The Star Fraction
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…
A Ken MacLeod book is like a crowded college coffeehouse: noisy, bustling, a little rowdy, and packed with enough wild ideas and competing ideologies to leave you reeling. Star Fraction, MacLeod’s 1995 debut, is no exception. As the first installment in the Fall Revolution sequence (followed by The Stone Canal and The Cassini Division), Star Fraction established this Scottish author’s formidable talent for mixing complex politics and cyberpunk action into smart, funny stories.
MacLeod avoids heady political theorizing by always personifying his ideas in believable, often articulately passionate characters. (Or as one character puts it, “In my experience politics is guys with guns ripping me off at roadblocks.”) Star Fraction’s putative protagonists—a Trotskyite mercenary, a fugitive university researcher, and a fundamentalist-turned-atheist programmer—are on the run after a chance combination of marijuana, experimental memory drugs, and a self-aware firearm threatens to awaken a powerful AI on the nets, much to the dismay of the Men In Black and the orbital-laser-wielding U.S./UN. (As with all MacLeod plots, don’t bother asking—it’s a long story.)
With its ultrabalkanized UK and convoluted cast of neo-Stalinists, AI-Abolitionists, Christianarchists, femininists, et al., Star Fraction is MacLeod at his best—even at his first. —Paul Hughes