Read The Star Fraction by Ken MacLeod Online


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, wherMoh 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... With The Star Fraction, Ken MacLeod burst onto the SF scene and began the Fall Revolution sequence that continued with The Stone Canal, The Cassini Division, and The Sky Road....

Title : The Star Fraction
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780765301567
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Star Fraction Reviews

  • Tom Nixon
    2018-12-28 09:53

    I might be overdosing on Ken Macleod by this point in the summer but it's such a good feeling. And with The Star Fraction, you arrive at his first novel and the start of his Fall Revolution sequence. Set in a balkanized Britain of the mid-21st century, The Star Fraction tells the story of security mercenary Moh Kohn who along with scientist Janis Taine is fleeing the US/UN's technology cops. Jordan Brown is a teenage atheist in the Christian fundamentalist of Beulah City that wants out.Macleod's 21st Century is one where the US/UN have control of space and are the arbiters of the entire planet. Britain is a broken country after the end of the Third World War, when the United Republic was overthrown, the Kingdom restored and a patchwork of free states set up across Northern London. Janis Taine is a scientist experimenting with memory enhancing drugs that accidentally releases the Artificial Intelligence that some fear and some are waiting for, The Watchmaker. And The Watchmaker has plans-- plans that will change the lives of Moh, Janis and Jordan as the betrayed revolution of the past comes back to haunt the present day.(And for the rest, kids, you'll have to read the book to find out.)Macleod makes a fine debut with this novel. He includes in a short introduction explaining his novels and sneaks in a money quote that underlines his entire body of work with the Fall Revolution sequence: "What is capitalism is unstable and socialism impossible?" I love this notion! I love the way Macleod explores it throughout the novel but there's a certain cynical truth to the idea when applied to the real world. Ideologies war with each other everyday, people die for ideologies and at no point do we ever wonder, what if we just said 'no more new world orders.' The Star Fraction explores these ideas and more. The Balkanized Britain of Macleod's world is believable and exciting: a United Republic overthrown and driven back to the Highlands of Scotland to carry on the struggle against a restored Kingdom or 'Hanoverian Regime.' (I love that he refers to it that way- it dates back to the overthrow of the Stuart Monarchs in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 followed by the Hanoverian succession of 1701.) Macleod refers to the Republic as a 'radial Democratic regime' which sounds interesting and a lot nicer than usual ideas about Republicanism most of which involved aping the American model. I would have liked to know more about the America of this world. The critical juncture of the novel sees America going on strike from coast to coast which is a nice idea to think about but one that I couldn't conceive of in today's America. The usual concepts of the Singularity and futurism are in fine form here- and only goes to reinforce the plaudits that Macleod has duly earned. This guy is writing revolutionary, thought-provoking science fiction and if science fiction isn't your thing and books that make you think are, then you've come to the right place.Overall: I did this all backwards but reading this series last to first saved the best for last. This is a must-read for any true devotee of science fiction and if anyone's looking for a thought-provoking dystopian read this is the best place to start.

  • Nick
    2019-01-01 11:11

    Just one of my favourite books ever. Cracking UK-based future politico-punk, complete with left-libertarian communes and AI inception in a Balkanised Britain. Superb.

  • Forrest
    2019-01-24 06:00

    The Star Fraction is an extremely divisive novel. Partly by design and partly by subject matter. Any book that delves so deeply into the grit and grime of political and economic ideologies is going to be uncomfortable for some of its readers. With that as a given, MacLeod goes and shoots himself in the foot by avoiding picking a side in the end, leaving leftists unfulfilled and members of the right just horribly angry.If this review does happen to inspire you to read this, I highly encourage seeking out the American Edition of Fractions, the collected version of the first two novels in the Fall Revolution. MacLeod added a brief but valuable forward which sets the stage for the events of the novel a little more clearly, and provides those of us who didn’t experience the communist and socialist movements, first hand, a few key pieces of insight. It’s not completely necessary, but I wouldn’t have been able to craft this review without going over the forward again.The story is set in a somewhat dystopic England where a series of failed revolutions, both local and abroad, brought the might of the US/UN alliance down on the world. As a method of compromise, the US/UN balkanized the world, allowing political dissidents and idealists to create their own communes and compounds which they could rule as they saw fit within a few constraints, such as development of specified technologies and laws regarding use of standing forces. Moh Kohn, the book’s protagonist, is a mercenary who provides security from a verity of legal terrorist groups that operate out of the communes. The one exception to the US/UN lockdown is the city of North London Town, or Norlonto, which exists as an independent outpost of the Space Faction, who made themselves neutral arbiters of international security in the wake of World War Three.Moh Kohn and Janis Taine find themselves on everyone’s bad side when Janis’ research runs up against the US/UN technology laws and inadvertently triggers the emergence of a Watchmaker sentient AI. As the various active factions take advantage of the chaos to advance their own agendas, Kohn starts to realize that the revolution may not have been all it was cracked up to be.The unsatisfying thing about The Star Fraction is that it ultimately doesn’t pick a side. The protagonists seem to be trending left/communist for most of the book, but well before the ending salvos all but Janis seem to have abandoned their preconceptions and their causes. MacLeod addresses some of the thoughts that got him there:“Unfortunately, there’s no reason why the Economic Calculation Argument and the Materialist Conception of History couldn’t both be true. What if capitalism is unstable, and socialism is impossible? The Star Fraction is haunted by this uncomfortable question.”He is referring to the theories of Ludwig von Mises and Lewis Henry Morgan respectively. Mises held that without a concept of value derived from the construct of property, trade and civilization would prove to be impossible. Morgan drew on Marx’s works and formalized the evolution of a society that couldn’t help but grow beyond the idea of personal property. The Star Fraction is a reaction to the perceived inevitable failure of both schools, from the viewpoint of a socialist, and as such, abandons both the Left and the Right.Philosophy aside, the novel is dense with political references and asides. For someone like myself, who was unfamiliar with the language and thinking of the Cold War era, the book can prove quite difficult to really get a grip on. The main plot tends to take a backstage to the political postulating. MacLeod also makes a MacGuffin out of a major plot point, derailing the final act and enhancing that sense of dissatisfaction. In MacLeod’s defense, The Star Fraction was his first novel and his reputation as a top-notch author would seem to redeem this slightly false start.I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this book to the masses. It is strong enough to stand on its own as a piece of fiction, but without its follow-up novels in the Fall Revolution, I can’t imagine The Star Fraction occupying a place on anyone’s to-read list. That said, anyone with an open mind and a desire to read and learn might enjoy this quirky little novel.

  • Amaha
    2019-01-06 03:56

    I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. I seek out genuinely "left" sci-fi and fantasy (Iain Banks, Octavia Butler, Ursula LeGuin, etc.) and this one was on China Mieville's list of "Fifty Fantasy & Sci-Fi Works that Socialists Should Read". But Star Fraction is much more political than believable. It reads in parts like the wet dream of a left-newspaper seller, with obscure Socialist splinter groups (the "Last International") occupying key positions in world history. There's little or no explanation of how these tendencies, currently so marginal on the world stage, become hegemonic. It's just taken as a given.Some of the politics are frankly mystifying from a contemporary perspective: as an industrial Marxist of the pre-climate change era, Macleod depicts enviromentalists as anti-progress "barbarians", against whom the working class allies with the capitalists. He actually refers to enviros as "green slime"! Ok, some leeway given for being dated, but Star Fraction was only written in 1996. The final insult: the book is riddled with Marxist puns and in-jokes which, even when you get them, aren't particularly funny.It's not all bad. In parts Star Fraction is an enjoyable cyberpunk-meets-Billy-Bragg adventure. Where Macleod's vision of history is darker and less tinted by red-colored glasses, it's also more believable: e.g., his speculations on how nation-states fall apart and get partly reconstituted, or how ideologically-oriented, quasi-autonomous enclaves, like the Christian fundamentalist community and the gay ghetto (patrolled by uniformed "Rough Traders") emerge from the wreckage of the State. And later in the book, when the exposition tails off and the storytelling picks up, you find yourself actually enjoying it as a narrative.I may give Macleod another chance, and try some of his later works. But if you want a much better written, more believable, more humane novel about socialism in the near future, read China Mountain Zhang.

  • Brad
    2019-01-14 10:44

    I've been trying to read this for a couple of years, and this was my third and last attempt. The first problem the first time around was that it wasn't what I'd expected (having been recommended by Iain M. Banks I was expecting something more operatic). The second time through I just couldn't commit. This time around those first two problems held, and then my inability to engage with any characters (I made it halfway this time, so had more time to get to know them) killed it for me. There was nothing to care about and no one to care about. At least for me. Kind of bummed, actually. I've heard such great things about Macleod. Not for me, I guess.

  • Mohammed
    2019-01-07 11:55

    After a slow start to this book i couldnt imagine it would end being a smart political near future SF that became much better. It had compelling characters, interesting cyberpunk elements and political ideas,world that made you think. Surprisingly strong for a debut novel.

  • Anna
    2019-01-08 03:49

    ‘The Star Faction’ gave me a pleasant feeling of nostalgia, reminding me of all the cyberpunk that I read during my teenage years. Not surprising, as it was published in 1995. Although the focus on convoluted left wing politics gives it an original twist, there’s also a lot of this sort of very familiar business:"All right," he said. He stood and stretched and grinned at all of them. “I’m gonna need a terminal, my gun, the drug samples, some anti-som tabs, and half a pack of filter joints.” He looked away for a moment, then sighed to himself. “Medium tar.”As with past cyberpunk reading experiences, for a good deal of the novel I didn’t really know what was going on or who that guy was (I kept getting Jordan and Donovan confused). There was a great deal of jargon being thrown around which took me a good while to pick up. Possibly as a consequence of this density of linguistic innovation, I found the characters a bit flat - an issue I have often encountered in cyberpunk. At the end, I had a nagging feeling that I was missing something. I think I got the overall AI plot, but the political machinations remained somewhat opaque. Maybe I’m out of practise with cyberpunk and need a refresher course before jacking back into the mainframe? In any event, ‘The Star Fraction’ was a pretty fun read, with enough wit and incident to keep me amused on a five hour train journey, but I probably won’t seek out the sequels. Cyberpunk in general seems dated twenty years later, when so much of life is actually lived in cyberspace. The politics here (or what I grasped of them) are also rather difficult to relate to the contemporary world.

  • Sahil Raina
    2019-01-10 03:56

    I did not like this book. I found it to be problematic in at least two ways:1) it replaced science fiction with techno-babble; and2) it latched onto one, extremely unlikely, world-view and just ran with it.First, I like science fiction; I do not like techno-babble, which is what parts of this book often became. I remember parts where the author talked about "genetic search algorithms" and other techno-babble type stuff just to throw such words around. Why not just say search? I found that extremely off-putting.Second, while left-leaning I may be, the whole political structure of the world in this book was rather unbelievable. It took me quite a while to figure out that we were really only talking about Great Britain. Within GB, lots of mini-states with their own rules existed, some left-wing, some fundamental religious types, etc. But the way they were dealt with in the book was frankly disappointing. Like I said, the author knew the outcome he wanted and drove the story, no matter how ridiculously absurd, towards that political outcome - not very interesting.Finally, in the end, there is a section, maybe 3 paragraphs, that talk about the AI that is supposedly underlying much of the plot in the book. Why have a sudden reveal in the end of the book when the rest of it was dedicated to techno-babble and absurdist political hypothesizing?Despite all that, I did finish the book, which either means the book wasn't that bad or that I just really wanted something to do on the subway the past 2 weeks...

  • Aaron Adamson
    2019-01-13 09:59

    This was an incredibly dense read. Prepare to navigate your way through every variant of communism, capitalism, socialism, and most other -isms you can think of as you follow the characters through this book. If you do, though, it's certainly worth it.There's one big idea that I've never thought was sufficiently explored in any sci-fi novel I've read: specifically, the significance of memes as self-interested packets of information that seek to propagate themselves throughout human culture. Well, turns out that MacLeod tackled it in 1995, before most of us had ever heard the term, and it seems prescient reading it now, 22 years later. The relationship and occasional ambiguity between meme, religion, politics, social engineering, and finally computer code is roundly explored throughout this novel, and it's going to keep me thinking for quite a while.The cons: characters were a bit thin. I could never figure out if Moh was a low-brow guy with a rudimentary command of the language or part of the technical elite - he vacillates back and forth throughout the novel and it isn't clear if he intentionally modifies his vernacular to make people underestimate him, or if this is MacLeod lacking consistency. Janis behaves more like a Hollywood damsel in distress than a research scientist. Jordan shows very little real evidence of the culture shock that you'd expect after emerging from a fundamentalist religious enclave, considering that he hops right in to being a leading expert on propaganda and computer hacking, and a lady's man to boot.It's worth keeping in mind that this was MacLeod's debut, though, and if there's room for improvement in characterization, there's plenty of bite in his socio-political commentary and the future he envisions is simultaneously inventive and all too familiar.

  • Luke Burrage
    2019-01-08 06:07

    Clearing out my "currently reading" shelf of books that I abandoned. This one I started reading thinking it was a followup to a different book... but it wasn't. I got a good 50% of the way though it though. Not sure why, because nothing about it was exactly captivating. Something to do with unionising construction workers? Boring!

  • jjonas
    2019-01-09 09:09

    A jumble of leftist political ideas without anything too credible to hold them together.I found the story quite difficult to follow, and the relevance of what was happening at each moment was hard to estimate. It wasn't William Gibson difficult though: MacLeod is nowhere near as good a writer as Gibson. Rather, the writing was just confused and constantly interrupted by his attempts to insert flavour into it and the characters, and/or to make some political joke. But this didn't work for me – even if I think I was in MacLeod's target group who got much of the leftist/Marxist/Trotskyist (or Dawkins!) references.On top of that, the main point that the plot was about and which moved it forward, wasn't that credible. (view spoiler)[Nor did it seem to be in sync with historical materialism, for that matter. The question is, of course, about the individual's role in history. Engels tried to answer it, Trotsky tried to answer it, neither very convincingly in my opinion, and MacLeod answers it in his own way I guess by having the revolution occur because of a computer program written by a guy 20 years ago, i.e. in a simplistic "Great Man theory of history" fashion. But I guess you can do that if you just take it for granted that the material conditions are already "rotten-ripe" for revolution, and its just been held back by the treachery of labour leaders and whatnot, so in practice what you need is just some vanguardist initiative to spark it off etc. Or not even that, if you just let "the masses" take the lead. That's what it certainly looks like in the end of the book when we learn that the USA is suddenly "on strike from coast to coast". (hide spoiler)]I didn't find the world of ex-UK chaotic micro-states credible, though I'm not sure to what extent it was even intended to be credible. The tone of the book was quite humourous, so a lot of it felt like a parody of political ideas (not sparing the left), and as such it would have been intended to be more funny than credible. So too bad I didn't find most of that particularly funny. Gags like that might work if they're used to pepper up face to face discussions, but in book length... probably not.Names and references were dropped constantly, in the spirit of "make a mark every time you see one, and then we compare who got the most". If one like finding references to Joseph Hansen, Bobby Sands, Gerard Winstanley, "two, three, many Vietnams" etc. etc. in a work of fiction, then maybe this is a treasure trove. It's proof that your minority opinion really exists, because someone else has noticed it too, and maybe it feels good. For me it didn't work. I just felt it was awkward that he seemed to be pandering to his political in-group so aggressively (and I, generally speaking, belong to said group).Of course some of the jokes had to be face-palmingly obvious ones, like the character called Bernstein. Now what kind of joke could be made with that? It took a while to come, it sure did come. Or: "I'm a party animal, in both senses". Oh please. I could put together all the quips like I've heard in trade union meetings and cook up scenes where I could put them in someone's mouth, but they wouldn't make up a good book just by themselves.The characters were pretty boring, and didn't have too much personality. Everybody was a political activist and a member to one or another movement or sect. Things seem to happen because the author wants them to happen, instead of them having some kind of credible momentum or logic of their own. And as I wasn't impressed by the story or the narration, nothing else was left to like. So it was a pretty devastating introduction to Ken MacLeod. I might check something else by him at some point if I have nothing better to do, but as far as The Fall Revolution series is concerned, it's over.

  • Kelsy
    2019-01-02 04:05

    There are a lot of neat ideas in this book, but I think I could've used about 100 more pages of exposition to understand more about the situation of the world. All I really gathered was that it's full of tons of tiny political factions, and I have to admit that I'm not that well-versed in political theory, so sometimes it felt like there were a lot of inside jokes that just went way over my head. ^^;; The plot is incredibly fast-paced and occasionally brutal at dragging the characters along with it.(view spoiler)[There's not one but *two* romances that sort of appear out of nowhere... I could've really done without both of them. (hide spoiler)] From what little I've read of cyberpunk, the frenetic pacing seems like part of the package, so perhaps it's just a genre hallmark? If nothing else, the sci fi elements revolving around "the Watchmaker" and the possibilities of true AI were the pieces that I found to be most interesting. I would love to have known more about Josh Kohn! He sounds like he was a neat guy. Anyways, the next book is set on New Mars, apparently, so I'm definitely reading that one. I'm intrigued enough to continue!

  • Isabel (kittiwake)
    2018-12-28 07:57

    Norlonto had the smell of a port city, that openness to the world: the sense that you had only to step over a gap to be carried away to anywhere. (Perhaps the sea had been the original fifth-colour country, but it had been irretrievably stained with the bloody ink from all the others.) And it had also the feel that the world had come to it. In part this was illusory: most of the diversity around them had arrived much earlier than the airships and space platforms, yet her and there Kohn could pick up the clacking magnetic boots, the rock-climber physique, the laid-back Esperanto drawl or the orbital labour aristocracy. Men and women who'd hooked a lift on a re-entry glider to blow a month's pay in a shorter time, and in more inventive ways, than Khazakhstan or Guiné or Florida could allow.I've read this author's "Engines of Light Trilogy" on a book ring, and very much enjoyed them. "The Star Fraction" was his first novel, and the first book of a quartet. The next book in the series, "The Stone Canal" is already on my TBR pile and I don't think it'll be long before I get round to reading it and acquiring the other two."The Star Fraction" is set in a near-future Britain that split into a patchwork of small states, but overshadowed by the power of the US/UN, whose Space Defence system allows them to prevent states such as Norlonto from realising their ambitions to expand their activities into space. The mini-states are controlled by different political factions, and their convoluted alliances, both overt and covert, mean that you have to pay careful attention to what is going on; you can’t let your attention wander while reading this book. Once I got the hang of the splintered left-wing factions that the hero of this novel navigates with ease, and the various entities and programs running on the net, I found it really exciting, and it had a strong ending unlike a lot of other books in the cyberpunk/post-cyberpunk genre.

  • Jennifer Collins
    2018-12-26 09:09

    From the beginning, MacLeod's novel is bound up in political ideologies, philosophy, and various factions of rebels and idealists. And, at heart, this is the problem within the novel. More important than plot or character, it seems that MacLeod wants to explore ideas and logical progressions from historical changes, as wrapped up in Marxist philosophy, socialism, and capitalism. Nothing works, and the characters and scientific developments along the way are alternately stuck in the middle or fighting multiple systems at once. While the ideas here, and many of the scenes and characters as well, are interesting and engaging, there's never enough focus on character or the plots of here-and-now (as opposed to historical or ideological or political, as the case may be) in the novel for readers to really gain a footing of interest.Was I entertained? At many points, I was, just as I was often impressed by the twists and turns MacLeod put together. But was I so engaged that I had to turn the page, or that I was anxious that a particular character triumph or discover some truth? No. And, sadly, I don't really feel the need to pick up the next piece in the series. I can acknowledge MacLeod's accomplishments in this piece, but for me, I desperately needed less theory and political argument, and a bit more development of the characters who might have made me care more about their ideals. Simply, I think that the book just took on too much in this first installment of the series.

  • Buzz H.
    2019-01-03 05:06

    I wanted to like this book more than I did. It reminds me a little of Neuromancer, but that seminal classic moves in fourth and fifth gear. The Star Fraction operates in first and, if you're lucky, second. And it's really the pacing that did this novel in for me. I loved the world and the ideas. The characters were not bad. But the pacing was glacial and cluttered. I ultimately made it only halfway through before putting this one down.I thoroughly enjoyed The Cassini Division, one of the semi-stand alone sequels. The Star Fraction was Mr. MacLeod's first novel, and I hope that that accounts for its flaws. I'll try another and see what I think.

  • Jon
    2019-01-10 06:11

    An interesting read. When it starts off, it just throws you right into a complex world and political situation, trusting that you can figure it out all by yourself. And you can, with a little bit of work, and it's worth the work.While at times I feel this was *super* heavy on the socialism theoreticizing and dialog, it is relevant to the story, and does help you understand the reasons behind "current" events.The plot is multi-threaded and complex, and the characters are similarly complex and interesting. Janis was, I felt, the weakest character. Her transition from (view spoiler)[lab scientist to gun toting revolutionary (hide spoiler)] was accomplished *much* too successfully and easily.Overall I enjoyed it, and will certainly continue reading in this series.

  • Carlos
    2018-12-28 06:45

    Probably, the worst sci-fi book I've ever read. Boring, and with a near future quite difficult to believe. The story makes no sense. I didn't feel anything for anyone of the characters but indiference. I force myself to finish it, but at the end I skipped the last couple of chapters, enough is enough.I bought this book following the recomendation of the late Iain Banks, whose books I really enjoyed. Obviously that recommendation was based on his friendship with Macleod and nothing else.I'm not going to read anything else by Macleod.

  • Will
    2018-12-24 03:47

    In a world with autonomous city-states constrained only by A Militarised United Nations With Gigantic Space Lasers, Socialist revolutionaries turned mercenaries worry about the singularity. (Maybe not fair?)I appreciated that the protagonists have different, morally-ambiguous political outlooks, loosely allied against a common enemy of sorts. I also enjoyed a plot point hinging on a character trying to think of an anthem that revolutionaries and Christians alike can get behind (view spoiler)[namely Jerusalem (hide spoiler)], and how this world is a future that clearly branched from our own in the mid-90s (ubiquitous VR, but no wireless network connections!). It started out well enough, but as it dragged on I found myself caring less and less about the characters, particularly as they paired up in the pigeonhole-principle way that sci-fi characters tend to do, and it got harder to buy into the world.Also I was expecting a lot more space communism and instead got a small dose of space left-libertarianism and an otherwise Earth-bound plot, so maybe that's a factor.

  • Quiss42
    2019-01-23 07:51

    After listening to the story for some time, I came to the conclusion that it would have been great stuff some 20 years ago. As a matter of fact, this is quite close to the real release date of the book: 1995. I've got no idea why it took almost 20 years to release the audio book.As a result nowadays some of the "fresh" ideas on AI and social structures do not appear that fresh anymore. Most of them have been "reinvented" and told several times by other authors during the last two decades. Some have even changed their status from "SF" to "been there already".The reader does a good job in terms of character representation and accentuation and makes listening an pleasant experience.Conclusion: If you're in the mood for some solid old-school cyberpunk story-telling, you won't be disappointed - if you're looking for state-of-the-art SF, "The Star Fraction" definitely isn't up to standard.

  • Kamil Muzyka
    2019-01-06 04:46

    A wonderful, comedic book about anarchism, libertarian ideals, ideologies, AI and space.

  • Jordan Robertshaw-Jowett
    2019-01-11 06:11

    Very interesting topics are touched on, but I think it's relatively poor, and more than a bit self-indulgent.

  • Bob Nolin
    2019-01-13 04:02

    I'm starting to think I need to stop reading SF. I was away from it for a while, reading mainstream, and decided to see what I'd been missing. And what I'm finding is a lot of nerdboy wish fulfillment fantasies. This book, for example. Ken MacLeod, who I hadn't read before, is, apparently, a Trotskyite. No, not troglodyte: Trotskyite. Leon Trotsky was a Communist back in the 1930's. The Star Fraction is a wish fulfillment fantasy about Britain (MacLeod is Scottish) in 2040 or so. A lot (and I do mean a lot) of this book is either narration (in the form of character's thoughts) about politics or characters sitting in a pub smoking cigarettes, drinking pints and talking about politics. MacLeod has a very limited imagination. He sets his story in his own backyard, and has all of his characters obsessed with what he is obsessed with: revolution. For an American reader, who, like myself, knows little or nothing about British politics or the Fourth International (Trotsky and pals), most of what gets discussed over pints is pretty incomprehensible. MacLeod expects his readers to know what he knows, and care about what he cares about. Wish fulfillment leads to grandiosity. A worldwide revolution begins in Britain, of all places. As we've seen with Brexit, when Britain leaves the world stage, the world seems to continue just fine. It's just not that important a country. But that's just the beginning of what's wrong with this book. The near-future posited here is just unbelievable. Near-future SF is a risky endeavor, and requires a lot of imagination to be convincing. MacLeod's imagination is not, alas, up to the task. Written back in 1995, The Star Fraction seems stuck in a distinctly Windows 95 world, with phone booths, desktop computers, mainframes, and cable television. Everything is still connected with wires. WW III was between Germany and England. (What?) But we are supposed to believe that a man can somehow be hooked into the "net" via a desktop and a VR headset, and this can even lead to his brain getting fried by an evil AI. As in too many books that I've read lately, we see the heroic programmer who single-handedly creates powerful programs that the world relies upon. Freeware programs, no less. Can you imagine the military relying on freeware? And that someone could write a virus that topples the world by attacking the freeware? Maybe if I hadn't worked in IT as a programmer for 20 years, I'd wouldn't have shaken my head in disgust the whole way through this book. The reference (pre-2000) to the near-collapse of the world due to Y2K is a real howler. There's just a handful of people, in this book, who hold the world in their hands due to their awesome prowess at the databoard (unexplained, but sounds cooler than "keyboard", I guess). And one of these characters is a nerd who's never gotten laid, and of course a gorgeous revolutionary falls in love with him right away. Talk about wish fulfillment. Do SF authors think their readers are all pimply-faced geeks? Ugh. This is a heavy-handed attempt by the author to sell the reader on his vision, his obsession, and it fails miserably. Apparently, the greatest thing that could ever happen, according to MacLeod, is for there to be a huge uprising, a major revolution. And for it to take place in Britain. If you're a British Communist or Libertarian, you might like this book. Otherwise, I'd stay far away. 1.5 stars. I'd give it 1 star, but since I managed to finish it, 1.5. Yuck.

  • Peter
    2019-01-17 10:46

    In the near future, the UK is divided into microstates, each with their own laws, and many independent groups vying for the future of humanity. Some are struggling to bring their vision of a communist revolution to fruition, while others fear that unregulated computer science may be bringing about the creation of an uncontrollable artificial intelligence that could threaten the world. There's also a possibility that it's already happened. What can I say about this book? I really, really, wanted to like it. There were some great ideas, and, at times, I was engaged with the characters. But the world they inhabited didn't entirely ring true to me, and even when it did... I just didn't care about it. I came for a science fiction novel, and, while political science might be a thing, if a book's going to be about conflicting political ideologies, it had better be a damned good book. This one isn't good enough to justify that. It feels more like I showed up to a family event that was supposed to be fun, only to have to sit next to a relative who won't shut up about their political opinions. Even when I actually agree with a point, I don't think "Yes, yes, you're so right!" I just tune out and concentrate on nodding. "Uh-huh, uh-huh, can you pass the pie?"No, that's not quite it, because that doesn't capture the feeling of missed opportunity for wonder. It's a little more like having a few hours of access to a wonderful TV that tunes into all the stations of a parallel universe... and the person with the remote is obsessed with a game of Bungee-Foot-Hockey. Between periods and during the timeouts, he'll flip quickly through the other channels and give me tantalizing glimpses of stuff I actually want to see, but before long he turns back to a game I care nothing about. There may be some exciting plays, and there may be a little fun piecing together the rules to the game... in smaller doses, I might even find such exploration fascinating, but, at the end of the day, I'm not that interested in spending a few hours watching sports on MY world, so doing it on this miraculous television isn't that much better when there's so much more you can do. I've tried a few Ken Macleod books now, and, in his other major series (the one that starts with Cosmonaut Keep), I noticed a similar problem. It wasn't his unconventional politics there (though that played a role, he found a more comfortable balance between that and a good story), but I keep getting the feeling that he's focusing on a rather boring (to me) area that's RIGHT NEXT to a really cool SF plot that captures my imagination, and the feeling I was left with was more disappointment than anything else. Maybe we're just incompatible.In any event, in this book, I often found myself glazing over and just skimming rather than reading... I wasn't deliberately trying to do this, I just tuned out. The characters are okay, but they seem to jump to new emotional states rather than go through a character arc. I've heard that later in the series we get to some plotlines that, in another author, would get me to buy the book right away, but... I'm not sure if I want to take the effort to get there with Macleod.

  • Benjamin
    2018-12-24 11:02

    I liked some of his later stuff more, I'm only getting to these "Fall Revolution" books after having read the less overtly political stuff that followed. Trotsky cults and Austrian Economics are both pretty awful and I run into both enough in my real life. (Well, Trotskyites in real life, on the streets with their anachronistic flags... the libertarians are mainly just on the interwebs which doesn't really count as real life.) That Heinlein had already put both groups in space doesn't escape MacLeod who tosses out inside jokes like a book titled "The Earth is a Harsh Mistress," none as funny as the Industrial Workers of the World Wide Web who appear in Cosmonaut Keep. At first it was also funny to have Fourth International cadres living in an-cap ghetto as sort of good guys and the greens as barbarians and irrational since at least in my circle it is the former who are more ideological than rational and the latter who actually get votes in the city where I live. That the book is also celebrating the plurality of the city over Arcadia is also fun. But I felt like it dragged towards the end. We get this set up at the beginning, with university labs basically for hire and then they in turn hire mercenaries to protect the labs from greens and I would have liked to have dwelt on that a little more than on plot bits that seem to be shaggy-dog stories about men in black. But I will forgive a lot here as it is his first novel and written at a time when MacLeod and his fellow British SF dudes were still mainly in the shadows. In a way, this 1995 book is in dialogue with Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, the first of which had won the Nebula in 1992 as the cyberpunk tide slowly rolled back. In conclusion, not a bad book, important in the context of the time and the author's whole body of work, but not, like, awesome or anything.

  • Dokusha
    2019-01-23 04:47

    In dieser Geschichte erzählt Ken MacLeod die Geschehnisse in einem Teil Londons nach dem dritten Weltkrieg. Das britische Königreich ist zerfallen und die Insel ist unterteilt in hunderte kleiner und kleinster Staaten, die sich die verschiedensten politischen und religiösen Gruppierungen dafür haben schenken lassen, daß sie formal einer britischen Republik die Stange halten. Natürlich sind sich die meisten dieser Territorien spinnefeind, so daß es fast immer überall Kämpfe und kleinere Kriege gibt. Zur normalen Ausstattung des Bürgers in den meisten dieser Gebiete gehören diverse Waffen, um sich seiner Haut zu erwehren.Es gibt aber ein Gerücht, demnach ein raffinierter Programmierer dieses Chaos vorhergesehen und ein Gegenmittel erschaffen hat: ein Computerprogramm, das sämtliche Netze der Welt infilltriert hat und nur auf das Signal wartet, sich zu aktivieren und eine Ereigniskette in Gang zu setzen, deren letztendliches Ergebnis die Rettung der Menschheit bewirken soll. Allerdings gibt es genügend Leute, die zwar an ein allgegenwärtiges verstecktes Programm glauben, allerdings nicht an dessen unbedingte positive Wirkung, und die daher versuchen, es zu finden und zu neutralisieren.Eines Tages kommt der Befehl, der das Programm startet - aber die Gegenmaßnahmen stehen auch bereit. Der neue Kampf findet auf beiden Ebenen statt: in der Realität und in der virtuellen Welt...Die Idee ist gut, und MacLeod vermag auch gut zu schreiben. Allerdings war mir dieses Buch ein wenig zu durcheinander. Die Fortsetzung (nicht im Detail, sondern vor dem gleichen Hintergrund viel später spielend) "Mars-Stadt" gefiel mir besser. Aber trotzdem sollte man diesen Autor im Auge behalten, denn er hat gute Ideen - sie werden nur etwas zu sehr komprimiert, was dann zu Unübersichtlichkeit führt.

  • Andi
    2018-12-27 08:13

    Interesting treatment of the near-future revolution and Balkanization of England, and its aftermath and eventual counter-revolution. Felt similar to Heinlein at times- lots of philosophy carefully argued by the characters, opposing viewpoints, and the inability to see female characters as independent of male romantic partners. At least these women can (and do) curse, fight, have their own personalities, etc. The computer systems feel dated in the same way that cyberpunk novels written in the 90s feel dated, but that's going to be a constant in any science fiction. I felt that the complex politics in the world were explained very well, not so much through "telling" as through natural revealing of the minds of the characters. This requires some patience and putting things together as the reader, but I appreciated this after reading a couple Neal Stephenson novels in a row.I was a bit personally taken-aback at the rough and dismissive treatment the characters (and, it seemed, the author) had for the environmentalist factions, they were the ones I had the most personal sympathy for, but they were a bit redeemed at the end. I liked this book, I would have loved the same book set in the same place written by the Greens I think.

  • Tomislav
    2019-01-04 10:07

    This is the first book in the Fall Revolution series, although it is not strictly a sequential series. The books are:The Star FractionThe Stone CanalThe Cassini DivisionThe Sky Road This was Ken MacLeod's first novel in 1995, and is the beginning of his Fall Revolution sequence, as well as establishes the Earth setting from which his Engines of Light series launches. This is a very complicated book, set in a highly balkanized future Britain. As an American unfamiliar with any major or minor British political movements he may be extrapolating on (such as "libertarian socialism"), I found it somewhat difficult to keep track of the possible alignments between the mini-states, factions, and movements - although I'm not sure if being British would have helped. In this world, mercenaries of the militias and militant factions, as well as of the mini-governments operate in a system regulated under US/UN hegemony. The action surrounding the four main characters, and mysterious artificial intelligence(s), rolls from zone to zone, with good time to learn about each. I feel that the book could have used a more consistent character focus, as it seemed to drift from one to another. But for pure world-building, this is an amazing book.

  • Jobjörn Folkesson
    2019-01-11 08:04

    Så nu har jag läst klart The Star Fraction av Ken MacLeod. Stilmässigt förs tankarna till William Gibson och Peter F Hamilton, och berättelsen om Moh Kohns och hans gevärs äventyr i ett framtida balkaniserat Storbritannien är läsvärd nog i sig.Det som får den här boken att stå ut från mängden är att Ken MacLeod är trotskist. För en annan socialist som undertecknad är det framförallt ett extra underhållande strössel på en i övrigt som nämnt schysst story. Det som är internt är också roligt (jag föreställer mig att det är ännu roligare att läsa om en är trotskist, och än mer så trotskist i Storbritannien).Den politiska analys som läggs fram i boken, i klartext framförallt mot slutet, vittnar dock om en grundläggande oförståelse av kapitalismen som system hos författaren. Utan att gå in på detaljer så skulle medlemmarna i Felix Dzerzhinsky Workers' Defense Collective behöva lägga ner vapnen en stund och ha en studiecirkel kring manifestet och Kapitalet. Men detta kan jag förlåta författaren, som trots allt i grunden är biomekaniker och programmerare. Jag ser fram emot att läsa både resten av böckerna i The Fall Revolution och hans övriga böcker!

  • Zachary Rawlins
    2019-01-07 11:46

    I liked the Star Fraction, I really did - two of the main characters were appealing, and their chemistry seemed really natural. Their romance, frankly, for a scifi book, was pretty hot. And the world the author created was fascinating. I even enjoyed the plot, to some extent, though it did have a very strong resemblance to Gibson's Neuromancer.The problem for me with this book, and possible with the writer - I will have to try something else before I make a general judgement - is that he and his world seem extremely political. Like, many of the dialogues involve the characters simply discussing political theory, often radical political theory, was distracting and a bit tiresome. Perhaps things are different in England, but in the US, the modern youth is best noted for their totally apathy and dislike for politics, which seems a far cry from the passionate capitalists, communists, greens and even Neo-Nazis that populate the book.I will have to give the second one in the series a chance, but this wasn't the most promising start, for the one issue I mentioned above.

  • Tony
    2019-01-13 12:01

    So I'm not much of a writer, so this will be a short review... So...This was a pretty good book; it is hard to get into because it starts out a bit slow and its in a environment that we are not familiar with because it is different than the age we live in. It took me a good hundred pages to get into the book and even then it wasn't a on the edge of my seat, can't put down, book.I liked the setting and the politics of it were pretty interesting. I'm a computer geek so that part of it was interesting too. Overall I would recommend this book to Sci-fi lovers but not to the general population.Most likely I'll read some more of his books, I have two more checked out from the library. But its tough to say whether I'll read it next or try out one of the other books I have. You see, he has a "group" of books set in the same "world" but they are not really related and can be read in any order. This is a good and a bad thing. Good because anyone can pick up any of the books and be okay, but bad because I finish the book and I'm not left wondering what happens next.