Sunday, 1 May 2011

Cosmonaut Keep by Ken Macleod

The last book I read by this crazy Scottish sci-fi lefty was Newton's Wake, and despite stacks of great and bizarre ideas, it wasn't completely successful. I wanted to try out one of his sagas, so this is book one of the Engines of Light trilogy.

Well, it's certainly different. And interesting. And not entirely successful.

It skips between two different stories. One is set a few decades in the future - the USSR is still going strong (obviously) and now incorporates the EU (I knew it.) Alien contact is made for the first time on a Soviet space station around an asteroid, but the story follows an Edinburgh programmer/hacker as he goes on the run with important data. This is the cyberpunk part of the story, and it's pretty enjoyable, but as usual with this genre I'm probably missing a lot of computery stuff.

The other story (the chapters alternate) is set some time in the future on a different planet and is very different. As well as descendents of cosmonauts in the other story, there are humans who've been there much longer - three species in fact. There are also sentient beings called Saurs and space-faring squid called Krakens, who navigate the other species around the planets at light speed. And although it's never explicit, it gradually becomes apparent there may not actually be any aliens in this book. Ooooh.......intriguing!

As always with Macleod, I enjoyed the soviet porn. One meeting held in VR is modeled on the Baku Congress of the Eastern Peoples in 1919. You don't get that in many science fiction novels. I also liked the different levels of technologies going on here - things are much more advanced in the past on Earth, whereas the saurians and krakens have the upper hand on the other planets so the humans are much less technologically advanced. Despite that, things are still pretty utopian. Which may be part of the problem with this book. Needs more conflict. It also needs more interesting characters.

I still plan to read the other books in this series, but it just doesn't have that massive scope you get in Peter F Hamilton or Alistair Reynolds. Well, it does, but it's just not portrayed as effectively. I can tell there's a lot more to come out about this universe, so maybe I just have to be patient to get the full effect.

1 comment:

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