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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

The Star Fraction

Copyright 1995 by Ken MacLeod

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Good (3/5)

I first read this on the 8th February 2002.

In an anarchic cyberpunk United Kingdom fifty years or so in the future, WWIII has been and gone. The USA and United Nations jointly supervises a fragmented nuclear-weapons-free world. The UN has the moral authority. The USA has the big guns: the orbital defense lasers, ready to beam down on any offense against the strict control of technology. On the ground the UN Police, the Stasis, prowl and interdict illegal technological developments.

The UK has seen multiple rulers overthrown: the old "Hanoverian" government has been and gone, it's successor, the New Republic, is in exile. London has become a dense complex of balkanized city-states upholding diverse moral and political ideals.

Janis Taine, a scientist researching into memory drugs has a most unwelcome, and very scary, visit from the Stasis.

Moh Kohn is a security specialist with an unnervingly intelligent Gun. He has got himself a new contract to protect Janis Taine. It's simply unfortunate that he's accidentally dosed himself with the some of her drugs.

Jordan Brown, a computer expert, has fled his home town of Beulah City, a fundamentalist Christian enclave. He is beginning to experience the uncertain delights of Freedom in North London Town, Norlonto.

Soon the three of them will be on the run together from the agents of the United Nations. Their only hope of support and refuge is from the terrorist Army of the New Republic, if it still exists.

This is Ken MacLeod's first novel, and it's fabulous. It's dizzying, with far too many characters for me to even keep track of, let alone remember. MacLeod's brief dalliance with cyberpunk has produced a classic. There are politics and humour

Benson & Hedges Moscow Gold
and some lovely writing
There were times when Kohn loathed the Left, when some monstrous stupidity almost, but never quite, outweighed the viciousness and venality of the system they opposed.

The ending blew me away. The last few lines of the penultimate chapter commencing

They caught the airship to Guiné
were superb. This single paragraph makes the whole book worthwhile.

Ken MacLeod is such an excellent writer. If you haven't already read this book read it now. If you've already read this, you'll know to read it again now anyway.

Loaded on the 1st June 2003.
Cover of The Star Fraction