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Newton's wake a space opera by Ken MacLeod

Newton's wake a space opera (edition 2005)

by Ken MacLeod

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Title:Newton's wake a space opera
Authors:Ken MacLeod
Info:London Orbit 2005.
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Newton's Wake by Ken MacLeod

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When Ken MacLeod's Newton's Wake first caught my attention, I mis-read the title to mean something like the wake of a ship, rather than the party in honor of Newton's demise that the phrase intends in this praeter-relativistic tale of interstellar competition and intrigue. But the real pun is in the sub-title A Space Opera, since much of the story revolves around the production of a musical opera for the stage on the planet Eurydice. The chapters are all styled like imaginary song titles (many with their own puns and witty allusions) and the book is divided into "Side One" and "Side Two" as if it were a vinyl recording of the opera in question.

The principal protagonist is Lucinda Carlyle, a "combat archaeologist," i.e. looter of post-human technology. She represents the "Carlyle gang" who have established an interstellar government of crude patronage based on their exploitation of a discovered nexus of wormhole gates allowing instantaneous passage across the galaxy. The major interstellar powers--with their own faster-than-light capabilities--include the Knights of Enlightenment (feudal mystics), the Demokratische Kommunistbund (orbital "commies" and planetary strip-miners), and America Offline (neo-Jeffersonian terraformers). All of these formations have developed since the "hard rapture," a catastrophic technological singularity in which US military artificial intelligence spawned subsequently-vanished post-human entities, and which had made Earth temporarily inhospitable to humans.

In this 2004 novel in a post-singularity setting, I was expecting to read something in the vein mined by Charles Stross, and "Side One: Deep Sky Country" did not disappoint in that regard, complete with peripheral but artful reference to Yog-Sothothery. I was gratefully surprised in the second part, though, to encounter trans-human dilemmas similar to those sketched in M. John Harrison's Kefahuchi Tract novels. Not so surprising, but still artfully accomplished, is some epistemological mindfuckery of the Phildickian sort.

Much of MacLeod's published oeuvre consists of multi-volume series, but this quick read is a stand-alone novel (at the moment, anyhow). I enjoyed it enough that I am now sorely tempted by his series.
6 vote paradoxosalpha | Sep 27, 2015 |
Well holy shit, I was not expecting this. I had never heard of Ken MacLeod before finding out about Newton’s Wake on io9. For years I kept myself to a small group of authors, only occasionally branching out, and then quickly running back to my cave when those works people love (i.e. Dune) couldn’t hold my interest no matter how hard I tried to read them.

This year has been different, I’ve been trying to read as many different authors as I can. Lots of them have been terrible in my opinion, but I won't mention them. I see no reason to slam a fellow author’s work, but I’ve been reading a lot of different authors and loving it.

I’m glad I’ve been branching out because Newton’s Wake is phenomenal. Everything about it is great. The casual story telling, Carlyle’s who talk like the sophisticated gangsters they are, the giant ideas. Shit, Lucinda even feels like a 25 year old. At first I couldn’t place why she didn’t seem all that grownup, at times showing lack of maturity, and then he mentions her age and the writing instantly became even better. Good job Ken, it’s no small feat making characters that each feel the age they are across a range of ages; instead of the characters feeling the same age even though they’re not.

And I’m really digging these books that don’t go out of their way to explain things in long paragraphs, rather everything just comes together by the end.

I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of Ken’s books ( )
1 vote scifi_jon | Jun 16, 2015 |
A very hard read. The problems started right at the beginning, when the future Scottish vernacular made me doubt the ebooks integrity. I don't know if native speakers have the same issues, but for me it was very hard tae read. It took some week until I was ready to give the book a second chance. This time it went a lot smoother, until somewhere between halfway and two thirds, when I stopped again. I finally finished it today, but it was a fight.

The main problem I had was that there's no continually likeable character in the whole book. The main character seems like a supporting character most of the time. Some of the supporting characters are good, but they don't appear often enough to help getting through the story.

The story is the second problem I had with this book. It felt incoherent, more like loosely connected short stories. There is this huge force mentioned throughout the book and when it finally makes an appearance this big buildup just deflates. ( )
1 vote kenzen | Feb 23, 2015 |
I read this some years ago--perhaps when it first appeared, and remembered a very different novel, one that was atypical of MacLeod. This one is a very different take on some of his recurring themes, like the conflict between artificial intelligences and human communities and radical politics. There is a playful quality about this novel that I enjoyed very much, as well as a fast-moving and surprising plot. ( )
  nmele | Jan 2, 2015 |
I loved this book. I felt it threw me in at the deep end a bit, as Macleod seems to do a lot, but I loved it. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ken MacLeodprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gibbons, LeeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martiniere, StephenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Charlie and Feòrag
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As soon as she stepped through the gate Lucinda Carlyle knew the planet had been taken, and knew it would be worth taking back.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 076534422X, Paperback)


In the aftermath of the Hard Rapture-a cataclysmic war sparked by the explosive evolution of Earth's artificial intelligences into godlike beings-a few remnants of humanity managed to survive. Some even prospered.

Lucinda Carlyle, head of an ambitious clan of galactic entrepreneurs, had carved out a profitable niche for herself and her kin by taking control of the Skein, a chain of interstellar gates left behind by the posthumans. But on a world called Eurydice, a remote planet at the farthest rim of the galaxy, Lucinda stumbled upon a forgotten relic of the past that could threaten the Carlyles' way of life.

For, in the last instants before the war, a desperate band of scientists had scanned billions of human personalities into digital storage, and sent them into space in the hope of one day resurrecting them to the flesh. Now, armed, dangerous, and very much alive, these revenants have triggered a fateful confrontation that could shatter the balance of power, and even change the nature of reality itself.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:43 -0400)

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