Having read a number of Ken MacLeod’s more recent books, I’ve now gone back to his first novel The Star Fraction. Although the emergence of praeterhuman artificial intelligence is key to the plot, the book is far more focused on the political than the technological, and the few retrospective technological clinkers (typical of the cyberpunk of the late 20th century) in no way dampen the political imagination and its relevance to readers more than twenty years after its original publication.
The chief characters of the book are a “security mercenary” and a research scientist, and the setting is a balkanized England of “micro-states” subject to the US/UN after a Third World War of the 2020s. The story is fast-paced, with intrigue predominant over still-present sex and violence, but a prior appreciation of 20th-century revolutionary and imperialist projects is important for the reader’s understanding. The villains are a little overdrawn in a way that sometimes verges on the comic, but they are often as absorbing as the protagonists.
This book is tagged as the first in “The Fall Revolution,” a set of novels in a shared history, with varying timelines. It falls just a bit short of the work of MacLeod’s I read in the “Engines of Light” series, or the standalone Newton’s Wake, but it’s still very good, and I’m sure I’ll go on to read others in the sequence. [via]