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Newton's Wake: A Space Opera

by Ken MacLeod

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9502417,168 (3.35)42
With visionary epics like "The Stone Canal," "The Cassini Division," and "Cosmonaut Keep," award-winning Scottish author Ken MacLeod has led a revolution in contemporary science fiction, blending cutting edge science and razor-sharp political insights with pure, over-the-top interstellar adventure. Now MacLeod takes this heady mix to a new level with a stunning new SF masterwork--"Newton's Wake." 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 interplanetary star-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 her way of life.… (more)
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» See also 42 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
A busy standalone novel that feels like the third entry in a trilogy -- a lot of background only gradually revealed and a lot of ends you didn't know were loose being tied up. There's the dynastic family business shenanigans, post-singularities all over the place, a real opera -- though not in space, the popular wormhole connected universe, and lots of other popular space opera tropes. The family business wobbled the worst for me. That section was unconvincing and boring but fairly early in book, and things got back on track. The Returners subplot always seemed underdeveloped though it's critical to the storyline.

Lightweight but recommended. ( )
  ChrisRiesbeck | Apr 11, 2021 |
A stand-alone novel from Ken Macleod, though if that makes you feel uneasy, you will find plenty in here that is familiar. A group of Glaswegian freebooters in sophisticated combat armour emerge from a teleport gate on a distant world and begin to explore an enigmatic alien artefact, until the armed forces of the lost colony world they are on intervene. Things get more complicated from there.

There is the usual blend of Ken Macleod characters, broad Scots wit and action, but with Big Stuff just off-stage. The Scots freebooters are from the family firm of Clan Carlyle, who start out the novel with a monopoly on the teleport gates. Macleod is echoing the role of Scots throughout history in exploring, inventing and being entrepreneurial; whilst the 'lost colony' on the world of Eurydice that they barge into takes them by surprise by repelling them in short order - but not before they have woken the alien artefact which starts building war machines. The last time this sort of thing happened, Earth was devastated in an event called the Hard Rapture, where a thermonuclear exchange was followed by the digitisation of a large proportion of the human population. The survivors fled to the stars.

A lot of this novel wraps up an exploration of the implications of the Singularity - the technological far future Nirvana where everyone gets recreated in some massive simulation or other. The action wraps this up until we are possibly two-thirds of the way through the book, when the implications of what has happened begin to sink in. Most people who take the Singularity as their theme suggest that this is something that happens at the far end of time; but this book is set in around 300 years' time and paints a picture of how circumstances might make that come about much sooner than we think.

Along the way, we meet a group of characters whose motivations centre mainly on getting by in the world and enjoying their downtime. Many of them don't have many objectives beyond that; nanotechnology has removed a lot of the economic needs of humankind, but that has merely left everyone rather freer to pursue a profit, or chase a dream, or write a play without this being a life-or-death matter. The lost colony, Eurydice, has developed its own line of entertainments - look out for the excerpts from the play 'Leonid Brezhnev, Prince of Muscovy', for example. And just when you think Ken Macleod has abandoned his socialist principles, we encounter a colony world of North Koreans who are happy, prosperous and collectivised.

There's a lot going on in this novel, and the pace may tempt you to rush ahead - but don't, because you may well find that you will lose your way if you take your eye off the plot and the personalities.

The music business plays a big part in the novel, through the personalities of a pair of resurrected Scottish folk-singers. They are more relevant than they look, establishing the cultural slant of the societies in the novel through their performances, referencing the music of contemporary performers such as Billy Bragg and Ewan MacColl, and so just keeping the political pot boiling in the characters' hinterland, no matter how entrepreneurial everyone may seem.

I found this fun and engaging, but I had to keep my wits about me. ( )
3 vote RobertDay | Aug 10, 2020 |
relatively engaging adventure, however I am not connecting enough with the characters ( )
  jason9292 | May 11, 2020 |
This one reminded me of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (downloads, clones). It was lighter on the satire and heavier on the folk musicians. ( )
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
Maybe it's the genre. I thought it was about time to read a space opera and this was recommended as excellent in that category, but I couldn't get interested in the story line, which is based on "Information wants to be free". There was some lovely writing and some interesting thoughts and among the many characters a couple of the minor ones quite dear, but I will not be reading another space opera soon.

Among the thoughts I took away: that memory is crucial (p.102), that our technology brings about a world we had not envisioned and that resurrection is an odd concept. It does not negate the importance of living and dying, of each breath. (see pg.191) I was periodically surprised by the inventiveness of the author. This all sounds great, and so I should upgrade this book to 3 stars from 2, but nonetheless, it didn't do it for me. ( )
  MaryHeleneMele | May 6, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ken MacLeodprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gibbons, LeeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martiniere, StephanCover 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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With visionary epics like "The Stone Canal," "The Cassini Division," and "Cosmonaut Keep," award-winning Scottish author Ken MacLeod has led a revolution in contemporary science fiction, blending cutting edge science and razor-sharp political insights with pure, over-the-top interstellar adventure. Now MacLeod takes this heady mix to a new level with a stunning new SF masterwork--"Newton's Wake." 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 interplanetary star-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 her way of life.

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Average: (3.35)
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