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Cosmonaut Keep: Engines of Light: Book One: Bk.1 Paperback – 1 Nov 2001

3.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; New Ed edition (1 Nov. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841490679
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841490670
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 2.6 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 652,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Like a British--specifically, Scots--counterpart of Bruce Sterling, Ken MacLeod is an SF author who has thought hard about politics and delights in making unlikely alternatives plausible, grippingly readable and often downright funny.

Cosmonaut Keep swaps between two timelines whose characters share the ultimate goal of interstellar travel. In an uncertain future on the far world of Mingulay, human colonists live in the title's ancient, alien-built Keep--coexisting with reptilian "saurs", trading with visiting ships piloted by krakens, and hiding their laborious "Great Work" of developing human-guided navigation between the stars.

Meanwhile alternate chapters present a mid-21st century Earth whose EU is (to America's horror) Russian-dominated with a big red star in the middle of its flag, rumours of alien contact aboun, and computer whizzkid Matt Cairns finds himself carrying a datadisk of unknown origin that offers antigravity and a space drive.

Clearly the later storyline's Gregor Cairns is Matt's descendant. There are ingenious connections and surprises, with witty resonances between their wild careers, their travels and their bumpy love-lives. The foreground action-adventure points to a bigger picture and a master plan known only to the godlike hive-minds who built the "Second Sphere" of interstellar culture and who regard traditional SF dreams of unlimited human expansion through space as precisely equivalent to floods of e-mail spam polluting the tranquil galactic net.

Cosmonaut Keep opens MacLeod's new SF sequence Engines of Light. It is highly entertaining and intelligent, promising more good things to come. --David Langford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Like a British--specifically, Scots--counterpart of Bruce Sterling, Ken MacLeod is an SF author who has thought hard about politics and delights in making unlikely alternatives plausible, grippingly readable and often downright funny. (Cosmonaut Keep swaps between two timelines whose characters share the ultimate goal of interstellar travel. In an uncertain future on the far world of Mingulay, human colonists live in the title's ancient, alien-built Keep--coexisting with reptilian "saur)

Meanwhile alternate chapters present a mid-21st century Earth whose EU is (to America's horror) Russian-dominated with a big red star in the middle of its flag, rumours of alien contact aboun, and computer whizzkid Matt Cairns finds himself carrying a dat (Clearly the later storyline's Gregor Cairns is Matt's descendant. There are ingenious connections and surprises, with witty resonances between their wild careers, their travels and their bumpy love-lives. The foreground action-adventure points to a bigger)

Cosmonaut Keep opens MacLeod's new SF sequence Engines of Light. It is highly entertaining and intelligent, promising more good things to come. (David Langford, AMAZON.CO.UK REVIEW)

This man is going to be a major writer (IAIN M. BANKS)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven Fouch VINE VOICE on 5 Jan. 2002
Format: 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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: 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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Format: Paperback
Oh my, this was a boring book. Aside from the glacial pacing, any dramatic tension created from the plot is immediately dispelled by the smart-arse characters saying 'Yeah, that's what we expected to happen, cos we're all experts in politics and psychology and stuff".

But what really struck me was the blatant author wish fulfillment. I don't know anything about Ken Macleod but from the author blurb I gather he was a computer analyst/programmer who lives in Edinburgh. And lo, one of the main characters is a computer analyst/programmer who lives in Edinburgh who, despite being so incredibly dull and prone to long-winded political digressions, attractive women find irresistible.
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