The Light Ages by Ian R. Macleod

March 26, 2004 at 12:00 am | Posted in 3 stars, Book Reviews, Fantasy | Leave a comment

Macleod’s The Great Wheel was a thoughtful and capably written book, so when I saw The Light Ages favorably reviewed I figured I would give it a try. Well, as before Macleod has produced a thoughtful, well-written book. This time he has added some very good world building. Unfortunately my reaction was ultimately about as flat as before. Because the world building is so well-done, the scope so broad, and the characters so carefully drawn, I am certain that some…many?…will find this to be a great book. Unfortunately it never quite took off for me. The first problem was the steampunk Victorian setting. I liked the idea of magic fueling an industrial revolution of sorts but all this took back stage to what in my opinion amounts to a hit job on capitalism in the 1800s. It’s not that I disagree, it’s that I question the relevance. Macleod sets up something of a straw man by constructing his world so that the humanist reforms that happened in real life do not happen. It’s not that I don’t sympathize in theory with characters trying to deal with the unfair class struggle in the midst of slave labor conditions, it’s that I don’t really enjoy reading about people in rather miserable circumstances. It’s a pretty long book and I really just got tired of it. I would recommend it to people who liked The Great Wheel and to people who find steampunk settings to be very interesting.

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