It accurately announces a novel characterised by unpretentious sophistication, subtlety and wit—a novel that is a joy to read, and that may be Macleod’s most satisfying work to date.I have to say I found this novel as deeply unsatisfying as his Engines Of Light trilogy, and for much the same reasons. In his response immortalradical said:
However tightly structured, gently written, and carefully plotted this novel is, it is the literary equivalent of a renovation that adds a dado rail to a room and pretends to have entirely transformed it.Is it really tightly structured at all though? MacLeod is the man responsible for re-structuring Iain M. Banks' Use Of Weapons and hence giving us one of the best SF novels of the Nineties. Increasingly he seems to have given up on such carefully plotting, hopelessly overloading the front of his novels and then frantically trying to catch up with his conclusion. There is lots of nice world building - both on the alien planet and in the colony ship - at the beginning of the novel. To sustain this, to tell two in-depth stories about believeable people in two complex societies, would require much more space than is available. This results in a preposterously compressed second half where characterisation takes very much a back seat. This is particularly bad when, as in the colony ship sections, it is coupled with MacLeod's unhealthy love of revolution. The fracturing of the colony ship is so ridiculous it is hard not to read it as a cautionary tale of the danger of libertarians in space but I'm sure this is not the way MacLeod intented it.
So, all in all it is another disappointing novel from MacLeod. His style is highly readable and I don't find his wordplay over powering but I do find them increasingly messy. In the end I agree with Dan:
Learning The World is ultimately an old-fashioned pulp story with added emotional intelligence. In that sense, it’s an entertaining, nicely written update of something we might have read in a dog-eared Amazing anthology. I have no problem with this—it’s kind of fun. I enjoyed the book on this surface level—it’s an easy read, a bit of fluffy amusement.BSFA Tally: 1/5