the Little Red Reviewer

The Restoration Game, by Ken MacLeod

Posted on: September 4, 2011

The Restoration Game, by Ken MacLeod

Published Sept 2011

Where I got it:  rec’d review copy from the friendly folks at PYR

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This is one of those books that spoils the ending right away.  But as new blogger friend Alison said,when you know the ending, the author has to work that much harder to surprise you along the way.  And there were some great surprises here.

Gamer geek girl Lucy was born in Krassnia, raised in America, and now resides in the UK. The homeland of her mother and grandmother, a disputed area of southern Russia, is Krassnia part of Russia? part of Georgia?  Doesn’t really matter, since Krassnia and it’s sacred mountain aren’t on any map, and the Krassnians would prefer to keep it that way.  But gamer geek Lucy is too busy worrying about her company’s newest MMORPG release, Dark Brittania, to care about Georgian / Russian border towns.

That is, until she gets a call from her mother, who practically begs her to make a video game about Krassnia, based on The Krassniad, a collection of Krassnian folklore.  A few tweaks to Dark Brittania, some changes to the script, a new voice-over, and poof, the Krassnian version is complete and ready to go. Doesn’t matter that it’s a complete rip-off of Dark Brittania, as only a few hundred people in Krassnia are going to have access to it.

And then things start to get really strange.  Lucy always knew her mother worked for the government. But which government, and which agency?  An afternoon spent at the library shows government “work” in Lucy’s family goes back generations, but again, which government, and which agency? Were parents spying on children, wives spying on husbands?  It’s not long before Lucy herself is approached, and asked to do something that on the surface sounds so simple, but of course could easily get her killed.

The Restoration Game is part Cory Doctorow gamer geek fun, part Tim Powers-esque alt-history spy thriller,  with The Matrix and Mamma Mia twists battling for first prize. Something for everyone, right?  Such a great concept surrounded by unexpected twists and turns, so it pains me to say the execution left something to be desired. We get the story from Lucy’s point of view, which is great, but it’s all told in flashbacks.  Again, not usually a problem, but she jumps around so much, and interjects her own thoughts within flashbacks that I wish those portions had been put together a little differently, as it became difficult to keep track of where we were in the timeline.  Because there is a huge historical/spy thriller aspect to the book, MacLeod had to cram a lot of historical information into a few pages. . .  all very interesting, but much of it got infodumped through people talking at each other, not to each other.

Bottom line – really great concept, okay book.  If you enjoy  spy thillers, or if you’re just looking for a fun quick gamer geek story,  give The Restoration Game a try.   At barely 300 pages, The Restoration Game is a place you can spend an afternoon, a day, or a lifetime.

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7 Responses to "The Restoration Game, by Ken MacLeod"

I have never heard of this before, but it does sound interesting. Judging my some traits I have seen lately I am thinking game related books are going to be the fad of the moment. There seems to be a lot of them out there. I am reading a Salman Rushdie book right now and he even works it in.

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I think you’re right, that game-y stuff is pretty trendy right now. and why not? We’re the first generation of adults who were raised with computers and gaming, and spent our college years dabbling in World of Warcraft and philosophizing about The Matrix. I’m not a big gamer, but it’s a super fun sandbox to play in. What Rushdie are you reading???

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This sounds very… full of things. :) How does it end?

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lol, I can’t tell you the ending!! :D

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But you said it spoils the ending in the beginning! :)

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Dude. I was already looking forward to this, but you’ve just clinched it. I hope my library gets it through processing good and soon.

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But it *doesn’t* give away the ending! At least you don’t know that when you read it. It’s only at the very end that you know how the beginning should be interpreted, really.

That’s how I read it, anyway.

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