Lucy Stone is asked by an unknown agency to go back to Krassnia, a small Russian republic in the Caucasus. Her mother, Anna, created the Krassniad, a collection of linked together folk tales, and is also a CIA agent. She’s not sure who her father is – either he is local oligarch or a traveller. She is forced to become re-acquainted with the region’s politics whilst working on a game set in the locale. As war threatens to break out between Russia and Georgia, plans are accelerated to get her into the secret Zone which contains the region’s closely guarded secret.
The book moves away from the spy thriller genre that he has been writing within recently, one presumes as a response to the ‘war on terror’, though doesn’t entirely abandon it and comes back into a more science fictional mode. In one sense I was reminded of Tim Powers’ recently republished Declare with its notion of the secret of the world hidden away. Whilst Powers’s book references the Cold War, Macleod is far more in The Matrix mould of things but with he understands both the science and the philosophical underpinnings.
In part I wonder if this novel is riffing off Kim Stanley Robinson‘s excellent novel The Years of Rice and Salt or William Gibson‘s Pattern Recognition and Spook Country. As part of the game of simulacra, Macleod echoes the idea that historical events would take place in the same way, in the main, but the timings would be different. At the same time the novel’s history intersects real history with the South Ossettia troubles. The world itself remains unknowable though. There is a continuing sense (and it might be as I was re-reading Clute‘s review of Pattern Recognition last night (collected in Scores)) that Macleod is re-mining familiar ideas such as false worlds but refreshing them and possibly linking them to something else like post-modernism. The Restoration Game re-uses the ideas of simulacra and resists the temptation to remove responsibility for the world from its inhabitants. Instead it continues the rediscovery and remaking of the familiar, as ‘New Wave of Space Opera’ (though I cannot help feeling that that movement was artificially constructed) did last decade.
Definitely a book to come back to and enjoy again.