The Sky Road Hardcover – Aug 2000
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In the series that started with The Star Fraction, Ken MacLeod has created a future history whose genesis was an argument about anarchism between a group of left-wing students in the '70s. The destruction and renaissance of civilization, here and elsewhere in the human galaxy, turns on this argument. In the fourth book, MacLeod productively fills in some of the gaps. This is the story of Myra, Trot-turned-entrepreneur, whose nuclear deterrence-for-hire is central to the event known by some as the Fall and others as the Deliverance. It is also the story of young Clovis, part-time worker in the yard where the first space-ship in centuries is being built, part-time scholar trying to find out what Myra the Deliverer was really like.
MacLeod's readers are used to his quirky and intelligent take on the world of power politics and his charmingly cynical gift for engaging and engaged protagonists. What this book also has is a profound sense of the beauty of a simpler and stiller world; MacLeod's real gift is his capacity to see all sides of a question, even when he is sure of the answer. --Roz Kaveney, Amazon.co.uk
From Publishers Weekly
Unlike most American SF writers, MacLeod (The Stone Canal), a Scot, has little good to say about the U.S., democracy or capitalism. Indeed, the future history within which he sets his complex but compelling novels pretty much assumes the collapse of Western-style democracy in the near future and its replacement by a crazy-quilt of various socialist, libertarian and anarchist states. MacLeod's current tale follows two separate plot lines. In the near future, Myra Godwin-Davidova, an American expatriate, former Trotskyist and current leader of a small, high-tech socialist workers' state surrounded by Kazakhstan, struggles to keep her nation afloat against the onslaught of the Sheenisov, an aggressive nation bent on world conquest. As her political alliances crumble, Myra's only trump card is a cache of outdated nuclear weapons planted decades ago in Earth orbit, but if she uses them she could destroy the world. Hundred of years later, Clovis colha Gree lives in a bucolic near-utopia almost totally lacking in violence. Although his people treat virtually all electronics and computers with superstitious dread, the scientists of his day, called tinkers, are attempting to build the first spaceship since Myra's distant era. Clovis, a young scholar working on the spaceship, plunges into intrigue when a secret cabal of tinkers uses him to recover forbidden computer data. The intellectual difficulty of MacLeod's work may prevent him from acquiring a mass readership, but his complex plotting, crisply delineated military action, well-drawn characters and trademark byzantine radical politics are sure to endear him to a growing number of aficionados. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
The writing is not good. Structurally, instead of developing characters through their actions, stereotypical people whose motives are dictated by their job title are used as walk-ons. And much of what should be told with action and dialogue is told through narrative. The specifics are not stellar, either. Here is an example: "The thought...appeared like a screensaver on the surface of her mind, whenever her mind went blank." And another (that I assume echoes romance novels): "She pulled away the curtain to reveal a large and reassuringly solid-looking bed...We faced each other naked, like the Man and the Woman in the Garden in the story."
If you like that kind of thing then maybe you'll like this book. If you like books with crisp plots and lots of ideas, then look for something else.
The Sky Road was on the ballot for this year's Hugo Award, which merely reminds me that last year was a relatively week year for novels (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire won the Hugo for Best Novel, to a quite enthusiastic reception at the Millennium Philcon where it was announced.)
The Sky Road is an awkward and somewhat arbitrary combination of near-future and far-future history. The near future is set in the middle of the 21st century, after some (to me, at least) unspecified worldwide paradigm shifts that have left the capitalist world in a shambles, the United States a relatively toothless beast, and a handful of space visionaries trying to execute some kind of coup, presumably to put themselves in power. The protagonist is Myra Godwin-Davidova, an American-born potentate in the "International Scientific and Technical Workers Republic," a tiny statelet in what was once the Soviet Union and is now again more than a collection of "former Soviet states" and not quite an empire.
Myra's chapters alternate with those of Clovis colha Gree, a part-time history graduate student and part-time laborer on a spacecraft, centuries in the future, after Myra (known to posterity as "The Deliverer" for her mythical destruction of evil capitalism). Clovis, a Scot, is working on his dissertation about Myra.Read more ›
As usual, the writing is elegant, and generally superb. The story is well plotted, and moves along at a reasonable pace. However, when all was said and done, I didn't really feel like I had gone anywhere by reading this book. The story was entertaining, but there was no real climax, and hence no real resolution.
Perhaps that is what Macleod was striving for; a vehicle to develop characters for future works. If that is the case, he succeeded admirably. I suspect that this is a novel that will always be regarded in the context of his other works, rather than on its own merits.
Still, I enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone who likes their science fiction on the serious side.
Thematically, I suppose The Sky Road is about individuals who become disillusioned with their beliefs over time, although it's a weakly-portrayed theme. Otherwise, the book presents a moral dilemma for its character Myra in the year 2058, who grapples with it in ultimately unsatisfying ways (her ultimate solution is telegraphed a mile away), and a voyage of discovery for its character Clovis, farther in the future (the 26th century?) as he learns about the legendary figure of Myra and discovers what his lover Merrial is up to.
The sense of wonder is low, and although this book might be a decent build-up to another book, the end leaves you wondering, "That's it? What happens next?" Which isn't what one really wants out of a novel.
As always, MacLeod's writing is fine, his characters enjoyable, and his mixture of politics with science fiction engaging. Unfortunately, it's all in the service of a rather bland story here. His earlier work is much better.
Most recent customer reviews
This book was ok. It was interesting to read, but there was nothing particularly special about it.
I never really felt much concern over what was going to happen with the... Read more
Thinly plotted, poor characterisation and utterly self-indulgent. What a disappointment this book was. Read morePublished on April 5 2001 by Andrew Hines
Before reading MacLeod's "The Sky Road," I read his "The Cassini Division." My review of "The Cassini Division" reflected the confusion I had while trying to work my way through... Read morePublished on Oct. 4 2000 by Sheldon S. Kohn
Of the four books of the Macleodian future, the Sky Road is the weakest. Like the Stone Canal, this book is split in two time periods, past and present. Read morePublished on Sept. 26 2000 by Corey Somavia
I actually bought this book at a real store. My major complaint is that NOWHERE on the jacket or inside flaps is any mention that is is book 4 in a series. Read morePublished on Sept. 1 2000
The combination of radical politics, space opera and cyber-driven fiction has propelled Ken Macleod's anracho-socialist/capitalist future-world to the top of my list of Preferred... Read morePublished on Aug. 8 2000 by John Wright