I really loved this book. I liked it even though—unlike The Night Sessions, the last book by MacLeod I read—it contained no instances at all of the word “dinna.” One of the reasons I loved it is that I’ve read so much stuff like the book I discussed in my previous blog post, Codex (a fact for which its author bears no responsibility), novels I enjoyed but couldn’t quite buy, like The Historian and Bleeding Edge and Halting State.
The Historian gave us a thoroughly modern, materialist-minded academic, and confronted her with the uncanny, in the form of a supernatural tradition that turns out to be literally real, and a vast element of evil that turns out to take a fully human form. An unnamed young woman, the historian of the tale, is essentially inducted into a secret society of vampire hunters, linked only by the fact that they’ve all been given the gift of an old book with a dragon on the cover, and aware of one another only through chance meetings. Decades may go by without their taking up abandoned or previously concluded vampire research, when suddenly they again receive the call.
The Restoration Game, instead of shadowy, unnamed secret societies, has real government spooks: amateur assets of the British Crown, giving birth (literally) to a professional anthropologist reporting back to the CIA. She’s dating a Scottish socialist who works equally easily with a criminal smuggling drugs, porn, and tobacco behind the Iron Curtain, and a splinter-group cell smuggling anti-Stalinist materials (to Warsaw, most notably). They, in turn, give birth to a programmer for a swords-and-sorcery multi-player game who is about to learn how her platform can be used for spy games.
I found it refreshing that we always know who those people are and what they want (for the most part), and that questions about virtual reality versus Reality never obtrude so far as to spoil the fun. And it’s not too long. I’ve enjoyed all of the books of MacLeod’s that I’ve read, but I’ve never quite been sure I understood where he was coming from. This was the book that sealed my doubts.