The Restoration Game, Ken MacLeod

Here’s a great newish book from Ken MacLeod, an sf spy thriller with a bit of whizzy deep speculation thrown in at the end. Lucy Stone, an American student in Edinburgh, spent her early years in Krassnia, a little known Soviet statelet wedged in between Georgia and its antagonistic neighbors. She was raised by her mother, who was there ostensibly as an anthropologist studying the region’s ancient legends, but really to meddle in local politics at the behest of some American three-letter agency. As it later transpires, so similarly were her earlier ancestors involved in Krassnian history. The mother first convinces Lucy to get the computer game company where she works to develop a game based on Krassnian legends, then later to return to Krassnia to investigate a mysterious mountaintop accessible only to the descendants of the local aristocratic class. Threaded through it all is a clever series of interconnections with Soviet history and a long but well-executed revelation of Lucy’s family history.

In some of his other books, MacLeod comes across as kind of an Anti-Heinlein, as preachy a socialist as Heinlein was a libertarian and as good a read. Here he uses a familiarity with Russian and Soviet history that one presumes developed at least in part from his politics, but he never bashes the reader over the head with his political beliefs. Lucy is a type of geek-girl who’s becoming very familiar in works by MacLeod and Charles Stross, and very similar to the male geek-heroes of Neal Stephenson and other authors; but maybe every generation (or every sf’nal movement) needs a heroic archetype, and Lucy serves well here.

Overall, an easy book to recommend.


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