The Early Days of a Better Nation

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Plaster of Salt Lake City

In Iain Banks's difficult second album, the novel Walking on Glass, there's a passing reference to 'plaster of Salt Lake City' - like plaster of Paris, but less exciting. Samuel R Delany's review of the book was titled, if I remember right: 'Like science fiction, but less exciting'.

The most cutting review so far of The Restoration Game describes it as like 'Iain Banks, some of his older mainstream fiction, with one big downside, it wasn't as good.'

I think I can live with that.

Liviu Siciu at Fantasy Book Critic also references Banks, but has a much more positive take on the book: ' ... after reading the book, I have to say that it quite surpassed my expectations. [...] I found myself hooked by the narration of Lucy Stone and I *knew* this was the book I must read before anything else.'

James Lovegrove at 'MacLeod’s latest reads like something Le Carré might write if he’d gorged on the works of Philip K. Dick.'

I'm sure my editor at Orbit will be rubbing his hands at that one. He's already picked out some good quotes from the reviews, and in the same post includes this very, very serious video interview with me:

Labels: ,


Just finished the Restoration Game, liked it a lot. I definitely get a Banksy vibe from it. If I say the prose isn't *quite* as explosively brilliant, I hope you'll take that as the great praise it's meant as, not criticism. At a sentence level, I don't think there's anyone writing today who is as good as Iain.

I love your books, have preordered every single one since The Stone Canal. This is one of your best, definitely.


Personally, I think the prologue gives the game away (ho ho ho) too soon, then you come back to it too soon before the end. You get to the joke - the real world being the unrealistic one - too soon, and don't have quite as much fun with it as it deserves, and it's not quite the twist it feels like it ought to be.

(end spoilers)

I really enjoyed it. Re-reading what I just typed, it sounds snarky and like I'm damning you with faint praise. 'It's like Iain Banks' is not faint praise. Thank you.

Anon, I take that as high praise! Thank you.

Is there a US release planned? If not, I'll order it, but I hate to pay that much for a book and have most of it go to the post instead of the author...


We are running a non-profit site only for the sake of information sharing.

We visit your site regularly. Recently we came across the "Comrades and friends" section in your site. Since our site is also based on regular news updates, we believe it would surely help us to be more effective if we get your site’s link. We have placed your site’s link in our site and we request you to place us in the "Comrades and friends" section.


Title: Current news updates

Email ID:

We would be pleased with your positive response. Looking forward for your reply...

Thank You!!

Megaan Austin

My agent is showing it around US publishers, but there's nothing planned as yet. If you want to read it in the next year or so, then ordering it from the UK (or Canada?) is your best bet.

So what's up with that, anyhow? You seem so established - it's hard to imagine there isn't a reliable bunch of yanks who like your work (granted, I hang out with nerds, but nerds are a decent market share).

Anyhow, will order, loved the last one, thanks for all the fun times over the years.

Book Depository offer free worldwide shipping and half price on preorders, so I my copy arrived in the States last week for $14.24. The only time I had a problem with them was volcano related.

Just checked - now it's out, it's $23.59 on the site, free shipping. This is still less than cover price in the UK.

(I don't work for Book Depository!).

The other thing to note ... Iain Banks is not all that well known in the States.

Iain *M* Banks has seen his stuff printed here, but only in the last few years. Transition was published here in the US as a M book.

I really don't understand the problem. To me, Banks and Macleod represent that promised land, the place where the SF books *are* actually full of big ideas and good writing. Jesus, it's not as though the market's flooded with those, is it? Anyway ... I pass around copies of Player of Games or The Cassini Division, and every time I do the person who reads it loves it, SF fan or not. I hope Ken appreciates that image - with such grass roots beginnings, the Tartan Revolution is surely inevitable.

...and I can usually find Stone Canal era MacLeod in regular non-specialist bookstores here, so they must continue to sell. I don't think my SF tastes are all that kooky and KM is pretty much my favorite writer working today. The publishing industry has gotten pretty inscrutable in recent years.

Yes, Tor are still backing the Fall Revo books, with the two recent republications as Fractions and Divisions. They just weren't so keen on my two most recent ones.

Thanks for the encouraging words, though!

"They just weren't so keen on my two most recent ones."

US publishing is like US TV - very into narrowcasting. In the UK you can have something like Doctor Who that kids like and teenagers, and SF geeks and parents. In the US you have to pick one. Most SF is cult viewing that everyone I know watches but no one else does.

I guess it's the same with books. The last three KMs haven't been so much *SF* as being set now (ish) at a point where we live in SF. Science fiction has become science fact, to coin a phrase. Lucy does things with her iPhone in Restoration Game that Spock couldn't do with his tricorder.

Either that, or it's because you don't write books where a NYPD detective learns she's queen of the vampires.

Dunno, I would have thought _Night Sessions_ more obviously interesting to Americans who live in a culture where religion is such a big deal than some of the earlier stuff that requires you to have read all three volumes of Deutcher's Trotsky to get the jokes...

The fact remains that to my mind no one else combines such excellent worldbuilding with really good, fascinating people and wit and depth. But then I am, as noted, biased.

Either that, or it's because you don't write books where a NYPD detective learns she's queen of the vampires.

Nothing intrinsically wrong with vampire novels: look at "Blindsight".
Can I just say that I would read (and might even buy) a Ken MacLeod vampire novel.
"Battening on the blood of the proletariat: it's not just a metaphor any more!"

Like science fiction, but less exciting

Reading this (via here) I note:

Paul Krugman became an economist because he had fallen in love with science fiction as a child.

Also via dsquared, this is space elevator muzak, if ever I heard it.

Krugman has written about the economics of interstellar trade and about Charles Stross's Merchant Princes series (on Crooked Timber). He's also been on a panel with Charlie. It must be an absolute thrill to be taken so seriously by science fiction fans.

Ken, sorry I wasn't very positive. I hope it came across as at least logically reasonable.

Maybe my expectations were misaligned? Sorry.

Love most of your stuff though ;-)

James, you have nothing to apologise for about your review, which makes perfectly reasonable points.

Paul Krugman became an economist because he had fallen in love with science fiction as a child.

Indeed he did, and his paper "The Theory of Interstellar Trade" is well worth a read.

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

I've also been frustrated with the lack of US publisher support for your books! Although since I've been living in Germany for nearly a near now, I suppose I should have just gotten 'em shipped (and as I write this, I realize has, e.g., Night Sessions in english paperback). Except that I'm also in love with my Irex ereader, so I'm also frustrated with the lack of DRM-free digital editions! Boo.

Anyway, love your work! Would love to buy you a beer if you ever did any author signing things in the area.

As a SF fan in the religiously oppressive USA, I did indeed, I did find Night Sessions especially appropriate and enjoyable.

I was delighted to actually find it on the shelf at the University Bookstore in Seattle last week. A year or so late, but still, better late than never.

Hoping, for the sake of other MacLeod readers here, that Restoration Game will show up a little sooner -- also for the sake of my own two copies, which I don't want to see too beat up by being loaned out to all my friends. ',:^D

Well, if you thought getting Ken's books was difficult, try living in Spain! I got the Fall Revolution series from Amazon US and have re-read them 3-4 times (and still find them surprising and fresh each time I go through them once again). It's frustrating not being able to share them with non-English speaking friends, though. Some chance you'll get translated into Spanish anytime soon, Ken?

Totally unrelated: today I was sifting through the Bradley Manning/Afghan War Diary mess (, and generally thinking how very FallRev-ish the whole affair was, when I came across a line where Manning is asked why he leaked them, and he says "information wants to be free". I had a flash of Moh Kohn's martyrdom in the first book.

It made my day, in some odd and twisted way. ;)

[Which is a longish way to say: Thanks for your writing, Ken. You can't imagine how many enjoyable hours it has given me :) ]

Thanks for the kind words, AntiAlias.

My Engines of Light trilogy is translated into Spanish and the three books are available here.

Post a Comment