As he whizzed along Camden’s back streets and canal banks and along the edge of Regent’s Park he sometimes glimpsed the whole scene as a vast, broken woodland, the forest of London. It was like when as a lad he’d seen from the hilltop how the landscape of Lewis wasn’t moor and field and bog with outcrops of rock, but a gnarly mass of rock with a thin overlay of peaty soil. The vision of the city as a forest uplifted him. It was almost utopian, and within it he felt the bike’s smooth engineered wooden frame and handlebars as an extension of himself.A near-future Britain, where the state's control of ordinary citizen's lives, extrapolated from the surveillance state and the war on terror of today, has become appallingly intrusive, with the police perpetrating acts of torture on arbitrarily chosen citizens; and the Morrison family, mulling only minor disobedience over a matter of health care, find that they must flee to Scotland where the hereditary propensity to second sight seems to take on a more robust significance.
As ever with Ken MacLeod, it's intense and passionate, and given the society he has set up, the Morrisons' dilemmas feel very realistic. (Though I'm enough of an idealist to feel that the UK is in fact unlikely to slip too far towards vindictively nasty totalitarianism in the way depicted here.) My biggest problem with the book is that the two most interesting things in it happen off stage at the end - the revelation of the plan of the mysterious Naxals, who are a background presence throughout the book and don't make a direct appearance, and the epic years-long mission of Hugh Morrison's father, about which all we discover is that it happened and succeeded. So it's a little disappointing - a good read in general, but tantalising us with mind-blowing stuff happening elsewhere and elsewhen.