I just finished reading Ian McDonald's 1988 science fiction novel DESOLATION ROAD and I am very impressed. I won't claim that this is an easy read, there are far more characters than I was able to keep track of and the scope of the book is huge, but this is storytelling on a grand scale and it is done well. Set on a future terraformed Mars, the book tells the story, no make that stories, of the founding, growth, delights, and sorrows of the town of Desolation Road. This is a world of atomic trains, robotic religions, traveling carnivals, dystopian corporate control, revolution, redemption, destruction, and deliverance. There are magical machines and mechanical magics. It is the old west of the far future. It is a time when time itself is the ultimate weapon and perhaps the only thing that can save us.
DESOLATION ROAD takes the poetic vision of Ray Bradbury, the paranoia of Philip K. Dick, the adventurous spirit of Zane Grey, and the imagination of H. G. Wells, mixes them all together in a blender in the back of a 1940s jazz club and then blasts the whole thing out through Spinal Tap's amplifiers turned up to eleven. The result is strange and wonderful.