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The Execution Channel Paperback – Jun 10 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (June 10 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765320673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765320674
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 15.5 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #611,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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THE day it happened Travis drove north. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 21 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Arise, ye oppressed masses! July 18 2007
By Ivo J. Steijn - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Okay, let me start this review by noting that there were some things I did NOT like about this novel. The "execution channel" itself - a TV channel that broadcasts random execution scenes - seems like a plot device that is needed for one punch to the reader's stomach and then discarded. It makes clear how brutal the world depicted in the novel is, but we get that, thank you. The novel also depressed the heck out of me for days.

It's a depressing story. The world has gone to the dogs, and lies are weapons of mass distraction that the governments use to obscure their dirty work. When a series of terrorist attacks cripples Britain after a nuclear detonation over a Scottisch airbase, the lies are so thick on the ground you never quite know if the terrorists are Al-Qaeda, someone pretending to be Al-Qaeda, someone run by Al-Qaeda, or all of the above. It's our world as it is today, but worse. And yes, it can get worse. Easily.

I'll tell you what this novel is not. It's not preachy; it's indignant. Important difference. It's also not leftie Bush-bashing. It's an angry novel about people being afraid of their government, rather than the other way around.

It made me angry. It's also MacLeod's angriest novel since "The Star Fraction" and I, for one, welcome the return of that anger, that justified distaste at the state of the world. I've enjoyed all his novels inbetween that first one and this, his latest one, but they were popcorn compared to the more substantial fare offered here.

It's a great novel. It should make you angry too.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Lies, Damn Lies And Media Manipulation Feb. 22 2009
By darklordzden - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Near Future: the geopolitical map of the world has been redrawn by the events of an alternative September 11th which didn't involve passenger planes, the world trade center or New York. China, France and Russia have become uneasily allied against an increasingly imperialistic Anglo-American alliance and all are caught in an escalating loop of disinformation, half-truths and lies. Against the backdrop of an apparent Nuclear detonation at a Scottish USAF base, IT engineer and reluctant spy James Travis turns fugitive and finds himself in a race against time to secure an exit strategy for himself and his family after his cover is blown by persons unknown. Before he can do either he will have to decipher the truth behind the detonation, the real agendas of the governments involved and the increasingly bizarre agit-prop concerning experimental weaponry testing that is running rife as the hands of the Nuclear clock move ever closer to midnight. 'The Execution Channel' owes more to the espionage genre than science fiction and its to Ken Macleod's credit that he resists the urge to spoon-feed the details of his near future world to the reader or indulge in the notorious cliché of new world order conspiracies that have become so inextricably linked to thrillers of this type recently. The escalating events of the novel, as in the real world, are driven by the mistakes and mis-steps of its protagonists which makes for a far more interesting read and a far more realistic interpretation of how government and media manipulation of conspiracy theories and political ideology can backfire horribly. Refreshingly, he also refuses to resort to shoot-outs or overt apocalyptic bombast during the course of the novel - a choice which seems to have disappointed a readership expecting more obvious thrills. The overall effect of the novel is something akin to that of a low-key Len Deighton novel with a more overt socio-political agenda. Good stuff, though definitely not for those who expect more 'Sturm und Drang' from their genre novels.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
It's pronounced "Rosheen" Oct. 10 2009
By Michael Lichter - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Published in 2007, during G.W. Bush's second term, Ken MacLeod's THE EXECUTION CHANNEL is an indictment of the British government's buy-in on the American "Global War on Terror" and a lament that the British people let it happen. It is also a warning about the damage we do when we abandon our core principles out of fear, and when we lie to ourselves so much that we can't tell the difference between fact and fantasy. Or, rather, when we let *them* (the government) do those things to themselves and to us.

The novel kicks off with an apparent nuclear explosion on a Scottish air base, followed by a series of bombings that destroy oil refineries and heavily traveled highway overpasses throughout the UK. Among those caught up in the chaos are IT professional James Travis and his peace activist daughter Roisin. Travis is a man so disillusioned with his country that he opts to spy for France. As we are told,

"He had no special regard for France. The thing he liked about France was that it was French. The thing he hated about England was that it wasn't English. This had nothing to do with race or religion or nation or politics, as far as he could see. ... At some point England had simply failed itself." (p. 201)

For Travis, his sense of England's failure is linked both due to his wife's death in a flu epidemic, which he attributes to government negligence (shades of Katrina), and also to "the hollow justifications for the attack on Iran which he'd been so sure that the [House of] Commons would see through," and the lack of public protest when they didn't. Mostly, though, his decision to spy was based on anger at "being kept in the dark" by the government. "You keep me in the dark? Very well, I will walk in darkness and strike in darkness."

This thread of the novel is indeed dark; Travis efforts may have inadvertently facilitated the bombings, and his daughter's efforts to get out the truth--to dispel the darkness--about the initial explosion get her tortured and come close to starting a war. Worse, both of them contribute to the institutionalized government paranoia that leads to the torture and murder of Roisin's brother Alec.

On the other hand, what makes the novel a good read are the efforts of Travis, Roisin, and an American blogger named Mark Dark to outwit the authorities, discover the truth, and deliver it to the public. There are chase scenes, ingenious disguises, and clever subterfuges that fool, at least for a time, the ever-more-powerful governmental technologies of surveillance (omnipresent CCTV, face recognition software, credit tracking, GPS in cell phones, quick DNA testing, etc.). Particularly amusing is the interplay between a U.S. government contractor hired to spread disinformation about the U.K. attacks, and Mark Dark, a racist (he calls Muslims "sand Nazis") kid who blogs out of his mother's basement. Amusingly, the contractor is never told what the truth is and could easily hit upon it by accident.

Although MacLeod is clearly a Lefty -- I think it's safe to call him a Left-Libertarian -- he makes an effort here to simply be an advocate for what most Brits and Americans think their countries should stand for. They shouldn't launch wars against countries that haven't attacked them, or torture people, or detain people indefinitely without charge, or lie as a matter of government policy. He doesn't blame the Americans for everything, as some have charged; the American authorities may be nastier and more brutish than the British, but the Brits are equally short-sighted and equally responsible for what happens. Neither does he place the blame specifically on Bush or on particular political parties; he doesn't excuse anybody. He may be, like his character Travis, genuinely puzzled about how we came to this pass.

The reasons to read this book even if you don't like MacLeod's politics are (a) even though it is far from MacLeod's best novel (I would pick THE STAR FRACTION), it is MacLeod's best written to date, and (b) because it is entertaining, with good action, a sympathetic central character in Roisin, and a keep-'em-guessing mystery. The dénouement, which is surprising and difficult-to-swallow (or even make sense of). I would recommend it to fans without hesitation and to the rest of the world with minor reservations.

One last note: This novel does not read as if it was written for Americans. It wasn't. If you're not willing to look up how "Roisin" is pronounced (it's an Irish name, pronounced "Rosheen") or research what "fnar fnar" means ("har har," essentially), or if you think that anything that happens in Scotland is beneath your notice, don't read this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Alternative history at its worst Sept. 10 2010
By Lew Knick - Published on
"The Execution Channel" is nothing more than an updating of "1984." The themes are the same - control of information including redirection through misinformation, continuing wars, a granny state that not only decides what is good but legislates it. There the similiarity ends. And the title has nothing to do with the story.

"1984" has one protagonist. "The Execution Channel" is so chock full of characters, it is difficult to determine which character to bond with. "1984" is written in straightforward language. "The Execution Channel" has the prissy English so adored by the British literati and McCleod peppers his writings with obtuse alphabetical abbreviations known only to those living in the UK.

There are simply too many characters to remember, too many scenes to link together, too much information to digest in the rush to a conclusion. Then, the conclusion is so wild, it boggles the imagination.

Other reviewers have remarked that "The Execution Channel" is a return to McCleod's "anger" without specifying what they mean. If by that, they refer to the idea of misinformation driving history, this idea is somewhat far-fetched. There are many contemporary books based on the premise that misinformation causes in wars or near wars. Among these are "TSAR" by Alex Hawke.

The whole storyline of "The Execution Channel" was much too much for me. I finished it but only with difficulty.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An enjoyable near-future thriller Oct. 25 2008
By Stephen Dobie - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A near-future thriller taking place in a slightly alternate history. An explosion that destroys an air base in Scotland is quickly followed by several terrorist attacks against British infrastructure. The attacks drag the Travis family into the intelligence plots of the Western governments as various agencies try to figure out what happened, and to hide the truth.

I really enjoyed the book. It is a fast-paced quick read that kept my interest throughout. The way in which the history differs from our own, and how little difference it actually makes is interesting. Unlike MacLeod's other books, there is not much actual science fiction content for most of the book, although he does stick with his familiar ideas that the Western governments seem to be dooming themselves with their increasing paranoia about security and attempts at control. I did feel that the ending went a little over the top as it suddenly veers off in a direction that was hinted at throughout the book, but which also seems like something out of more of a pulp novel.

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