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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

The Sky Road

Copyright 1999 by Ken MacLeod

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Good (3/5)

I first read this in September 2001.

In a gentile and polite Scotland of the far future, Clovis culha Gree is an historian. He's about to go to University to research the Deliverer, the most important woman of his millennium, if not all history. The Deliverer, hundreds of years before, fought against the military-industrial complexes of the old world, destroyed the Possession and brought about this new, enlightened world.

At the moment though, Clovis is privileged to be working, in a small way, on the first space launch for centuries. He's got a worthwhile job, and exciting academic career ahead of him, he's got long weekends and his evenings at the pub with his mates Druin and Machard.

All that, of course, changes when the very beautiful Tinker-girl Merrial introduces herself one evening. He, and possibly she, fall head-over-heels in love, and he'll do anything for her. But what she's asking him to do is illegal, possibly very dangerous, and will take him into the scary depths of black science.

The second thread of this novel takes place several hundred years before, in the unstable, fragmenting world of the 21st century. Myra Godwin-Davidova, the Deliverer herself, struggles to balance her socialist principles against real-politik Slavery, nuclear weapons - she'll use anything she has to keep her small independent republic intact and safe against the UN, the Star Fraction and their ambition of controlling space, and the Fourth International, still rocking after all those years.

This is an excellent book, classic British SF, but oddly I was also reminded of Norman Spinrad. On the one hand there's Clovis leading a remarkably familiar life in a small Scottish town and on the other, there's Myra Godwin's arguably successful resistance against a revolution sweeping the entire globe.

Like real life, things are never quite obvious. Clovis seems a mild-mannered young man, but he carries a gun, and look at what he agrees to in the confrontation between Druin and Fergal. The mysterious Tinkers also are not what you initially expect.

It's great writing and the twin plot-lines of Clovis and Myra complement perfectly.

What's it got? nanotechnology, life-extension, artificial intelligence, space-flight, hard disks, tough women, big guns and battlesats.

Loaded on the 23rd September 2001.
Cover of The Sky Road
Cover art by Mark Salwowski