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21
3.6 out of 5 stars
Cosmonaut Keep: Engines of Light: Book One: Bk.1
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 17 July 2001
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
on 16 November 2000
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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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 February 2003
... This is grand old space opera, but it does have ideas. And MacLeod distinguishes his science-fiction with political ideas, but he doesn't let them get in the way of the story. Expect a few political dissertations from the characters in our near future.
The shifting back and forth between two eras may disconcert some. Again, I felt that this element was more annoying to the American mind than to the English.
Of course, this is the first of a trilogy, and we'll just have to see where MacLeod is leading us, won't we?
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2004
This was the first Ken Macleod book I read and it inspired me to go on and read much of his other work. He is without a doubt one of the best Sci-Fi writers today, along with the likes of Iain M Banks and Peter F Hamilton, as well as a personal favourite. Anyway, here are my thoughts...
Character Development - 10/10
Macleod has an incredible gift when it comes to his characters and the relationships between them. At times they are stupid, at others they're close to genious, but they are always believable. They don't pull of crazy stunts that make you think 'yeah right, or come up with unrealistic plans that could never be devised. It's these human qualities that allow you to relate to them as you would a real person. From the very beginning you find yourself really caring about what happens to them, just like you would a friend or relative, and as you see them through the highs and lows of success and failure you can't help but feel attached to them.
Story - 09/10
Just like the characters, the story is surprisingly believable, and at times you can almost imagine the future truning out somewhat similar.
Matt Cairns, an expert in interfacing legacy technology, lives in Scotland during a time where Europe is under Soviet rule. He finds out some information that takes him to America and then Space, where he works on a ligh-speed drive.
Accross the galaxy, Gregor and his two colleges Elizabeth (human) and Salasso (saur - humanoid), are working on the marine biology of their home planet Mingled when a trade ship arrives. It Carries news of the rest of the Universe but more importantly a lady named Lydia, who sparks Gregor 's interest.
Although the two stories are seperate they are also heavily linked and the second book (Dark Light) brings them together brilliantly.
Macleod includes some very interesting concepts such as the 'gods' which are confusing to start with but become more and more clear as the books proggress. The one thing which can be slightly frustrating, but necessary, is the politics involved, especially for people like myself who never took a real interest to them. However, don't let it put you off, as this book is far too good to be tossed aside due to their inclusion, and besides, they're only used when really necessary.
The ending is left open for a sequel, and shouldn't be seen as 'unfulfilling'. Having read all three I can assure you that the remaining two will not disappoint, and the Grand Finale is far from 'unfulfilling'.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 January 2004
This is the first book in a series called 'Engines of Light' and I will be reading the next part pretty soon I hope.
So you know that I enjoyed it enough to read a sequel. :D
The book is SF (if the clue wasn't in the name).
To be honest I found it hard going at the start.
There are two stories going on and they alternate chapter by chapter.
One is set on a far flung planet in a distant future where humans and aliens (Saurs) live side by side. How and why they got there is revealed as the story goes on so I shan't give too much away. The story centers around a marine biologist (Gregory) who is researching squid with a view to gaining a better understanding of the squid-like aliens that pilot all the space ships. A great deal of the first half of this story is used to set the scene and get to know the characters. As such it is not fast paced, but it is interesting enough.
The other thread is set about 50 years from now in Edinburgh (Scotland) and is about a systems analyst/project manager. The background is that the UK has been invaded by communist Russians (as has the rest of the EU) and how he gets involved in a spying/code cracking plot. This is definitely the more interesting of the two threads at the start.
At first it looks like the stories are unrelated, but as things develop the connections are gradually revealed.
The story is entertaining and ambitious in its scope and is also pretty original. The main characters are pretty interesting too. My only complaint is that I occasionally wondered what was going on, it could be that I was just being daft, but I think that KM's descriptive powers aren't quite up to the task at times (given the clever and ambitious nature of his ideas). There are also a couple of things left unexplained, but as this is the first book in a series, that is perhaps understandable.
In short, I would recommend it to fans of ambitious SF, but it isn't Ken McLeod's best novel.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 4 December 2003
After checking the reviews on this book, and seeing some of the almost rapturous praise heaped on it by other authorsm, (Iain Banks included) I was looking forward to something special here. Instead I struggled my way through a pretty tedious book. Yes, good character development, and well written - but at the end of the day, just plain boring.
I was hoping to have some idea of where the book was going, but even when you do finish that last page you'll be left wondering what it's all about. Worse still, I suspect you won't even care.
It gets 2 stars instead of 1 because, as I said, it is well written!
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 June 2009
Sorry didn't like it. I'll tell you the good stuff first - it does some very smart things and the universe it's set in is really interesting. I did like the low-tech setting of Mingulay (a bit Final Fantasy-ish) and the threading of the near-future and far-future stories. I also liked the aliens and some of the characters. Lastly the capture of the slashdot internet geek crowd is very a la mode and fairly accurate.

But... perhaps it's just me but everything seems a little bit too slow, a little bit too nice. It is often recounted how Philip K Dick wrote some of his novels while rushing his head off on speed - if Ken McLeod was taking something when he wrote this it was probably valium. Virtually nothing has happened plotwise by the end of the novel, aside from the settling of the colony itself and some stuff about maybe building a computer to fly a spaceship, but it's only really at the planning stage... yawn.

In fact, there are dozens of pages all about one of the dull protagonists "project managing" some even duller scientists on an engineering project. Sure they're working on an anti-grav drive and whatnot but it's hardly seat of the pants stuff. I read Hyperion right after this and it had knife fights, mini guns, horrible time-travelling monsters, space barbarians, sex... at one point a detective chases a cybrid on foot through half a dozen different planets via personal teleporter pads. That's exciting. Nothing like that happens here. Which is a little unfair because they're very different books but if you bill something as a "space opera" it had better have some action or drama in it. This was downright soporific.

Oh and the teenage romance stuff is embarrassing and I hated it. Lastly I don't need an author to make constant references to boring political theory, especially when it feels pushed in and of no great relevance to the story.

3 stars because a lot of people will like this, but I won't be reading the rest of the series, sorry again Ken.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 May 2006
Whatever happened to Ken MacLeod? There was a time when I avidly read everything Ken MacLeod wrote. That was in the days of 'The Cassini Division, Star Fraction etc. The characterisation was great, the science hard and believable and the plots were both tight and twisty. The whole series was punching, exciting and gritty and the near future politics provided a really believable twist. I don't know what happened. Ken moved on to a new 'novelverse' with the Cosmonaut Keep series and all of a sudden he was a different writer. I persevered, read the whole series...but really. What happened Ken? Where did the characterisation go? Where is the grit and realism? Please go back to writing adult SF.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 24 March 2001
The athmosphere is good.The alternative history...come on! Russia still communist after 1991 who reconquers Belarus an Ucraina and overwhelms Nato?It would have been possible,but it needs a lot more explanationsd that those given!The bacterial intelligence hypothesis is not new (see Asimov's Nemesis ) but very interesting combined with the Life from comets hypothesis.But how can a spaceship find herself on orbit around a planet on the other side of the Galaxy...who has saurs,trylobites and squids like Earth? Give me a break!Not even the most ignorant sci-fi scrivener would have had so little imagination in devising alien life!Too many modern S.F.writers have a great flaw:they don't care to create characters whit whom the reader can sympatize and identify whit!No Tad Williams' Orlando and Renie,no Peter F.Hamilton's Ione Saldana and Joshua Calvert,to name contemporaries!Only characters who thinks and talk only of politics and brood,brood,brood.Something in Cosmonaut Keep is good,though.I hope in Book Two.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 June 2001
I really enjoyed Ken Macleod's earlier books, Stone Canal, Star Fraction and Cassini Division having found them inventive, clever and with excellent plot lines and was looking forward to more of the same quality in Cosmonaut Keep. I was really sorry therefore to find none of the above qualities in this book and I agree with the other reviewier who found this a poor book. The plots are weak and have no substance. I will not bother with the next in the series if this is the level.
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