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The Cassini Division (Fall Revolution) Mass Market Paperback – August 15, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

With his third novel, Ken MacLeod elaborates on the future timeline from his first two works, The Star Fraction (1995) and The Stone Canal (1996). Most relevant is book two, which established a colony on the remote world of New Mars via a spatial wormhole created by superhumans--transcendent machine-hosted intelligences called the "fast-folk." The original fast-folk crashed from too much contemplation of their metaphorical navels, but their descendants on Jupiter still harass Earth with virus transmissions that have killed off computers and the Internet. Enter heroine Ellen May Ngwethu of the Cassini Division, an elite space-going force created to defend against the fast-folk. Her wild doings in the 24th century's anarcho-socialist utopia make for fun reading--everyone will covet her smart-matter clothing that can become a spacesuit, combat outfit, evening gown, or satellite dish at will. But the Division's political philosophy is brutally tough, with alarming plans to use a planet-wrecking doomsday weapon against "enemies," who may not be hostile at all. In a climax of slam-bang space battle, MacLeod crashes the ongoing ethical debate into a brick wall and leaves you gasping. Witty, skillful, provocative, but just a trifle too glibly resolved. --David Langford, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A rare but successful fusion of hard SF, space opera and serious political speculation, this is the third novel from MacLeod, who's Scottish, but his first to be published in the U.S. The story takes place in a 24th-century Sol system still recovering from a near-catastrophic clash between humanity and post-humanity, the latter a society of godlike, possibly insane former humans who have uploaded themselves into computers and set up their own civilization on Jupiter. At the center of the narrative stands Ellen May Ngwethu, commander of the spaceship Terrible Beauty and an officer in the Cassini Division. This semiautonomous military organization operates as Earth's frontline defense against the dangerous and enigmatic post-humans. Society on Earth, based on a unique combination of socialist and anarchist beliefs, has achieved a high degree of environmentally responsible prosperity in recent years, but the post-humans on Jupiter are an ever-increasing threat. As the forces of the Cassini Division prepare to destroy the post-humans without warning, Ngwethu finds herself on a dangerous mission through a wormhole to reestablish contact with another potential enemy, the long-lost, libertarian-capitalist interstellar colony of New Mars. Despite heavy doses of political theory, MacLeod generally manages to keep the first half of his novel moving at acceptable speed, aided by solid prose, a strong protagonist and some fascinating bits of high tech. The latter half of the tale, which features a battle in space, complete with comets used as superweapons, is more lively. This is an enjoyable and ambitious novel, and hopefully presages the American publication of MacLeod's earlier work. (July) FYI: MacLeod's first two novels, The Star Fraction and The Stone Canal, each received the Prometheus Award from the Libertarian Futurist Society.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Fall Revolution (Book 3)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Science Fiction; 1st edition (August 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812568583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812568585
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,461,434 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

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By David Moles on October 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
All the comparisons are accurate. "The Cassini Division" has a little bit of everything -- fast action, snappy dialogue, evocative descriptions, speculation on the nature of consciousness, and enough trippy political-economic speculation to entertain (or annoy) Vernor Vinge and Iain Banks fans. MacLeod's ruthless but amiable characters are as fun and crazy as Bruce Sterling's, but they're deeper thinkers; I'm not sure I buy into their "true knowledge" ideology any more than I buy into Vinge's anarcho-capitalism, but MacLeod makes it at least as plausible -- sure, it's socialism, but as Ellen May Ngwethu points out, it's socialism based on a very pessimistic view of human nature. (This is not your grandmother's Marxism.) But "The Cassini Divison" isn't really about politics, it's about people, technology, and cool stuff -- what hard SF is all about. I'm glad I've just moved to England so I don't have to wait for the rest of his books to be published in the States (which they will be -- count on it).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The Cassini Division is easily one of the best books I read last year. Ken MacLeod's work represents an all too rare element of science fiction, the thoughtful, left-leaning, political novel set somewhere other than the United States. His work is informed by an impressive understanding of left-wing fringe politics and the political theories of anarchism.
In The Cassini Division an on-line version of the protagonist Jon Wilde has travelled back through the Malley Mile wormhole to Earth with his computer companion, Meg to discover an earth transformed through the consequences of longevity and whose technology has been transformed out of all recognition as a consequence of computer viruses spawned by the "fast folk"-computer nerds who uploaded themselves and now live at an accelerated rate of evolution within the envelope of the planet Jupiter. Jon Wilde and Meg are themselves downloaded into flesh on reaching Earth and spend much of the novel looking for ways to get back through the Malley Mile to the human colony they have left behind in the hope that they can integrate the two cultures of Earth and New Mars. The snag is that the technology to remake the connection lies with the fast folk, whose last major project was to bombard earth with computer viruses and trigger the collapse of computered society. Earth now runs its computations through Babbage engines and avoids the use of radio waves. Orbiting around Jupiter, the last residence of the fast folk, is the Cassini Division, a space force with the self-appointed mission to protect earth.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Reg St. James on January 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This was a fast read; I rated it above average not because of MacLeod's somewhat fractured and mediocre writing style, but because of the interesting ideas in the story. The author does manage to introduce some very subtle twists.
This book is not a "shoot-'em-up". There is a lot of talking, a lot of arguments, introducing different idiological points of view.
It was a refreshing twist to have the heroine as a defender of the Solar Union's social anarchy, which somehow achieves the ideal of everyone just getting along and contributing to society. As the book unfolds, your assumptions about the heroine and her beliefs are gradually challenged and altered. At some points you pause to wonder who is the bad guy. By the end you have been exposed to the merits of three dramatically different points of view; the darwinist social anarchists, the materialistic capitalist, and the inexplicable post-human Jovians.
Even weeks after reading it I still am thinking about some of the arguements in the book, which is probably the best anyone could say about a novel.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Randy Stafford VINE VOICE on August 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Post-humans. Uploaded human minds inhabiting the robots and computer networks of a civilization in the atmosphere of Jupiter. Sneering at those still living in the "meat", they bombard the inner solar system with computer and "mind viruses." They brought on the Collapse, the destruction of man's computer-dependent civilization, and ushered in the age of the Solar Union, a socialist anarchy.
But some in the Union have had enough of the post-human threat, namely the Cassini Division, self-appointed cold warriors manning their version of the Berlin Wall on Jupiter's moon, Callisto. They want to wipe out the Jovians once and for all with a cometary bombardment. And they aren't listening to any arguments from "appeasers" or those who think the Jovians are sentient and deserve to live or don't pose a threat.
Ambiguity, irony, and philosophical debate make up a lot of this book, but it's not a dry tome unlike the many utopian and dystopian novels that supply several of Macleod's chapter headings. Macleod keeps the arguments short, the action coming, and shifts the scenery frequently from a pastoral London inhabited by the few die-hard capitalists to Callisto and, eventually, New Mars, man's sole outpost beyond our solar system.
The narrator, Ellen May Ngewthu, is engaging, fun, witty, and hard-edged. She's given herself the job of wiping out the Jovian post-humans, and she's willing to go to a lot of trouble to finish the job. She gets into a lot of arguments in the book: about the virtue of socialist anarchy versus the capitalist anarchy of New Mars, the sentience of those beings with uploaded minds, and whether the universe has any moral rule other than doing whatever you can get away with.
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