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3.7 out of 5 stars11
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 7 February 2004
Following the (mostly) planet bound political chicanery of Dark Light, Engine City returns the series to the stars.
Without giving too much away, the story expands on the 'alien threat' and the rift between Matt Cairns and Volkovs political ambitions. There is action aplenty, political intrigue and a satisfying conclusion (although one which also leaves it open for further novels to explore).
The main characters are by this time familiar and their motivations and actions are all consistent with the previous novels.
It's a sign of a good series that you care about the characters and are perhaps a little sad when the story is over and I felt that was true in this case.
One criticsm I have had of KM in previous works was that I didn't think his descriptive powers were quite up to the breadth of his imagination, however that was not the case in this novel.
Overall a good book and a good point to end the series.
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on 4 December 2002
I enjoyed reading this final book in his Second Sphere series. You get a sense that the author enjoyed putting together the plot from all the SF cliches, whilst not creating a cliche SF novel. The tone has been lighter in this series than the first, and this is continued in this novel, but he avoids turning the various plots into comedy pieces.
At times the world he describes seems shallower than in his earlier books, but that is probably because he is creating new societies here, and not just future versions of our own.
It's another good novel from Ken Macleod, let's hope he'll quickly write another.
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on 11 October 2011
My expectation of the third book of the Engines of Light series was low. I had read the previous two novels over the course of two years and was unimpressed by either of the two; both receiving a mediocre three star rating. This rating stemmed from the fact that the storyline was boring, involved in banal politics and lacked character familiarization. Book three, Engines of Light pushes much of this aside, thankfully.

It's widely said that MacLeod's novels are `politically challenging' and `intellectually ambitious' or so the inside cover wants you to believe. Besides the Engines of Light series, I have also read his stand-along novel Learning the World which was even more boring than the first two books of the aforementioned series. Yes, they are `politically challenging' but it is not the type of science fiction which I prefer (what exact type that is is nearly impossible to define.). But within the pages of Engine City I found a world richly detailed, reminiscent of a steampunk novel. And although the previous two novels lacked characterization, I found myself attached to two characters- Matt and Volkov, which just may be latent fondness of the characters themselves. The entire rest of the cast can be heaped into a large generic pile, as far as I'm concerned (though I admit a liking to the tokin' dinosaur Salasso).

The book began a great pace, earning it a 4-star start. A bit of muddle interrupted a slim percentage of the novel before the pace picked up again into a 4-5-star rating. I might have even ranked the book 5-stars if it hadn't had been for two key factors (because bad news travels in pairs [or in the case of celebrity deaths, it travels in threes]). The series would definitely been better if it had been edited in such a way to abridge the 800 pages or so series into a nice 500-600 pages single issue, much like Hamilton or Reynolds would have done in one of their voluminous tomes. The separation between the forgettable novels casts a dark shadow onto the finale. The last reason Engine City gets 4-star rating is its continuation of dismal characterization. I can't remember personalities or relate to or even remember the bloody names of most of the cast, except those individuals mentioned above.

But where the novel shines in its tainted umbra is in the wholeness of its completeness. I feel satisfied with the way the pieces have come together, while at times I didn't understand which pieces were which (because of the two-year reading span). Event the writing seemed to have improved, as I chuckled or reflected a few times when reading passages like "The window was open but the bar was open," or "Black-furred flying squirrels pawed through it like demonic rescue workers," or "When the box is large enough, even the greatest minds sometimes have difficulty in thinking outside of it."

NOW, only if the entire series could be condensed or abridged into 500-600 pages would the series itself earn 4-stars, rather than a collective 3-star rating. I have a number of MacLeod novels in my library to still read, so I have not been deterred from reading the rest of this bibliography.
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on 6 February 2005
Had this been a stand-alone book, i think i'd have loved it, but coming after the superb first two instalments it was a little disappointing. The action takes place some time after the end of Dark Light (in relative time anyway), but MacLeod lets the plot threads go a bit and toward the end it seems rather contrived and unsatisfactory. Surprising, as he manages timelines so well in the Fall Revolution novels, which are far more complex.
Still, well worth reading.
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on 12 November 2007
The thing I like about Macleod is that his science is at least beleivable, if mankind does ever get to the stars it is more likely we will take the MacLeod route than by driving a horse and cart through that rather inconvenient theory of relativity with warp drives and wormholes etc. He is more serious than his equally brilliant compatriot Iain M Banks; I see another reviewer has used 'space opera' to describe the trilogy, but I think that demeans it, I think Macleod is writing more in the serious British tradition of Clarke and Wells. OK, Macleod is a socialist as well as a Scot and one does get that rather turgid mixture of "Karl Marx meets John Knox" cropping up now and again in his political bits but then one can skip them. Just one thing though, I just cannot relate the title to the story, maybe that's me missing the point!
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on 6 August 2007
I found engine city to be reasonably entertaining and intelligent. There were some exciting and pleasingly humurous sections along with MacLeod's usual skillful style. There was nothing really wrong with the book but i felt it suffered from a haphazard finish amid the struggle to bring a complex series to a close. It was also not quite as polished as the previous titles. Still a good read although not on the same level as the previous two, the disappointment being the only reason for the lower rating. Were this book not compared with the other two i would give it a four out of five.
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on 18 September 2012
Poor character development, sketchy plotlines with little coherence. Very difficult to get into the story, despite the previous two books being OK.
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on 3 April 2003
This concluding novel in the Engines Of Light series just doesn't quite stand on it's own meriets, but should be read as the last part of the series.
This is definitely "hard" science-fiction, and therefore slow reading at times. But the concepts here are fascinating as such themes as flying saucers and alien abductions are woven together with the intermingling of life forms in a future interplanetary society. Quite highly recommended.
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on 19 February 2003
I agree with an earlier reviewer of "Cosmonaut Keep" who complained about the difficulty of keeping up with Macleod's plot lines. The individual scenes are quite well written, but there is no sense of narrative drive. This makes for choppy, episodic writing, with some of the chapters reading as though they have been lifted from drafts for short stories - what was the point of the Selkies? And why include two "Adamic races" - Gigants and Pithkies - and then have them play no role whatsoever in the trilogy?
I also have problems with Macleod's science (I'll pass over his unconvincing politics). Light speed ships, gravity skiffs - OK. The extremophile nanobacteria gods - well, OK-ish, but just how are they supposed to play their lethal tricks with asteroids and meteorites? The spiders/multipliers appear to be brought in halfway through the book as a deus ex machina to solve a number of plotting problems, but their modus operandi - similar to the late Robert L Forward's bush robot - is to work at all scales down to the atomic - tiny multipliers crawling through your neurones, indeed!
Overall a rather flat end to a pretty clunky trilogy. I do believe that here, as in his other books, Macleod would benefit enormously from a good editor who could tighten up both plot and prose.
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on 18 March 2016
good author
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