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Dark Light Mass Market Paperback – January 20, 2003
Attention Science Fiction Fans
Man vs. machine, humans vs. aliens, paranormal activities – discover the best of science fiction with these collectible books. Learn More.
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
This second book in a the series is about motivation. What IS Matt after? What are Volkov's plans? What do the saur's want? What are the motivations of the krakens and, more importantly, what do the gods want?
And what happens when Matt decides to go and ask the gods themselves?
Well plotted, with memorable characters and interesting issues, especially about gender (prepare to be challenged), you'll probably get so wrapped up in the multiple POV tale that maybe you'll even forgive the author's goofball politics.
So flip a Greatful Dead CD onto the old player, turn on your reading light, open the book, and enjoy!
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.
As I stated earlier, "Dark Light" is not a bad novel, and if you enjoyed "Cosmonaut Keep" you will definitely want to read it (if you haven't don't even attempt to start with this book, you'll be lost from the get go). However, it falls short of Macleod's previous writings, and is somewhat disappointing as a result. Still, it is does have some remarkable moments of adventure and imagination, and if you're looking for a quick, smart read, you won't go wrong with "Dark Light".
For me, another highpoint of Dark Light, the second of three in the Engines of Light series, was how well the story treats the middle-level players, one might say the knights and bishops on the gaming board, along with the pawns, or low level players. It’s easy to see humans, relocated to other worlds, for instance, adapting, perverting, and even reliving bits of early Earth culture within entirely fresh contexts. It’s fun to see the mixture of old and new technologies thus coming together in ways that would make no sense on Earth, but had the story been set on Earth, the amalgamation would play with all the flavor and fervor of a steampunk tale. Here, too, as with the macro level speculation, Macleod’s storytelling strikes me as both brutally realistic and highly imaginative at the same time, if it’s possible to allege both without sounding like I’m verbalizing an oxymoron.
The story in hard cover is barely 265 pages, so it’s fair to say the plotting is tight, and the story moves forward at a brisk pace. What’s more, the tale is told from the perspective of one or more individual representatives of the various cultures and civilizations involved in the Second Sphere. The Second Sphere is the term given to the mixed colonization of the heavens by humans, and two other alien civilizations, having some amount of commerce and technological exchange among them. By getting into the heads of each of these emissaries form different worlds, Macleod is able to give us a big picture sense of things very quickly, far more quickly than had he chosen instead to tell the story through the eyes of just one narrator.
So much for the pluses.
And while the pluses were admittedly many, I felt the book had a few damning minuses. For one, I found it hard to relate to or bond with any of the lead characters. The dynamics among the various players and how they were affecting one another in the abstract was fascinating. But the author failed to create any lasting bond between me and any of the characters in the story. There was also a lot of telling rather than showing, or addressing of key plot points with exposition and synopsis rather than with scenes that could bring the ideas encapsulated in these synopses to life. This was particularly true as it had to do with the various distant civilizations of the Second Sphere separated by so many light years, all of which were merely referred to but never actually experienced firsthand. Had the author have chosen the latter path, of showing versus telling, of course, this would have been a far bigger book, but also, I believe, a far more immersive one that wouldn’t just tease, but fully involve and engage the reader. Finally, I felt cheated on the very thing which excited me most about the book initially, the idea of meeting and interacting with these god-like civilizations; the author fails to deliver on the promise of the premise. Instead we get what amounts to a couple brief, passing scenes with the uber-mind civilizations, and a page count commitment that is less than two percent of the overall story. While I get that this is the hardest part of a novel like this to convey, I felt I was entitled to a greater audience with the story’s star players, as it were. One recalls Darth Vader of Star Wars who also gains charismatic appeal by the brief amount of time he’s on camera at any one time. So making the most fascinating players in the series also the most elusive is certainly not without precedent. Still, even Vader racks up a lot more screen time than the god-like civilizations of Dark Light.
By now, you can pretty much tell how I ended up at a 4 rating for this book. At the macro level of high concept, and with regards to the realism of the future-forecasting, the book is 5 star. But at the storytelling level, the tale’s ability to fully involve me in the characters and worlds of tomorrow, it reads more like a 3-star work. Sci-fi being traditionally the genre of ideas, it often forgives a lot of sins when it comes to stories that could have been more smoothly told providing the concepts are mind-blowing and realistic enough. But I’ve read other things by Macleod where he’s balanced the two factors better, to my thinking.
Keeping in mind that this is just the middle part of the series, I’m going to push on to the final book to see if the desire for more in book two turns out to be none other than the perfect setup for the payoff in book three. If that turns out to be the case, then my appetite for meeting with the god-like civilizations and the other major players of the second sphere should ultimately be sated.
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Characters are shallow and not well developed but rather just thrown into the...Read more