Red Plenty

by Henry Farrell on July 27, 2010

I get far more free books from publishers than I can read, let alone write about (a source of persistent, if mild guilt). And this book I haven’t read yet, since I only got it this morning. But I have been _wanting_ to read it ever since I read “Ken MacLeod’s brief account”: ; how it is that the publicity department of Faber and Faber discovered this entirely unexpressed desire of mine, I don’t know. Ken:

bq. It’s a fictionalised account, or a non-fiction novel, about the project in the early 1960s to use computers to plan the Soviet economy. A key figure is the genius Kantorovich, who invented the mathematical technique of linear programming in 1938. (We follow his mind as the idea dawns on him, on a tram.) He and other real characters such as Kosygin and Khrushchev mingle with fictitious characters – some based on real people, some not, but all convincing. It’s a bit like reading a novel by Kim Stanley Robinson, Neal Stephenson, or Ursula Le Guin – or maybe a mashup of all them; full of arguments between passionate and intelligent people, diverting (in both senses) infodumps, and all about something that actually happened – and, more significantly, about something that didn’t happen, and why it didn’t.

Worth noting that the cover is far spiffier looking than a compressed jpeg can convey. Worth also noting that MacLeod’s own recent novel, “The Restoration Game”: looks like a lot of fun; since it doesn’t appear to have a US publisher, I’m waiting till I get to Ireland next month to pick it up.