The Stone Canal
Life on New Mars is tough for humans, but death is only a minor inconvenience. The machines know their place, the free market rules all, and only the Abolitionists object.
Then a stranger arrives on New Mars, a clone who remember his life on Earth as Jonathan Wilde, the anarchist with a nuclear capability who was accused of losing World War III. This stranger also remembers one David Reid, who now serves as New Mars’s leader. Long ago, it turns out, Wilde and Reid had shared ideals and fought over the same women.
Moving from 20th-century Scotland through a tumultuous 21st century and outward to humanity’s settlement on a planet circling another star, The Stone Canal is idea-driven sci-fi at its best., making real and believable a future where long lives, strange deaths, and unexpected knowledge await those who survive the wars and revolutions to come.
“So it’s true what they say: information wants to be free!” But the information in question, in this case, is Dee Model, a sexy, butt-kicking, love-slave android who’s just mysteriously become self-aware, eluded her owner, and filed for her own autonomy. And the person making the remark (ironic given that it’s a centuries-old reference) is Ax Terminal, a “freelance professional eunuch and part-time catamite,” a resident of New Mars, the wormhole-away-from-Jupiter free-market anarchy set up thanks to the fast-folk, an uploaded race of überhumans experiencing reality and evolving at ultrahigh speeds. Android Dee, as it turns out, may have been nudged toward freedom by Jon Wilde, her cloned body’s former husband (they met at Glasgow University back in the ‘70s), who just recently came back from the dead (revived by himself, in robot form) to join in the struggle between robot abolitionists and the malicious boss man of New Mars, David Reid (Wilde’s former rival and owner of the sex slave that happens to be a cloned copy of Wilde’s former wife). Now this is what great science fiction is all about.
Action-packed, inventive, and satisfyingly weird, Ken MacLeod’s Stone Canal (the retroactively U.S.-released prequel to The Cassini Division) lets loose with a steady stream of challenging ideas and novel technology, taking on questions of free will, identity, and the nature of consciousness, all the while telling a bang-up story. Reminiscent of K.W. Jeter’s best work, The Stone Canal certainly deserves a look. —Paul Hughes