Monday, July 23, 2007

Ken MacLeod's "The Execution Channel"

Ken MacLeod is the author of many acclaimed SF novels, including The Stone Canal, The Cassini Division, Newton’s Wake, and Learning the World, which won the Prometheus Award (his third) and was a finalist for the Hugo Award.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, The Execution Channel, and reported the following:
On page 99 of The Execution Channel we catch the end of a conversation, and the beginning of a blog post.

The conversation is among a trio of conspirators: Bob Cartwright, Anne-Marie Chretien and Peter Hakal. They're having an after-work drink at the sidewalk table of a cafe in Boston, discussing - obliquely - the disinformation they've spent the day putting out. An apparent tactical nuke has just levelled a USAF base in Scotland, and everyone's scrambling to claim or deny responsibility. Cartwright et al are freelancers for Homeland Security, who astroturf 'the line' in online fora. The offical line itself includes several levels of misdirection: some interventions blame the Russians, others terrorist groups, and so on.

And they've just received an urgent action request to take over the blog of a British soldier, Alec Travis. He (we know by this point) is the son of one of the major characters, James Travis - a French spy on the run. James Travis's daughter, Roisin, was at a peace-protest camp outside the base, and she's on the run too - having seen, but not identified, what it was that really exploded.

The blog is that of a conspiracy theorist, Mark Dark. While Bob and Anne-Marie are setting up their evening's work, Bob checks it out. Mark Dark is quite influential, and Bob has been feeding him disinformation: supposedly secret USAF documents about mystery aircraft. But Mark Dark hasn't risen to the bait. Instead, he's speculating about the condition everyone is in, as a result of not knowing the real reason for the explosion:

'We're living through a very odd moment, folks. Until we know who or what was behind the Leuchars explosion, we won't know what world we're in.'

On the next page, we discover that we're in a slightly different world to the one we thought we were in, and just why this cafe on the corner of Newbury and Fairfield is - as we've seen a couple of pages earlier - 'so close to Ground Zero'.
Read more about The Execution Channel at the publisher's website, and visit Ken MacLeod's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue