Song of Time

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After the great love of her life dies, empathy will be Roushana's weak spot, whereas her mother will go in the opposite direction. The description of these formative years is careful, detailed and highly emotional, but the author judges his book or his readers well. Just as the reader begins to wonder if it will be this maudlin and introspective all the way through not that that would necessarily have been a bad thing , he unleashes an apocalypse to shake things up. It's a nuclear war between India and Pakistan. Unsurprisingly things get even more depressing for a while after that.

The ramifications extend all the way to my own front door, as fighting breaks out in Handsworth and the troops are sent in. Then there is a heartbreaking visit to a devastated India, in particular to the bombed city of Ahmedabad, now home to the untouchables, who have found a strange freedom amidst the radiation. But things pick up when the scene moves to Paris, in the grip of a new renaissance. There we meet Claude, a brilliant pianist and conductor who brings both the novel and its frosty lead character to life.

Roushana moves out of herself and engages with wider worlds of art and politics, bringing dynamism and vigour to the novel just when it threatened to slow down to a miserable crawl. Roushana and the reader are whirled through Paris, to America and then back to England for the conclusion, where melodramatic revelations come perilously close to spoiling the mood. Song of Time is a very different kind of science fiction novel, and one that won't appeal to everyone.

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It is ambitious, but it fulfills those ambitions. For example, writing about music is notoriously difficult, but MacLeod does a marvellous job of it here - crucial since his lead is a violinist. He covers the sweep of history impressively, but not intrusively; Roushana isn't shoe-horned into events. Most interesting is the novel's clear-eyed but sensitive attitude to death.

What would it mean for us if it was avoidable? Would that be a good thing? Are stories with endings inherently better than those that go on for ever? MacLeod doesn't force the reader into agreeing with his answers, but he makes his character's final decision entirely believable. View all 4 comments. May 19, Susan Kornfeld rated it really liked it. Thoughtful and full of ideas, this near-future literary science fiction book pleased me in several ways. Thematically, it examines how life is lived and how remembered; how memories form and are used; how death might be approached; and of course, what love is.

The background to all of this is a world with wonderful riches and culture, terrible poverty and violence, and a restless and dangerous earth. Music is the device that links it all together, as Roushana, the aged and dying protagonist, is Thoughtful and full of ideas, this near-future literary science fiction book pleased me in several ways. Music is the device that links it all together, as Roushana, the aged and dying protagonist, is a world-famous concert violinist moving in musical and often Bohemian circles.

I enjoyed the emphasis on music and found the story flowed musically as well. The sentences roll, and the structure is past and present by turns as Roushana examines her life, sharing her stories with the mysterious young amnesic man found washed up on the Cornish beach beneath her home. What I particularly enjoyed was how MacLeod carefully led up to a powerful ending so that what might seem shocking is, upon reflection, suddenly all too understandable.

That's excellent characterization. I also enjoyed all the futuristic bits.

But he excells at the details of daily life, the comforts, amusements, transportation systems, etc. If any of my friends would like to read this and have a good book discussion, I'm all up for it! Subtle future technology juxtaposition with timeless issues of living and dying. Literary post-apocalyptic science fiction.

Unfortunately, self-consciously literary. Brilliant imagery, clumsy storytelling. Occasional homonym or similar faulty word choice. Several epigrams could become catch phrases for the culture were they not so ineptly worded. As if it was dashed off, but not re-read. Needed a good editing, if not a rewrite.

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Two threads, before and after the collapse. Lots of forward and back flashes. Sometimes confusing. The usual suspects both cultural and personal stereotypes ; little originality in characterization. Excellent evocation of the pop culture fifty years in the future. Believable future developments in technology, ecology, culture and legal issues. After reflecting a while, I may adjust my rating up or down. Paradox: While reading this book, terror attacks struck Paris. Dinner conversation turned in a different context to the potential for a Yellowstone cataclysm.

Feb 02, Adam rated it really liked it Shelves: literature-disguised-as-science-fic. Fun thing with near future is we get to see what Macleod will get right he already got one wrong, an aside about the U. S never having a Black president, oops , will classical music have a resurgence or do we face food born plagues what a stretch ,nuclear wars or supervolcanoes? Who knows, this book is written well enough to probably whether such things anyways. It is also gripped with an unholy melancholy that Macleod seems to bring to bear on his narratives quite a bit, but there is poetic introspection to make it palatable.

May 09, Pamela rated it really liked it. I haven't been posting much lately about books I've been reading, maybe because I haven't been all that impressed with them, which may say more about me and my choices or my current glum mood than it does about the books. But this novel is a gem, the life of a gifted woman written as if being narrated by an eloquent novelist or memoirist of the next century.

Highly recommended.

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Sep 12, Michael Burnam-Fink rated it really liked it Shelves: , sci-fi. Song of Time is a melancholy reflection of life and legacy. Roushana Maitland is preparing to die, or more accurately shed her physical body and enter digital immortality. In the middle of her preparations, a young man with amnesia washes ashore on the cliffs below her house.


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The meat of the book is is Roushana reflecting on her life through the tumultuous 21st century, and the role of art in a world. A talented concert violinist, Roushana provides a frame to ask if art gives life meaning, and if Song of Time is a melancholy reflection of life and legacy. A talented concert violinist, Roushana provides a frame to ask if art gives life meaning, and if not art, then what.

The biography is a clever way to provide a future history that is just short of apocalyptic. A new disease claims Roushana's brother. A nuclear war between India and Pakistan almost kills her mother.

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Global warming threatens everything, until the Yellowstone Volcano erupts and cools the plnet, at the cost of North America. Somehow, life goes on. The book is best when it explores Roushana's relationship with the artistic people around her. Her piano prodigy brother, the gender-ambiguous critic Harad, her husband and conductor Claude, in his talent and weakness. The glimpses of the future are both chilling and believable.


  • Ocarina “Song of Time” Lyrics.
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The 'present' timeline, with the amnesiac young man, doesn't do as much, and the odd unlife of the digitally immortal is sadly wasted as it relates to what the world looks like. Still, this is a satisfying, sophisticated, and melancholy yet optimistic book.