HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO FOR THE TRUTH? Ball lightning. Weather balloons. Secret military aircraft. Ryan knows all the justifications for UFO sightings.
But when something falls out of the sky on the hills near his small Scottish town, he finds his cynicism can't identify or explain the phenomenon. And in a future where nothing is a secret, where everything is recorded on CCTV or reported online, why can he find no evidence of the UFO, nor anything to shed light on what occurred?
Is it the political revolutionaries, is it the government or is it aliens themselves who are creating the cover-up? Or does the very idea of a cover-up hide the biggest secret of all?
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 416 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
- Publication Date: 06/03/2014
- Category: Science fiction
- ISBN: 9781841499413
Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.
Review by iansales
The cover art and strapline on this novel is somewhat misleading. It certainly misled me – I was expecting a novel on the psychology of alien abductions, especially since the novel opens with an incident which could be described as a close encounter (although the two teenagers involved are too sceptical to fully subscribe to it). However, as the story progresses it turns into a commentary on the machinations of government and corporations in a near-future Scotland suffering from an economic meltdown. And as a work of sustained near-future extrapolation, Descent is very good indeed. There’s also an idea the book plays with during its first half which MacLeod seems to throw away so he can focus his story on Scotland’s economic recovery, some random muscle-flexing by “securocrats” (secret apparatchiks), and the eventual redemption, emotional and career-wise, of bloke-ish narrator, Ryan. Which is a shame. I quite liked the idea of a genetic basis to the capacity to believe (or perhaps it’s just gullibility) – after all, as an atheist, I’ve often wondered what it is that makes other people believe in god (no, it’s not that I don’t believe in god, it’s that as far as I’m concerned there is no such thing as god). Still, at least MacLeod’s idea is better than the one Sebastian Faulks advanced in his novel Human Traces. Anyway, much as I enjoyed Descent, I didn’t feel it had the science-fictional crunchiness Intrusion possessed, although in many respects it read like a more accomplished work.
Review by pgmcc
Ken MacLeod has delivered another excellent near-future adventure that touches on political and ethical issues of today in a “fictional” world. Issues included relate to the surveillance environment made possible by technology, the role of journalism, and the complexities of personal relationships. As always, Ken’s fictional world is very credible and his characters’ actions plausible.Having grown up in an environment where one knew every telephone call could be, and hence most likely was, recorded and possibly listened to, the level of surveillance in Descent, and for that matter the level of surveillance suggested by Edward Snowden, is not something that surprises me. If something can be done, it will be done. The authorities involved will do it first and worry about the legal/political framework within which to justify it later, and justification will only be considered if evidence of the surveillance comes to public view. I always assume my telephone calls, e-mails, text-messages, Facebook messages, etc… can be accessed by some organisation or other. I don’t think my messages, in whatever format, would be particularly interesting to any security operation so why should I worry about them being read. (That is just a bit of disinformation to throw GCHQ and the NSA off the scent.)<spoiler>The story is set in an independent Scotland at a time when the world has just come out of a global recession. Funnily enough, the governments of the world have pulled together to develop a recovery plan that involves rebuilding and reinforcing the very economic structures that caused the problems in the first place. Why does that sound familiar?Personal relationships are handled well with the main character’s love life consisting of misunderstandings and lost opportunities. I do feel Sophie got a bit of a raw deal in the end, and that Ryan Sinclair is really a bit of a gobshite at times, like most of the time.Descent also raises the question of apparent stability in the world. For those of us who grew up in the Western World of the late Twentieth Century a degree of global stability would be expected to be the norm. I have always felt, however, that stability is really an illusion and that we are never that far away from some chaotic upheaval. Recent activity in the Middle East and Eastern Europe threaten to escalate into something that could upset our delusion of stability. This concept is alluded to by Ken.</spoiler>
Review by jan.fleming
Ball lightning. Weather balloons. Secret military aircraft. Ryan knows all the justifications for UFO sightings. But when something falls out of the sky on the hills near his small Scottish town, he finds his cynicism can't identify or explain the phenomenon.
And in a future where nothing is a secret, where everything is recorded on CCTV or reported online, why can he find no evidence of the UFO, nor anything to shed light on what occurred? Is it the political revolutionaries, is it the government or is it aliens themselves who are creating the cover-up? Or does the very idea of a cover-up hide the biggest secret of all?
What great dystopian fun this novel is, like an X-Files episode set in Scotland.
The near future MacLeod portrays is very believable, frighteningly so, and the lead character is a haunted, endearing, conflicted creation.
"I’ve never had a problem with reality. I’ve had a problem with dreams. Sometimes I think I still do.
I have a recurring dream. The details vary, but it’s always the same dream. It’s so vivid it doesn’t feel like a dream. It feels real at the time. I told it once to a man who knows about these things, and he told me what it means. It means they’ll stay with you, he said. They’ll always be with you. You’ll take them with you to the stars.
This is how it begins...."