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In fact this is the future of a world in which Al Gore won the elections, or rather robbed them in the November coup, when the election was too close to call. According to Mark Dark, if only the Florida electorial commission hadn't disallow the Workers World Party from entering a candidate.


The few hundred extra votes that because of this went to Gore ending up giving him the edge over Bush. It's a nice, ironic twist, a rejection of the idea held by far too many people in the real world that if only Gore had won the elections the past seven years would have gone much better, by showing exactly the opposite, a alternate history that has gone much worse.

It's an oldfashioned socialist point to make about the course of history and the forces that shape it.

But it's also a cheat. A cheat, because MacLeod shows us an incredibly bleak future where we can't get to. It's almost as if he couldn't bring himself to predict this future for us, or more likely, that he didn't want to deal with the inevitable inaccuracy of predictions so close to the present and hence made sure it was never going to be our future at all.

Now when I came to this point in the novel, about a third of the way in, I had been reading it in cold fascination, only to stop dead.

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It was almost a bookthrowing moment. Almost, because MacLeod managed to win me over in the end with the sheer interestness of his alternate history. Not much sleep afterwards either. The climax was especially intense, as it should be, with nuclear attack sirens going off in Oslo, harking back to that recurring nightmare I grew up with in the early eighties. Not that MacLeod ends his novels with something as mundane as nuclear war, horrifying as that would be. No, something wonderful happens at the end of the book, something that is proper science fiction, a complete surprise the seeds of which have been sown from page one.

It was very smart, but it was also a bit of an anticlimax. In the end I'm not quite sure what to make of The Execution Channel.

The Execution Channel

It is beyond a shadow of a doubt a near-brilliant book, one of MacLeod's best, but it was also unsatisfying in some ways. It's a clever alternate history, but I think I'd rather had seen it played straight. Or a clever little piece of backstory - this isn't quite Britain in the near future, it's Britain in an alternative near future - would be thrown in very casually and trip me up in several assumptions that had a lot more to do with ideology than plot.

It's almost as though MacLeod had gone to a fancy dress party disguised as Tom Clancy but made sure to leave his fingerprints on every glass.

The Execution Channel by Ken Macleod. 9781841493497

It would have to be quite a scary fancy dress party though, because The Execution Channel frightened the bejaysus out of me. The feel of the book, however, is that of a tense spy thriller. Cleverly too, although violence is all around, we don't meet much of it head on. It's all in the background, adding to a feeling of threat and menace in a world that has become so immersed in power games and double bluffs it lacks even the semblance of a moral framework on which to stand. The Execution Channel was easy to read and difficult to think about.

The Execution Channel | Socialist Review

And it pressed every single one of my buttons well, except for that half a page with the sex in it. Note to author: don't say "cock". It reminds me of the Readers Wives pages in Those Magazines all the boys bought before the good old www made all their dreams come true. I absolutely loved it. Here's hoping it gives Ken MacLeod an audience even wider than his considerable cadre of already appreciative SF fans.

Stonking stuff. A wildly different but equally wonderful book speculating on future catastrophe is Jim Crace's The Pesthouse. Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site. Jump to: navigation , search. Personal tools Log in.