March 27, 2008
The Execution Channel - Ken MacLeod
At Picocon last year I asked Ken MacLeod if The Execution Channel (UK / US ) was his attempt at a mainstream cross-over. At that time I hadn't read it (of course). He just laughed and made a joke. Now, I know why. The Execution Channel is Science Fiction, just like any of his other books. Don't let the mainstreamy cover put you off (the UK Orbit edition anyway), don't let the "near future thriller" label put you off. Because this book is great.
There are not many books that make me say "whoah!" out loud. This book made me say it three times. And the last time was repeated ad-infinitum. I'm not going to tell you what those moments are, but in order of appearance they were:
- Initially amazing, but retrospectively maybe a cop-out
- Really amazing
The novel is set (mainly) in a near future England and Scotland, where The War On Terror has escalated to a new level of Big Brother style surveillance. It's particularly terrifying because the leaps to get to that point don't seem so far away, with the current fractures in society along religious lines and impending ID cards. There are a varied selection of protagonists, a motley crew you might say, and their actions intertwine in a way that feels real: not destined to interact, but more casually bouncing off each others existence. The whole style is grim and realistic, and at times confusing. There are moments that this felt like a Cold War Spy story ala Le CarrÃƒÂ© or Frederick Forsyth, transplanted into a near future, and full of ideas.
Three quarters of the way through I Twittered " Racing through The Execution Channel. It better have a good ending though." Little did I know. The ending was called at Eastercon "the Marmite ending", you either love it or hate. (That might have been Grahame Sleight on the Not The Clarke Award panel, it was definitely one of them.) Personally I loved it. It is an ending of hope and wonder and fun and brilliance and audacity.
The judges had another good year for reading books, spurred on at the start of the year by an Apocalyptic reading resolution, and then reading most of the Clarke Award nominees. Twenty Five books in all, which is almost one... Read More