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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More of the same, just better...
Seriously good work from Macleod sees two time lines mirroring each other, in character and events, across both time and space. The plotting is tight, the characters strongly drawn (including the various heroines, which hasn't always been true in the past) and the locations both on and off planet, as ever with Macleod, are so real that you could walk round them blindfold...
Published on 5 Dec 2000

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm
There is an old joke that runs as follows: - Q: What is the Golden Age of Science Fiction? A: Between thirteen and fifteen. This novel feels a bit as if it was written with that age group in mind, yet at the same time it manages to carry some fairly technical and complex political and scientific ideas as well.
This is not a great Ken MacLeod novel - but by his...
Published on 5 Jan 2002 by Steven Fouch


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm, 5 Jan 2002
By 
Steven Fouch "fouch26" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cosmonaut Keep: Engines of Light: Book One: Bk.1 (Paperback)
There is an old joke that runs as follows: - Q: What is the Golden Age of Science Fiction? A: Between thirteen and fifteen. This novel feels a bit as if it was written with that age group in mind, yet at the same time it manages to carry some fairly technical and complex political and scientific ideas as well.
This is not a great Ken MacLeod novel - but by his standards that makes it still a more than halfway decent piece of science fiction. It is Golden Age sci-fi/space opera in its main concerns (god-like ancient aliens with an apparent Erik Von Daniken complex, interstellar commerce, space drives and so forth), but also typically MacLoed in its concerns with economic and political ideologies and agendas (growth capitalism versus steady state socialism). It has echoes of his earlier novels - bit of the narrative on the planet Mingulay read like "The Sky Road", bits of the parallel narrative in the 21st century have echoes of "The Star Fraction" and "The Stone Canal". As a consequence, it feels a bit like re-treading old territory, but in other ways this is a lighter novel, less dark and complex than his first four novels, more open and accessible to the first time MacLeod reader.
The main problem, as the start of a new "sequence", is that it simply does not quite grab you the way to should. It's good, but not outstanding, inventive, but not really all that original. And, some of the characterisation, and in particular the love story sub-plots are rather on the juvenile side - catering (it seems to me) to male adolescent fantasy.
On the other hand, it throws up enough interesting puzzles (although the answers to some of them were obvious from within a few chapters) to make me want to read the next instalment. I only hope that "Dark Light" is more engaging and challenging.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More of the same, just better..., 5 Dec 2000
By A Customer
Seriously good work from Macleod sees two time lines mirroring each other, in character and events, across both time and space. The plotting is tight, the characters strongly drawn (including the various heroines, which hasn't always been true in the past) and the locations both on and off planet, as ever with Macleod, are so real that you could walk round them blindfold in your head.
As for the saturnine dope-smoking reptile scientist - spot on (I'm positive I used to know him).
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Enchanting Start to The Engines of Light Space Opera, 16 Nov 2012
By 
John Kwok (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cosmonaut Keep: Engines of Light: Book One: Bk.1 (Paperback)
"Cosmonaut Keep" is a page-turning, memorable and enchanting start to Ken MacLeod's "The Engines of Light" space opera science fiction series of novels, successfully recycling such time-worn tropes of science fiction like first contact and the role of computerized technology in a near future human civilization. MacLeod courageously takes us on a centuries-spanning journey through time and space as seen through the eyes of 21st Century outlaw freelance computer programmer Matt Cairns and his direct descendant, Gregor Cairns, an exobiology student and citizen of the remote human colony world of Terra Nova. Cairns is assigned the task of breaking into the computer network of the secret European Space Agency space station Marshall Titov, soon after a mutiny occurs, with the station's scientists seizing control of it from the station's military crew, shortly after making First Contact with an alien race possessing the secret to interstellar travel. Cairns finds himself confronted unexpectedly with his family's historical legacy, even as he tries to woe the daughter of a young trader, not realizing that his research partner Elizabeth has fallen in love with him. Together, with the assistance of their alien Saurian friend Salasso, they seek discovering again, the secret to interstellar travel. This is a novel rich in fantastical imagery, from the arrival of a gigantic starship to stumbling upon the surprisingly rich, almost human, family life of Salasso and his Saurian family and friends. Though MacLeod is a gifted storyteller and a fine prose stylist in his own right, readers should prepare themselves for the frequent, quite substantial, jumps in space and time as he shifts his focus from Matt Cairns to Gregor Cairns; that, however, is merely a minor criticism for what I regard is among the most intelligent, well-conceived, and well-written space opera science fiction in contemporary Anglo-American science fiction literature.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting sci-fi, 9 Dec 2003
By 
Tom Douglas (Marlow) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cosmonaut Keep: Engines of Light: Book One: Bk.1 (Paperback)
This book is my first outing with Ken McLeod and very enjoyable it is too.
The story has two threads. The first is set in the near future, and we get a hearty dose of political thriller mixed into the plot (the EU has been invaded by the Russians, and we are back in the cold war!) along with some fairly standard cyber thriller elements. At one point there was so much talk of legacy systems that it was like reading Computer Weekly!
The second thread is on the planet Mingulay, which is inhabited by humans and various other species, including the classic 'grey' alien (big head, big black eyes, small mouth; appears in every third episode of the X-files).
Mingulay is a long long way from earth and is in a volume of space called the Second Sphere which includes many human-inhabited planets. This book is about how humans came to be on Mingulay in the first place, but also acts as a scene-setter for the trilogy as a whole (the other books being Dark Light and Engine City).
McLeod has a fast-paced writing style, but thankfully this does not result in thin characterisation. He uses humour well and manages to write about alien species as if he knows them personally. Maybe he does.
All in all, well worth a read as a stand-alone novel and I can also recommend the trilogy as a whole.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious Fun, 13 Mar 2001
By A Customer
With more space to work in this time Macleod allows himself to stretch out a bit. The result is a book which is less dense than his previous work, but more readable. In fact, it's a real page-turner.
Here's hoping that the ENGINES OF LIGHT sequence maintains the promise of its opening. I'm looking forward to the next installment.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! Ken does it again!, 15 Nov 2000
This guy just keeps getting better with every book. Macleod creates an entire cosmology with Cosmonaut Keep that should provide him with innumerable angles to explore in the Engines of Light series. The typical Macleod elements of socialist politics and cyber-coolness are here in droves for fans of his previous works, but even more interesting to me are the suggestions implied within the book that he will use this series to explore the mythologies and facts of the Earth's development. I have to say that I never thought I'd pick up a hard-science-fiction novel that isn't afraid to dabble in pixies, giants, and other archetypical elements of fantasy... Ken is simply the best SF writer working in the EU right now, and most American writers should look to his works for inspiration as they create the speculative fiction of the 21st century. Thanks for another fine work.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Took me ages, couldn't be bothered to take it out of the loo, 24 Dec 2001
By 
HLT (Wales, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
I've been a fan of Ken Macleod ever since he debuted with the Star Fraction, and I'd never have expected to give him a 2-star review.
Compared to the heights he reached with his first three books (and particularly with the Stone Canal and the Cassini Division) this is plodding stuff. The previous books simply demanded to be read, and kept me up to the early hours. Hence my disappointment with this.
As has been mentioned elsewhere, his alternative history requires that you suspend your disbelief from a very strong hook. Russian AA gunners defeating hordes of US stealth planes by switching off their targetting systems and relying on the force? Give me a break!
I had the impression that a lot of this is political wish-fulfillment. All of his novels have political points to make, and these have sometimes jarred a bit, but this has to be the clumsiest yet.
That aside, the book just failed to grip me. Some of the echoes between the two timelines were engaging, but as for the rest, the most gripping thing was wondering which characters would pair off. The aliens and super-intelligences will be interesting to some, but Vernor Vinge does that so much better...
The bottom line is that this marks the end of my collection of signed Ken Macleod hardbacks. I might try the next one in paperback, though.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Keep up if you can - it's excellent stuff if you do, 25 Feb 2002
By 
Jonathan Waterlow (Oxford) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Cosmonaut Keep: Engines of Light: Book One: Bk.1 (Paperback)
Ken MacLeod is somewhat of an enigma to me. I have read "The Star Fraction" previous to this, and I found similarities in my reaction. Throughout both I found myself lagging behind the narrative, desperately trying to work out, or remember, why each character was doing what they were, and quite why they were being pursued/hunted/condemned and so forth. In "Cosmonaut Keep" I continually had to stop and try to make clear in my mind just what was happening, where it was happening, why it was happening and just /who/ was allied to whom.
Although that sounds very negative, there is another factor to consider with Ken MacLeod. The continual feeling as you read through the book that he is much smarter than you are, and knows a great deal more about politics, past and present, than the average person is apt to. Perhaps, as Iain Banks has noted, it's the monumentally assured nature of his prose that keeps you trying, even when it gets heavy going on the grey cells. There is an underlying feeling that he's telling a great story, and that you should do him the justice of reading on and really trying to understand what is happening. And in the end it does pay off. Even though I look back on both those of his novels I have now read without fully comprehending why certain events took place, I remember then in a good light and as damned good pieces of science fiction. His imagination perhaps sometimes runs away with him, and so there is less time spent on description, and reminding the reader why a character is acting as they are, and going over again (to clarify rather than dully repeat) what plot revelations have occurred.
Peter F. Hamilton has said the prose are "sleek and fast as the technology it describes" - and this clearly leads to an excellent story in the long run. But you may feel a little left behind during the course of the journey. In the end, however, MacLeod is well worth the effort and proves ultimately rewarding.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intensely compelling., 17 July 2001
By A Customer
Ken MacLeod has created an entire cosmology with this new saga that has numerous, interwoven angles, exploring mankind's first encounter with a mysterious and majestic alien civilisation. The opening promises to be a complex and very entertaining new science fiction series. Ken keeps the story tension high and the readers grip intact. His use of European and socialist politics, cyber-coolness, even exploring the mythology and origin of Earth's own development, most certainly maintained my interest and kept my eyes firmly glued to the pages.
Cosmonaut Keep is told in two timelines. The entwined timelines of Gregor and Matt Cairns, transform the reader from the near future to ten thousand light years away, while managing daring and passionate characters, seeking a place for themselves and their dreams in a vast, complex, and ultimately enigmatic universe.
After a mysterious prologue, which finally comes to focus at the end of the book, we are introduced to Gregor Cairns, an exobiology student and descendant of one of Terra Nova's first families on the planet Mingulay, along with his fellow research partners Elizabeth Harkness and Salasso (a saur). Gregor is a direct descendant of the "Cosmonauts," who arrived at Mingulay, some centuries earlier from Earth, in a starship...
The other timeline follows Matt Cairns, a Scotsman, back in the middle of the 21st century...
Ken has written a clever and suspenseful story. I most certainly look forward to the next adventure in this exciting new star-spanning saga.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first book of a great new SF Series., 16 Nov 2000
By 
Peter A. Dawson (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) - See all my reviews
Cosmonaut Keep is the opening gambit of what promises to be a complex, and very entertaining new SF series. The entwined timelines of Matt and Gregor Cairns bounce the reader from the near future to 10,000 light years away but still manages to keep the tension high and the readers interest fully intact. I read this book in one sitting despite being jet-lagged from a trans-atlantic flight and was very dissapointed when I realised that I had only a few pages to go before I finished; in fact I really wish that there had been some information concerning the publication date of the next book included on the final page. Plot and politics are what Ken MacLeod does best and he only gets better with each new book. Cosmonaut Keep was inspired by some of the work of the late Chris Boyce and includes a premise that may have a few SETI reseachers slapping their foreheads with a Homer Simpsonesque "Doh", meanwhile the ordinary reader can groove on Macleods rich narative and cracking plot. For whatever reason the book differs from the blurb put out by the publishers but that does not detract from the book itself.
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Cosmonaut Keep: Engines of Light: Book One: Bk.1
Cosmonaut Keep: Engines of Light: Book One: Bk.1 by Ken MacLeod (Paperback - 1 Nov 2001)
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