A Ken MacLeod book is like a crowded college coffeehouse: noisy, bustling, a little rowdy, and packed with enough wild ideas and competing ideologies to leave you reeling. Star Fraction
, MacLeod's 1995 debut, is no exception. As the first installment in the Fall Revolution sequence (followed by The Stone Canal
and The Cassini Division
), Star Fraction
established this Scottish author's formidable talent for mixing complex politics and cyberpunk action into smart, funny stories.
MacLeod avoids heady political theorizing by always personifying his ideas in believable, often articulately passionate characters. (Or as one character puts it, "In my experience politics is guys with guns ripping me off at roadblocks.") Star Fraction's putative protagonists--a Trotskyite mercenary, a fugitive university researcher, and a fundamentalist-turned-atheist programmer--are on the run after a chance combination of marijuana, experimental memory drugs, and a self-aware firearm threatens to awaken a powerful AI on the nets, much to the dismay of the Men In Black and the orbital-laser-wielding U.S./UN. (As with all MacLeod plots, don't bother asking--it's a long story.)
With its ultrabalkanized UK and convoluted cast of neo-Stalinists, AI-Abolitionists, Christianarchists, femininists, et al., Star Fraction is MacLeod at his best--even at his first. --Paul Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
First published in Britain in 1995 and the start of a new series, this fine SF political thriller explores the fascinating possibilities of a future world (2040s London) in which traditional Labour Party leftist policies have contributed to the country's ruin. Never mind that this vision may be a bit dated in the wake of Tony Blair's New Labour victory of 1997. Marxist security mercenary Moh Kohn and computer expert Janis Taine, later joined by "femininist" terrorist Catherin Duvalier and Jordan Brown, a teenage refugee from an evangelical commune, seek to defeat a sinister artificial intelligence that threatens to act as a doomsday machine. With a host of peculiar friends and enemies and just as many action scenes in odd places (try a gay ghetto whose militia is known as the Rough Traders), this quartet will keep readers interested if occasionally confused right through the last battle against the Hanoverians (the absentee royal family) and the Men in Black (the U.S./U.N. technology police, or Stasis). The political scenario needs (and receives) a good deal of background explanation, allowing American readers in particular to better appreciate such curious political entities as the Space and Freedom Party and the Felix Dzerzhinsky Workers' Defense Collective. In general, MacLeod (The Cassini Division) is more adept at world building than at narrative, but he also possesses the rare talent of attracting readers who won't necessarily agree with the political agenda implicit in his fiction. This novel promises well for the rest of the series.
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