? Answers on a postcard please!), and of course intelligent machines, who apear to have lost interest in dominating humanity, or maybe in humanity entirely. We also get object lessons on the validity of personal memory in a society where you can scan/upload/backup/revivie people. Hint: it does not look pretty. Revived entities are not really you, except maybe, just maybe legally.

And, of course, we have a military-driven singularity, with military Ais bootstrapping themselves to awareness, and taking off from there. Now there's a lovely (and every so scarily likely) concept if I ever heard one!


Entertaining in almost all parts, but not the most engaging book he wrote. Buy and read if you like Ken's writing (I can recommend it overall), if you're new to the writer then I'd recommend you rather start with something like the Engines of Light trilogy.


More Ken MacLeod


Title: Newton's Wake

Author: Ken MacLeod

Reviewer: Markus

Reviewer URL:

Publisher: Orbit

Publisher URL:

Publication Date: 2005

Review Date: 120728

ISBN: 1841492248

Price: UKP 6.99

Pages: 369

Format: Paperback

Topic: SF

Topic: Space Opera


Thanks to Little Brown for the review copy.


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