by Ian McDonald
Cover Artist: Stephan Martiniere
Review by Mary Rose-Shaffer
Pyr Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781591027447
Date: 28 July 2009 List Price $15.98 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Every superlative word written about Desolation Road in its hardcover release rings true for its softcover edition. This softcover edition is a beautiful reprinting of the original text. Nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Desolation Road is nothing less than enchanting. Entertaining, engaging, and thought-provoking, Desolation Road is not pure science fiction although it incorporates various tropes of SF – truly intelligent AI, genetic engineering, time travel, a created oasis which is also a science station, futuristic weapons, robot replacements, and trains. It is also fantastic with its use of a small green person who appears and disappears, acting as muse to the scientist Alimantando.
I confess to savoring this book, reading one episodic chapter at a time. The stories center around the citizens of Desolation Road – a town whose creation is owed to the oasis and the railroad. Each initial chapter of the book is a virtually self-contained story of the residents and their lives. Subsequent chapters follow the families and individual family members of Desolation Road over time, both within and beyond the town.
Alternately lyrical and violent, the stories of these chapters have gripping plotlines, including a labor uprising against a feudal capitalist corporation, a touch of religious fanaticism, and a guerilla war.
All the initial characters are woven in and out of the story, just as the tapestry history of Desolation Road is woven throughout the book by Eva Mandella, one of Desolation Road's founding citizens. The book concludes with the initial citizens winding up back in town until it is time for them to no longer be a part of Desolation Road.
Very well conceived and executed. Highly recommended.