Tor, 2001 (2000)
Reviewed by Wesley Williamson
is the first book in a new series,
Engines of Light
. It is set in a recognizably similar universe to other books by Ken MacLeod, such as
The Cassini Division
, but at a different time on Earth, and a very different time and place thousands of light years from Earth. Matt Cairns lives in Edinburgh, in the Socialist Democratic Scottish Republic, after its liberation by the Russians. He is a consultant in software project management, working legally for the European Space Agency, which in exploring the asteroids claims to have contacted alien beings. He also, illegally, develops new identities for Jadey, a CIA agent working with the underground resistance in the Former United Kingdom.
n the distant planet of Mingulay, descendants of the crew and passengers of a starship from Earth have learned to live with a variety of aliens - particularly the saurs, and the kraken, who monopolize the navigation of starships. They have also learned to live with the descendants of some of the humans who had been brought miraculously from Earth to another planet, Croatan, and had migrated to Mingulay. Gregor Cairns, the grandson of James Cairns, who bears the mystical title of Navigator, is a marine biologist, but is being initiated into the mysterious rituals of Cosmonaut Keep by his grandfather.
n this first of the series, the two stories develop independently, though there are many tantalizing hints at how they may come together. A variety of other puzzles are also left to be answered, hopefully, in later books. MacLeod writes hard science fiction exceedingly well, with a combination of speculative fancy and wry wit that lifts his writing to a high plane. I look forward to the remainder of the series with anticipation.
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