In a balkanized future of dizzying possibilities, mercenaries contend with guns as smart as they are, nuclear deterrence is a commodity traded on the open market, teenagers deal in "theologically correct" software for fundamentalists, and anarchists have colonized a planet circling another star. Against this background, men and women struggle for a better future against the betrayals that went before. Death is sometimes the end, and sometimes something altogether different.
This volume comprises The Star Fraction and The Stone Canal.
"Science fiction’s freshest new writer . . . MacLeod is a fiercely intelligent, prodigously well-read author who manages to fill his books with big issues without weighing them down."—Salon
"As much fun as these books provide, it’s that fierceness, that seriousness of purpose, that powers their engines and makes me want to read on."—Locus
PRAISE FOR THE STAR FRACTION:
"Scottish author MacLeod's first published novel finally appears in the US, completing the trilogy—in reverse order—of The Cassini Division and The Stone Canal. Here, 21st-century Britain is chaotically Balkanized, with enclaves of religious fundamentalists, anarchists, unionists, and politicos of every leftward shade, each with its own independent foreign policy despite their nominal, and brutally authoritarian, US/UN rulers; terrorist actions and mercenary companies are covered by Geneva conventions. Moh Kohn's father, a computer programmer and committed revolutionary, was executed by the US/UN. Now, Kohn works as an ideological mercenary, toting a voice-activated, highly customized gun complete with Internet links. When Janis Taine, a scientist on the verge of a breakthrough, finds the US/UN techno-cops taking a dangerous interest in her work, she seeks Kohn's help. Also joining the party is Jordan Brown, a refugee from a religious enclave where he sold fundamentalist approved software (‘Creation astronomy kit, includes recent space probe data, latest cosmogonies refuted’). So when Kohn accidentally awakens what appears to be a true Artificial Intelligence, the three find themselves pursued by a triple whammy of religious fundamentalists, the STASIS police, and computer wackos. Meanwhile, a revolution is brewing, sparked by the sinister Black Plan and the mysterious, ambitious group of the book's title. By far the most overtly political of the trilogy—back home, MacLeod's probably known as ‘Red Ken’—packed with ideas, scintillatingly plotted . . . [and] absorbed with British political minutiae . . . Fans of MacLeod's other work won't pass this one up."—Kirkus Reviews
"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 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."—Publishers Weekly
PRAISE FOR THE STONE CANAL
"Science fiction's freshest new writer . . . MacLeod is a fiercely intelligent, prodigiously well-read author who manages to fill his books with big issues without weighing them down."—Salon
"Should make those who’ve been crying that British SF can’t work for an American audience think twice. This is strong stuff, full of ideas and yet with a hard-driving plot, and readers whose taste extends beyond good-guys/bad-guys adventure stories ought to love it."—Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine
"MacLeod offers a frightening, plausible picture of a balkanized Great Britain and a nuclear war in Europe."—Science Fiction Weekly
"There is more than a hint of a heroic ethic here, though the hero in question may be more like Milton's Satan than Captain Future. As much fun as [MacLeod's] books provide, it's that fierceness, that seriousness of purpose, that powers their engines and makes me want to read on."—Locus
"Friends and rivals since they met as students in 1970s Glasgow, Jonathan Wilde and David Reid are chronicled here over several centuries on several worlds. Their rivalry persists through the decades until Reid kills Wilde. Wilde awakens many years later in a robot body, enslaved to Reid and working on the creation of a wormhole that will take them to a new world. Four hundred years later, Wilde clones a new body for himself so he can continue the fight against Reid, who is now the gangster in charge of New Mars. In addition, he works to free Dee, Reid's robotic succubus and the clone of Wilde's wife. Wilde is determined to cut Reid's power, and, with the help of other "dead" friends and robotic companions, he succeeds."—Vicky Burkholder, VOYA
"Filled with memories of his past, the clone Jonathan Wilde arrives on New Mars, where he rediscovers old loves and older enemies. Set in a distant future filled with intelligent machines, cloned humans, and little regard for life or death, this high-impact sf adventure by the author of The Cassini Division delivers a strong dose of violence and graphic sex. First published in Britain, MacLeod's tale of one man's grim journey toward knowledge should appeal to fans of high-tech action and hard-core science."—Library Journal
"MacLeod's second novel is set earlier than, and in the same future as, The Cassini Division. It concentrates on the centuries-long rivalry between Jonathan Wilde and David Reid, begun when they were student political activists in 1970s Glasgow, and spans the years and the stars to wind up in the anarchist utopia of New Mars. By far the strongest parts of the book concern Wilde's and Reid's early careers; these are full of telling comments on politics and society, and they project an offbeat . . . near future . . . Scotsman MacLeod gratifies with many fine scenes and a vivid, non-American take on the future."—Roland Green, Booklist
"Dave Reid and Jon Wilde meet at Glasgow University in the 1970s, and their fates entwine: They become friends, political foes, rivals for the same woman's affections, and movers and shakers in a 21st-century world of fragmented, polarized societies and incessant wars. Wilde, eventually shot dead (he blames Reid), reawakens 50 years later—death is no longer permanent—in a robot body in space. Bossed by Reid, Jon and others are building a universe-spanning wormhole near Jupiter—but they're slaves of the ‘macros,’ agglomerations of computerized post-human mentalities living thousands of times faster than ordinary humans. Fortunately, the macros soon destroy themselves, though some survive on Jupiter. In the second narrative strand, four centuries hence, Reid is gangster-in-chief of distant, capitalist-anarchist New Mars. Robot Jay Dub (Wilde, still in his hardware body) clones a copy of his own flesh then liberates Reid's computer/android sex-slave, Dee Model, whose body is a clone of Wilde's wife—thus precipitating a struggle between abolitionists (freedom for intelligent machines!) and Reid's status quo. Another wonderfully knotty, inventive, intelligent yarn . . . heavy with political minutiae."—Kirkus Reviews
"British author MacLeod's second novel to be published in the U.S. (after The Cassini Division) opens on New Mars, a distant planet discovered on the other side of a wormhole, where humans resettled after Earth was decimated by World War III. While New Mars is populated by Earthlings, the planet's real labor is done by the "fast folk," nanotech-based artificial intelligence machines that evolve much more quickly than humans. This stratified world was built unwittingly by Jon Wilde and Dave Reid, who met as socialist-minded university students in Glasgow and became two corners of a romantic triangle that later influenced history in myriad ways. MacLeod weaves the story of the two men's complex relationship along two tracks, past and present. In the past, Wilde and Reid both fell for the same woman; Wilde eventually married her and raised a family. In the meantime, Reid built a powerful high-tech company that could grow no further without some changes in the political climate—changes that Wilde is hired to help create. The fallout from this alliance and from Reid's own hidden agenda ultimately lead to the world war and to a reliance on machine intelligence, as well as to the creation of a world where death is impossible as long as you have a waiting clone and a recent brain backup. Thanks to that resurrection technology, Wilde and Reid face each other as enemies again on New Mars. MacLeod's writing is smooth and sure, full of striking images and breathtaking extrapolations of current technology. It's a pleasure and a challenge to read a book where human potential and human foibles are dealt with as thoroughly as is scientific advancement. Fans of William Gibson and of Iain Banks, in particular, will enjoy this visionary novel."—Publishers Weekly
"McLeod is writing revolutionary SF . . . A nova has appeared in our sky."—Kim Stanley Robinson
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.