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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

The Restoration Game

by
Ken MacLeod


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Restoration Game



Title: The Restoration Game
Author: Ken MacLeod
Genre: Novel
Written: 2010
Length: 257 pages
Availability: The Restoration Game - US
The Restoration Game - UK
The Restoration Game - Canada
The Restoration Game - India

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Our Assessment:

B+ : ultimately aims to do a bit too much, but otherwise a very good read

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 19/7/2010 James Lovegrove
The Guardian . 12/3/2010 Eric Brown
Publishers Weekly . 25/7/2011 .


  From the Reviews:
  • "MacLeod’s latest reads like something Le Carré might write if he’d gorged on the works of Philip K. Dick. It’s a thoroughly contemporary espionage thriller that swerves into head-trip territory near the end but manages to pull off the manoeuvre without too great a grinding of gears." - James Lovegrove, Financial Times

  • "MacLeod's grasp of political intrigue is first rate, and in Lucy he's created a complex heroine forever in doubt as to the true nature of events." - Eric Brown, The Guardian

  • "MacLeod packs his latest with such density of ideas and detail that the plot moves slowly, and foreshadows so heavily that his tale's eventual climax is undermined, but fans of his intellectually challenging mix of political and economic philosophy, history, and espionage will find much to enjoy." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Restoration Game is bookended by two short sections apparently set on 'Mars, 2248 A.U.C.', and the opening section suggests that there is some very, very elaborate virtual reality game-play going on here, and something has just gone a bit wrong:

     "It's the most evil, unethical experiment you could imagine. A simulation. Millions -- billions ! -- of fully conscious simulated humans living a history where ..." He shakes his head. "I don't know. Something didn't happen. Something changed everything.
       The bulk of the novel, however, is set in reassuringly recognizable modern times, in the world as we, more or less know it. Okay, it's not quite the same: the story then is narrated by Lucy Stone, born in 1985 in an obscure corner of the then-still Soviet Union, near Georgia -- Krassnia. Lucy admits: "There is no such place as Krassnia", but for the purposes of this story it certainly does have a place, a tiny corner of the Caucasus where, as it happens, there's a lot of Soviet-break-up turmoil roiling and various international players -- notably Russia and the United States -- have strategic interest in this speck.
       Lucy works for Digital Damage Productions, designers of multi-player online role-playing games, and she is approached by her mother to adapt one that's in the works ('Dark Britannia') to Krassnia. Since Mom works for the CIA it's clear there are larger interests at play here -- indeed, the game seems meant to be a way to help foment the Maple Revolution that's brewing in this small statelet.
       As Lucy realizes, she's already put a lot of Krassnia into 'Dark Britannia', her childhood experiences and the stories she heard subconsciously influencing the transposed tale -- making it so much easier to transpose it back. And among the titbits of interest is notorious Mount Krasny, "a Zone", where bad things happen to people and no one dares venture. Beria even sent a team to explore it in 1952, but that did not end at all well.
       Lucy finds herself drawn into something that's considerably more complex than mere game-design, and eventually travels to Krassnia, her mission to check out Mount Krasny and see what the hell the deal with it is before it falls into Russian hands. Lucy has a variety of issues to juggle -- including a new love, as well as dealing with men who might, or might not be her actual father. There's also lots of Krassnian family history to fill in, as her family has surprisingly long-standing connections to the place. Lucy also recounts some of her childhood experiences there, which include the scariest day of her life (Wednesday, September 4, 1991).
       The Krassnian adventures, as all hell is breaking loose in the region, are reasonably good ones of post-Soviet turmoil. Lucy's expedition to Mount Krasny itself is almost anti-climatic, but there's enough to and around it to make for a quite compelling adventure-tale.
       As suggested in the prologue-chapter, there's a bit more going on than meets the eye, and the secret of Mount Krasny (which is pretty cool) does offer some additional insight into that. Still, the balance between the novel's greater ambitions and the bulk of the story doesn't quite work, MacLeod just not making quite enough of Lucy's tale to fit in that really big, ambitious picture.
       It's kind of a shame, because Lucy is a great narrator and her story, as she tells it, a damn good one. Indeed, it almost feels like MacLeod could have pared off most of the science fiction elements and still offered a roaring tale. He's particularly good in presenting the political scene -- from the very local to the global geo-political scenes, whether at parties in Edinburgh or on the streets of Krasnod -- and despite the CIA looming in various background even manages to integrate that quite convincingly. Lucy's account ranges far and wide, as it's not just her present-day story but her filling in stories not only from her past but also from her mother and others, but even MacLeod's digressions don't lead readers too far astray.
       The Restoration Game is a very enjoyable read that works quite well on multiple levels (there's also some capitalist critique of post-Soviet 'restoration', for example) and falls just a bit short in it largest ambitions (on which relatively little space is spent, in particular on all its complex implications).

- M.A.Orthofer, 3 December 2013

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Links:

The Restoration Game:
  • Orbit publicity page
  • Pyr publicity page
Reviews: Other books by Ken MacLeod under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Scottish science fiction author Ken MacLeod was born in 1954.

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© 2013 the complete review

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