In the near future, the war against terror is far from over, and nobody's sure who's fighting whom.
The near-future setting of MacLeod’s latest (Learning the World, 2005, etc.) is grimly familiar: a constant drip of foreign terror atrocities mixed with the occasional shock of an attack on the West, with the permanent drumbeat of war in the background. Not long after antiwar activist Roisin Travis films a cargo plane at a U.S. airbase in Scotland unloading a strange-looking device, the entire base is annihilated in what looks to be a nuclear blast. As follow-up attacks flare up, the inconvenient witness Roisin (along with her father, who is spying for the French) makes a run for it from the “interrogation”-happy security services. Meanwhile, government agents wage a protracted campaign of online disinformation about the attacks, trying to obscure the actual reasons behind them—not that they know what those are. All the while, the titular Execution Channel is available 24 hours per day, showing everything from a captured GI being butchered in Waziristan to the stoning of a Nigerian adulteress. MacLeod nimbly melds a tech- and culture-savvy appreciation of what the blogosphere might look like in a few short years with some old-fashioned spycraft. It's a frighteningly familiar world, where electronically-distributed information is easily distorted. In the end, reality seems just so much code.
A thrilling, well-crafted spy novel.