Ken MacLeod is a peerless purveyor of speculative fiction with a bite. An intellectual, fiercely partisan, aggressively funny, British writer, MacLeod gets in your face with his politics -- but makes it palatable by writing about characters you really care about. On top of that, he manages with the Fall Revolution series to create a satisfying puzzle whose pieces all fall together in his final novels of the series (collected as "Divisions"). For the fullest effect, read "Fractions" and "Divisions" together to appreciate how MacLeod spans light years of space and geologic eras of time while stitching together a satisfying yarn about super-long-lived characters linked - and divided - by friendship, love, ideology, and enmity. Oh yeah, and by nanotechnology, steam-punk cybernetics, the Singularity, and rip-roaring space opera.
"Fractions" combines the first two novels of the Fall Revolution series, "The Space Fraction" and "The Stone Canal." MacLeod focuses on a different character in each of his novels, while having the same core personalities appear either in the foreground or background of each of the other. In "The Star Fraction," we are introduced to a war-torn Britain that has been shattered by competing ideologies -- oh, yeah, and by some almost accidental nuclear blasts. We follow some armed-to-the-hilt mercenaries, psychedelic memory researchers, space enthusiasts, and left leaning revolutionaries as England tries to shrug off the latest Restoration. Despite deep discomfort with the notion of artificial intelligence, the protagonists end up unleashing the Black Plan of the Fourth International.
In "The Stone Canal," one of the fringe characters from "The Star Fraction" takes center stage. Using a slightly disorienting device of bouncing between late 20th Century/early 21st Century Britain and a world called New Ares centuries and light-years away, MacLeod tells a tale of love, jealousy, ideology, and the nature of consciousness. We encounter space entrepreneurs, robots, androids (and gynoids!), super-evolved humans, and wormholes, but MacLeod keeps the story grounded by following some compelling, but deeply flawed characters whose struggles span centuries and light years, and even frustrate death itself.
These novels showcase some of the best speculative fiction of the Nineties by an author who really delivers the goods.