June 6, 2020

Review: The Restoration Game by Ken MacLeod

Out this month from Pyr Books!

Be wary of that video game you’ve just been called in to code… the fate of your alternate reality motherland might just depend on it. This week, we review The Restoration Game, the new cyber-science fiction thriller by Ken MacLeod out from Pyr Books. This smart, fast-paced read pits Lucy Stone, a young savvy programmer against the political whims that have shaped her native and fictional (well, in THIS reality!) homeland of Krasnia. Plop the Krassian Republic down on a map and it would be right at home amongst Soviet Georgia and the like. Lucy is called in for her cross-cultural expertise to translate and code a Krassian myth into an action packed World of Warcraft style video game; she finds herself embedded in a cloak and dagger CIA devised revolution that threatens the integrity of her homeland. As hinted at, there’s more to the tales of Krasnia as passed down by Lucy’s academic mother than simple sword and sorcery. The Restoration Game is also interesting in that it gives away its far future ending before getting into the body of the tale; some might say “what were those first few pages all about?” But the beauty of reading such a frank tale is the convoluted path it took to get there.

Ironically, The Restoration Game also jibes well with the “Quantum Summer”…   that has been underway at this universe’s iteration of Astroguyz HQ; namely, are multiple instances of causation possible? If, for example, the ancient Greek light of reason and democracy (or the Roman free market enterprise, in the example of the book) was never extinguished, would we be traveling about the galaxy at relativistic speeds by now? Such a theme runs central to the premise of The Restoration Game (I don’t feel bad about spoilers as the intro for the book pretty much lays the premise) as Lucy and crew must race to avert disaster for her people. Just what were they mining in the mountains above her home town in those Stalinist days, and what were the Soviets racing to keep secret? Could you really do higher mathematics with strings of X’s and I’s, let alone code in as cumbersome a language as Latin? I’m reminded of the Monty Python ‘Romani Aeunt Domus’ scene from the Life of Brian, as well as my own brain-curdling fortrays into High School Latin and endless strings of ablative, dative, accusative… augh!!! You get the picture…

The Restoration Game is a smart cyber-thriller that runs an interesting course of alternate history. Part of what makes the story a true gem is not where it’s going plot wise, but how it gets there. Its world is as timely as the latest I-Phone release, and Krasnia, while fictional could be a page right out of Soviet 20th century history. Will Lucy and crew come back for a sequel? There’s certainly lots of room in the quantum universe of alternate histories out there waiting!

Next week; back into the realm of science history (I love this stuff!) With a look at Magik, Mayhem, and Mavericks and some of the great untold tales of physical science!





  1. [...] month from Pyr Books. Fans of this space will remember our review of Mr. MacLeod’s cyber-thriller The Restoration Game last [...]

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