The Stone Canal by Ken Macleod is book 2 of “The Fall Revolution” series, and one I’ve read in paperback and Kindle form and now experienced in its audio form. The books in this series, starting with The Star Fraction (previous review), are some of my all-time favourites that frequently get another reading.
Of the three, this is probably my favourite. MacLeod expertly weaves together a backstory for a minor character in The Star Fraction who becomes the main protagonist in this one. Jon Wilde tells the story of how he met David Reid, the man responsible for his death.
It starts with Wilde waking up on New Mars after his death, next to… well, that would be spoilers! The starting sentence sets the scene: “He woke, and remembered dying.” Fantastic.
So chapter to chapter, we skip from the far future world of New Mars to the (subjectively) near past, starting in the 70s and the radical political ideas of the time with the university student unions. Less “in your face” political views (though there are still plenty of discussions around it) – it’s more deftly woven into the fabric of the story.
The story slowly unfolds as MacLeod brings the past and the “present” together in a compelling story that looks deep into what it means to be human and how that might play out in a world where the human mind is uploaded, transferred, and even copied.
Narrated by James Lalley, a different narrator from the first, but this makes sense. The story, while in the same universe as the first, is told from the perspective of a different character. It’s not mandatory to have read the first book, but you will find it fills in some of the gaps. This book, when it reaches the events of the first, skips past these with only a cursory nod.
James Lalley’s performance was polished, and I found him enjoyable to listen to. I did find he read a tad slow, but perhaps that had more to do with me intimately knowing the story. A quick bump of the playback speed sorted that out.
All up, a great addition to The Fall Revolution series, and as I mentioned, probably my favourite.