Newton’s Wake, by Ken McLeod has a terrific beginning, in which Lucinda Carlyle leads her team through a gate to another planet, on an expedition of combat archeology. They storm a henge and awaken an alien technology that unleashes war machines on them. And in the wake of that battle, the book reveals a grand history, in which humanity has been scattered, from America Offline to the Knights of Enlightenment, along a skein of worlds after the Hard Rapture.
It’s all very cool, and immensely enjoyable. But by the time you’ve been filled in on all this cool future history, you also realize what sort of person Lucinda is. For all her charm, she could sell sub-prime mortgages to someone with perfect credit, and when you pointed this out, she’d turn to you proudly and go, What? And you’d still love her for it.
About halfway through the book, Lucinda’s quest reaches a climax that would end a lot of books, but we keep on going, faster and faster, until it seems to be spinning apart. It didn’t help that I read the book in evenings, when I was already drowsy. There was so much Action and Intrigue, the part that made the most sense to me was a jaunt into another reality. Somehow the book manages to come in for a landing that the reader can walk away from.
There are lots of great bits, whether or not they make sense. I love that FTL is used as a verb. I can’t believe this is the first place I’ve encountered it. I like that this future has a Singularity that still leaves understandable humans around. I love the various cultures portrayed. But I have to admit that I still have no idea what the title means.