My first thoughts as I read through Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal centered on how many themes it shared with Rudy Rucker’s Ware cycle. No, no, no, I’m not accusing anyone of cribbing from anyone else’s notes. I do say, however, that there was something in the S.F. atmosphere at the time, that post-cyberpunk moment, when the relative ease or difficulty of AI, the nature and definition of consciousness, the connections between minds and math, were the thing to explore.
So, what then does MacLeod bring to the party? Well, since this is the Fall Revolution cycle, these humanist / transhumanist / posthumanist goings on take place surrounded by revolutionary politics. The half of the story which takes place on earth overlaps The Star Fraction and the creation of Norlonto (one of the micro states in a hyper balkanized Europe), while the section on New Mars explores the economic and legal operations of an anarcho-capitalist society.
While the official take on the Fall Revolution cycle is that they can be read in any order, I’m glad that I read The Star Fraction first, if only to acclimatize myself to MacLeod’s voice. That being said, I found The Stone Canal to be more even and better constructed than The Star Fraction. Hey, he already had my attention with the ideas he was mining, they’re right up my alley. So it was gratifying to see how much MacLeod grew as a writer between the two books.
Do I recommend The Stone Canal? Absolutely, but, I recommend reading The Star Fraction first.
I can’t wait until The Cassini Division and The Sky Road show up on my doorstep.