Desolation RoadDesolation Road by Ian McDonald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

what a romp. McDonald must have had so much fun writing this book.

it has quite a large cast, but characters are introduced with a chapter apiece (for the most part), and the on-ramp is gradual both in terms of introducing the characters and introducing the world.

the writing throughout is sharp, witty, and pitch-perfect, tending toward some pretty biting satire. being satirical, you probably won’t walk away feeling like you got to know a person inside & out, but that’s ok.

and the names! the names! the names are so funny. my own personal fave is Persis Tatterdemalion, followed hard by Inspiration Cadillac and Johnny Stalin (really Joseph Mencke Stalin). i have a sneaking suspicion that i have missed a whole bunch of really awesome jokes just in the names.

my one criticism of the book is that the satire is aimed, by and large, at some pretty low-hanging fruit: corporations, religion, the Military Mind. not that all of these don’t need a good periodic skewering, but one wishes for more than:

corporations: bad
religion: loony
military: bad and loony.

(for me, Max Barry is your go-to guy for that kind of inventive and insightful satire.)

but the sheer invention and exuberance of Desolation Road make it a read not to be missed. its follow-up, Ares Express, is also fantastic.

oh! my second criticism of the book: nothing to do with the writing, but damn, the publishers should take one in the shorts for the proofreading. in my edition, it’s terrible–an egregious typo every other page, at least. for shame, Pyr!

but don’t let that stop you. maybe they’ve reissued, my copy is a few years old. read it anyway, you won’t be sorry.