Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Restoration Game - Ken Macleod

'The Restoration Game' is Ken Macleod's latest novel, a modern day science-fiction thriller that manages to combine Cold War fears with a hint of espionage as well as video games and questions on the nature of reality. 

It's an expansive yet tightly focussed book. Expansive in ideas, but focussed on a single plot development. We follow one character; Lucy Stone who works at a video-game development company which has been hired by her mothers employers to make a game set in an ex-Soviet state that looks like it's about undergo a revolution. Those employers? The CIA.

From there we get to discover more about the history of the fictional country at stake. Krassnia is not, it must be said a standout, serving as merely serviceable backdrop to the story, which manages to be far more interesting than it first appears. Lucy is an engaging protagonist, and helped along by the first-person narration, the story in turn becomes all the more interesting. The 'voice' that's used is one of a normally certain, yet currently uncertain and at times scared woman, which works well when the unexpected plot twists and revelations occur. Lucy not knowing everything that's going on means we get to discover the plot along with her.

It's an overall well crafter plot, I didn't find as interesting as Macleod's 'The Night Sessions' admittedly a completely different novel about a future in which organised religion is banned after a literal Armageddon.

Which is why what's really interesting about 'The Restoration Game' isn't so much its perfectly acceptable plot but the way in which it fits into a trend of science-fiction becoming no longer a futuristic concern, but a presentation of our present. The focus of the story on how a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG) might be used to help a nascent revolution isn't something that would have been written about back when Neverwinter Nights first came online, and if it had it may very well have been considered mad. While here, it's lightly touched on, and also a given.

'The Restoration Game' is overall the epitome of an 'interesting' book. While it's perfectly well written, what makes it gripping, and makes it a page turner is the ideas it presents and the exploration of them, helped along with a strong plot that bolsters this exploration. Not the best Macleod book I've read, it's still very good.

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