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Newton's Wake   by Ken Macleod

Read: 2006-04-23 Reviewed: 2007-06-16
Re-read factor:
Sweet and sour, chalk and cheese. Ken has a simple writing style, like a Star Trek pulp, and dresses the story simply, but the plot in fact is deep and rich, and then somehow dumbed down (the book's subtitle is `A Space Opera'!)

This dichotomy is nowhere more apparent than in the extrapolation of science fact. For the most part, Ken plays away from actual science to allow the plot to unfold, but occasionally he tries to justify things and then everything becomes iffy -- the main thrust of his arguments are that some technologies have passed through the philosophies of Aristotle, Newton and Einstein, and have evolved to the next level of physics! It is plausible in a remotely philosophical way, but hardly carries as a means of explanation.

I hate this author now. The book is full of many interesting ideas, but they are thrown together quite untidily, and are not at all well developed. It is the shallowness which disappoints me most -- the writing is simply very unaccomplished.

It is a Hollywood-inspired mess. At times I'm feeling that I'm not giving it the attention that it deserves, losing track of who's who and where, only to realize that such matters are not so important as the book jumps quickly from one scene to another, cutting out large swathes of time and reason in the process. Macleod likes to keep the story moving by jumping between action sequences, but then equally skimming through those sequences without doing them full justice. In places this makes the book incredibly thin.

The work is also let down by the fact that the climax (at east the biggest of the several battle scenes) does not occur at the end, but is followed by some lesser battles and some more storytelling, continuing the book's tradition of jumping (via percieved wipes of the cinema screen) from one scene to another. In general I found the overall wind-down of the work to be very unsatisfactory.

I took a risk buying this book as I had not enjoyed Cosmonaut Keep, but thought I would enjoy a light read given the subtitle; I think I should have realized that such a bland statement was indicative of the nature of the work.

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