Moh Kohn is a security mercenary, his smart gun and killer reflexes for hire. Janis Taine is a scientist working on memory-enhancing drugs, fleeing the US/UN's technology cops. Jordan Brown is a teenager in the Christian enclave of Beulah City, dealing in theologically-correct software for the world's fundamentalists - and wants out. In a balkanized twenty-first century, where the "peace process" is deadlier than war, the US/UN's spy satellites have everyone in their sights. But the Watchmaker has other plans, and the lives of Moh, Janis, and Jordan are part of the program. A specter is haunting the fight for space and freedom, the specter of the betrayed revolution that happened before. . . .
©2012 Ken Macleod (P)2012 Audible Ltd
A wild imagining of a future and its political movements, close-up war, adventure, and aware AIs. Full of great throw-away details like the Femininists [sic], with their backpackable hoop skirts. Lots of in-jokes like the men in black.
Not the most tightly plotted (or comprehensible!) book, but the reader makes it worthwhile and memorable.
Political and technical "what-ifs" abound in this story of a man and his gun, but the interesting concepts are failed by dull narrative (not narration). Echoes of Heinlein's "Moon is a Harsh Mistress," but I never understood what was at stake for the characters or the world they live in: something about AI run amok, communist mercinaries, and a shock-jock anarchist? I found the characters indistinct and predictable Action sequences are few and not engaging. Narrator does a fine job, but I finally gave up on the story with just a half hour left.
This story is not formulaic. Ken Macleod has constructed a complex, rich and scary future based on today's technology and our political milieu. With its many characters, numerous political factions and a Balkanized future Britain with numerous small states, it's hard to get a handle on the plot at first. A persevering listener will soon catch on and be taken for a wild ride through the near future. Though the book was written in 1995, the author has uncannily anticipated social networking, computerized market manipulation and blogging. His future world is rich in detail, its denizens not always whom they seem to be and not averse to changing sides when it suits their purpose. Character development is good for a sci fi novel, though the plot moves by mysterious means for the most part and is not generally character-driven.
Moe Cohn (sp? as this is an audiobook), the central character around whom the story revolves. He is a mercenary but in spite of his profession, he has his ideals, intellectual honesty and yes, he makes mistakes, like other human beings.
The reader was excellent, with numerous distinct voices and good acting ability. This almost seemed to be a radio play at times.
The story is complex enough that it's worth considering reading it rather than llistening to it. Given the future noir degradation of Ken Macleod's world, I don't entirely buy the level of technological achievement that it manifests: space stations, space ships and highly sophisticated computer networks seem out of place alongside ruined buildings and groups of people living tribal lives in the wild.
If you haven't read MacLeod's books before, be warned that he has strong political views that permeate most of his storylines (somewhere between Trotskyist and anarcho-capitalist). I don't normally mind this (and have thoroughly enjoyed some of the author's other books), but the Star Fraction takes this to an extreme and was simply unbearable. The book amounted to 10+ hrs of dialogue about every twisted/extremist political view imaginable. Some of this was humorous, but most was just plain boring. Ultimately... I gave up about 6 hours into the book. It is a shame as the basic plot had alot of potential.
I suppose this is science fiction, if political science is your thing. I found this book on a Goodreads list of "Books Similar to Diaspora". Diaspora by Greg Egan is one of my favorite books and I am always on the lookout for works similar in scope and theme. The Star Fraction is in no way similar. If you are into religio-political science it may be quite good; it was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1996. I enjoyed the narrator. His accent and characterizations made pleasant background noise while I worked and were probably the only reason I finished listening to this one.
I read this as a paperback years ago, and loved the whole series it's a part of. The mix of William Gibson-like technology ideas and a wry take on politics, especially this of the thinly-disguised Socialist Workers' Party, make for an entertaining plot and likeable characters. However, something about it just doesn't seem to work as an audiobook so well. I think a major factor of this is probably the narrator, who gives many of the characters very similar accents and who I feel misinterpreted the main protagonist. There are also several slips in pronunciation and emphasis, which meant I couldn't quite relax and enjoy the story. Overall, I was ok, just not as good as I'd hoped.
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