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Dark Light Hardcover – January 12, 2002

17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

With his sharp, fast-paced, challenging novel Dark Light (sequel to the Prometheus Award-nominated Cosmonaut Keep in the Engines of Light series), Ken MacLeod reaffirms why he is science fiction's hottest new writer at the turn of the millennium.

From the days of the dinosaurs, mysterious aliens have been transporting earthly life forms across the galaxy to the worlds of the Second Sphere. Here, the descendants of humans abducted from the Stone Age and from colonial America coexist with dinosaurs--and with the saurs, their intelligent descendants, who are technologically superior to the humans. This arrangement is disturbed by the arrival of nearly immortal (but far from indestructible) humans from 21st-century Earth--men like Matt Cairns, who have no desire to let the secret of interstellar flight remain in the hands of the inscrutable, almost godlike aliens.

In addition to the Engines of Light series, MacLeod has written the Fall Revolution quartet: The Cassini Division (a Nebula Award and Arthur C. Clarke Award finalist); The Star Fraction (a Prometheus Award winner); The Stone Canal (also a Prometheus Award winner); and The Sky Road (a Hugo Award finalist and recipient of the British SF Association Award). --Cynthia Ward

From Publishers Weekly

In this worthy second installment in MacLeod's Engines of Light series (after 2001's Cosmonaut Keep), human beings and a few other intelligent planetary species now know themselves to be little more than playthings, manipulated at will by the Powers Above. These virtually transcendent beings live for millennia in such out-of-the-way places as the Oort Cloud, the Asteroid Belt and magma beneath planetary crusts. Matt Cairns, once a citizen of 21st-century Edinburgh, has found himself apparently rendered immortal and transported to the Second Sphere, an interconnected web of civilizations located thousands of light-years from Earth. The humans and two other advanced species who inhabit the Second Sphere, saurs and krakens, are the descendents of intelligent beings kidnapped from Earth over the ages by the Powers Above for inscrutable reasons. Having broken an embargo on human-controlled interstellar flight, Matt and his friends travel to the planet Croatan in search of answers to the mystery behind the Second Sphere's existence, but it soon becomes clear that their presence may well trigger a planetary revolution. This middle book in what will be at least a trilogy doesn't stand well on its own, so readers are advised to begin with Cosmonaut Keep. The novel features several interesting alien species, some fascinating speculations on the relationship between sex and gender, and MacLeod's trademark mix of radical socialist and libertarian politics. Both novels are worth reading but not quite up to the high mark established by his previous series, The Fall Revolution. (Jan. 16)Association Award and is a finalist for a Hugo Award.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (January 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765303027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765303028
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,119,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ken MacLeod's SF novels have won the Prometheus Award and the BSFA award, and been shortlisted for the Hugo and Nebula Awards. He lives near Edinburgh, Scotland.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on January 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Let me start off this review by saying that I really enjoyed "Cosmonaut Keep" both for the political intrigue typical of Macleod, and because of the fascinating circumstances in which it took place. It is therefore with some regret that I can only give the sequel, "Dark Light", three stars. Don't get me wrong, this wasn't a bad book, and by the standards of most science fiction it was a great book, but it really wasn't up to Macleod's usual high standards.
The plot picks up where "Cosmonaut Keep" left off: with the familiar cast of characters traveling to the planet Mingulay. Unfortunately, right off the bat the writing gets awkward. Gregor and Elizabeth, the two main characters from the first novel, have a role in the first twenty pages, and then completely disappear for the next 150. Now, I understand that Macleod is looking for an epic feel, with a large cast of characters, but it really interrupts the flow of the novel when two important characters fall completely off the radar.
As the novel continues, we learn of Matt Cairn's quest to solve the mystery behind the origination of the Second Sphere, and later, having received his answer, engaging in political-military intrigue to equip Mingulay to meet its fate. Unfortunately, Macleod's touch isn't as deft as it usually is in this area. The machinations of the characters seem more contrived than meaningful, and I was frequently left wondering why they were even bothering. Motivations in this novel are muddy to say the least. Also, Macleod on several occasions seems to be on the verge of delving into the nature of faith, but then he backs away, leaving interesting, but half formed, ideas on the page.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael Rawdon on February 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The second of a purported trilogy, Dark Light seems merely okay, much like its predecessor, Cosmonaut Keep. I think its essential flaw is that it focuses too much on political theory and novel low-tech cultures and governments, whereas the triumph of MacLeod's best novels (The Stone Canal and The Cassini Division) are explorations of the merging of HIGH tech and unusual politics, and how the two act on one another.
Most of the high tech in Dark Light is of the pedestrian sort: FTL travel, longevity, powerful and enigmatic aliens. The meat of the book focuses on the city of Rawliston (whose tech is slightly behind modern America's), and the low-tech culture of The Great Vale, beyond the limits of the city. MacLeod introduces some gender-ambiguity issues in the people of the Vale which I found tiresome at best. He does better with Rawliston, with its "democracy through drawing lots" government, and suspicion of the human-navigated spacecraft on which our heroes arrive.
Dark Light turns of the focus of the novel squarely on long-lived Matt Cairns (whereas in Cosmonaut Keep his descendant Gregor shared the spotlight). The quest of Matt and his cohorts to learn why their ship was brought to this sector of space by the powerful aliens is the most arresting element of the book. Unfortunately the threads of this story are spread a little too thinly. There is finally a payoff, but it takes quite a while to get there, and too much time is focused on a supporting cast that didn't engage me.
Just as with the first book, I felt that Dark Light was a good foundation on which to build. Alas, it's this second book in the series should have done a lot of the building!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Neal Reynolds VINE VOICE on March 11, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Those who have read COSMONAUT KEEP should find this a worthwhile continuation. I liked it better than the first book, myself, because of the increased political and theological speculation.
Especially fascinating is MacLeod's concept of the Gods and their relationship with humanity. Not highly recommended to extreme conservative religionists.
I did find myself mired down a couple of times in the political dissertations. However, MacLeod basically tells a good story. How good a story it is depends, I suppose, on the concluding book in the series. But these first two are interesting enough and I'm getting to better like the characters, and so I will be reading the final installment.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Frances Huntington on March 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Oh, those Brits! Having to contend with Banks, Reynolds and Mielville isn't enough. We must have this bloke inflicted on us as well. Surprisingly, unlike his earlier work, I have found 'Cosmosnaut Keep' and this volume, the first two in this series to be 'the real thing'. This is surprising as it is very heavily flavoured with the dead hand of (gasp!) Socialism, the conflict between the classes, the worker's ownership of the means of production and all that. Mind you, the terrain of these two books is so cluttered with all sorts of oddities, a second sphere of worlds seeded by 'ancient Gods', lightspeed travel, dinosaurs, saurs descended from dinosaurs, fun and games with sexuality and relatiosnhips, real live Neandethals. Hang on to your hat and open that volume. Remember 'A female man', 'The dispossessed'? Welcome to the world of immortal cosmonauts and spam in a can. Welcome to the darkness of light.
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