NESFA Members' Reviews

coverCosmonaut Keep

by Ken MacLeod

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Orbit, 2000 (Tor 2001), 308 pp, £16.99

Wow. MacLeod just keeps getting better.

Cosmonaut Keep is the first book in a new series unconnected to his previous four books. Some things are similar (he continues to play with Marxist politics) but much is completely different. The near future of this world has a kinder, gentler USSR resurgent and successfully conquering the European Union, but then settling down into something more like the Green parties than communist. (It's a delightful political fantasy.)

The main character is a Scot who makes a living dealing with obsolete software - and by the 2040s there is a lot of legacy code in the world. He gets caught in an intrigue concerning some very odd data from an EU asteroid expedition and flees to the US where he falls in with Nevada Orbital Dynamics, an outfit located at Groom Lake who has designed and built a flying saucer! He flies off to the asteroids in the saucer to meet with the EU expedition which has mutinied.

The alternating chapters take place in a human civilization far from Earth where it appears that the people from the EU asteroid expedition ultimately wound up. An interstellar civilization exists in which humans are on the lowest rung. Above them are a lizard/dinosaur-like folk who are ancient, but pretty human in their personalities and attainments. Above them both are the Krakens, squid-like creatures of high and alien intelligence who own and pilot nearly all the starships. Above them are the "gods" who appear to be high intelligences living in software worlds.

Those far-future humans live in a most interesting world! The near-future world is engaging, but the real winner is the far-future world which is at one and the same time on a human scale with transcendent civilizations all around. This is the first book of a series and I can hardly wait for the rest. (The second book in the series, Dark Light, is now out.)

This is a definite Hugo nominee for me!

See also my reviews of other Ken MacLeod books: Engine City, Cosmonaut Keep, The Cassini Division,. The Sky Road, The Stone Canal, Dark Light, The Human Front

NESFA homepage | Review Index | More Reviews by Mark L. Olson