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, Amazon.co.uk
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.