light ages

I’ve been pretty busy at work for the last couple weeks, hence no postings. It was the sort of business that leaves you almost no headspace at the end of the day, and what little there was left I spent reading The Light Ages by Ian MacLeod.

I ran across it somewhat ironically positioned on the library shelf immediately to the left of the books of Ken MacLeod, whose work I was actually looking for at the time. Salon’s article about Ken MacLeod referred to his book, The Cassini Division, as Trotskyite libertarian cyberpunk. I’m looking forward to reading him next.

Anyway, back to The Light Ages. Imagine that magic is real, and that sometime in about the early 1600s someone discovers a substance, æther, that powers magical activity. By the time the story opens about 300 years later, an industrial society has emerged with æther as its economic basis rather than coal. The story opens in an industrial town in the North of England, and follows a boy as he grows, runs away to London, and eventually becomes very wealthy. Yeah, doesn’t sound too promising, but believe me, the fault is in my description, not the book. (Perhaps you should read the author’s synopsis.)

Although sometimes the prose is a bit clotted, the breadth of invention will keep you going right to the end. I’ll be looking out for his next book, Electricity, set in the same timeline but a hundred years later.

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