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The Human Front Hardcover – 1 Dec 2001

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: PS Publishing (1 Dec. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1902880315
  • ISBN-13: 978-1902880310
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.7 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,761,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"MacLeod is a fiercely intelligent, prodigiously well-read author who manages to fill his books with big issues without weighing them down." --Salon.com

"MacLeod's novels are fast, funny, and sophisticated. There can never be enough books like these." --Kim Stanley Robinson, author, Mars trilogy

"Scottish author Ken MacLeod bolsters his tight, brilliant, alternate-history novella with two supporting essays and a lengthy interview, combining revolutionary politics, flying-saucer lore, and family dynamics in a slender but potent volume." --"Publishers Weekly"

."..an excellent tale, one that readers should be glad to see made readily available in the United States."--"Publishers Weekly"

"There's a 'Plus ...' on the cover and title page, indicating the inclusion of a pair of reflective essays by the author, an interview conducted by Terry Bisson, and an extensive bibliography of MacLeod's fiction and non-fiction. The elements of the package interact nicely." --Russell Letson, "Locus"

"Although the novella soars off into high science fiction for its end twist, its grounding in the Scotland and the Lewis of Macleod's childhood gives it a sense of solidity, grounding it in real history and left wing arguments remembered." --Pik Smeet, "World Socialism" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Ken MacLeod is the author of "The Night Sessions," "The Restoration Game," and "The Stone Canal." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Paperback
Marvelous polemical alternate history of the twentieth century, as seen though the eyes of a young Scot. The action moves from a guerrilla campaign in Scotland through to the far, far future.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Classic creative MacLeod.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating blend of genres and ideas 11 Jun. 2003
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
First off, this isn't a typical Amazon title, rather it is the product of PS Publishing, which puts out limited, signed editions by various science fiction and fantasy authors. Specifically, "The Human Front" was limited to 400 hardcover and another 500 paperback copies, all of which have long since sold out from the publisher. That said, there are copies available on the internet, and fans of alternate history will definitely want to track this one down.
As I alluded to above, "The Human Front" is Ken MacLeod's take on alternate history, but anyone who knows MacLeod knows it will be anything but conventional. Actually, it does start off conventionally enough: it's the early 1960's and World War III has been raging with varying degrees of ferocity since 1949. Joe Stalin is a romanticized guerrilla fighter in the model of Che, and the Soviet Union has been beaten down to the point where the allies have installed a government in Petrograd.
Macleod rather cleverly juxtaposes roles in this world; in addition to Stalin, JFK is reviled as a butcher ("Hey, Hey, JFK, how many kids have you killed today?"). By so doing, he obliterates the myths of the past, and rather shrewdly, points out that historical interpretation is largely a function of the circumstances in which one lives, or more simply, a result of how the past turned out. While he is no apologist for Stalin (by any stretch) he creates a plausible reality where he is revered as a pragmatic, dedicated revolutionary, rather than reviled as a butcher. Thus removed from our known context he can create an absurd inversion that nonetheless sheds light on how we view our own heroes.
However, instead of following this believable alternate reality to a logical conclusion, MacLeod throws a curveball in the main character, John Matheson's, enigmatic encounter with one of the U.S.'s strange disc shaped bombers. Although the next twenty pages of narrative are fairly conventional, MacLeod has set the stage, and everything thereafter is tainted by this puzzling mystery.
To go any further would spoil the plot, but suffice it to say that the novel takes numerous bizarre twists before arriving at a fascinating ending. Specifically, unlike most Alternate History, which revels in an outcome discrete from reality, MacLeod attempts to reconcile his world to our own in a manner reminiscent of Philip K. Dick's "The Man in the High Castle". The mechanism of this reconciliation is completely original without being outlandish, and the statement made is simple but profound. In essence, MacLeod is arguing that we are all victims of circumstance, that, generally speaking, shaping the world's destiny is beyond the individual. Thus, it is left to each of us to live as best we can, in the hopes that the cumulative result is something better than where we started. At the same time, unlike much Alternate History, (and particularly what one would expect from such a politically conscious writer) MacLeod isn't entirely displeased with the path history has taken, and actually seems to find it better than many of the alternatives.
MacLeod packs more into the seventy-five pages of "The Human Front" than most authors do in novels four times as long. He has blended so many genres, I've lost count, and it's almost unfair to categorize it as Alternate History, in spite of the fact that it won the Sidewise Award for best Short Form Alternate History in 2001. Rather, MacLeod created a true SF hybrid, that evokes the best of many different themes. At the same time, he has written a character driven novel that explores some interesting themes around meaning and purpose. Ultimately, this is a work of literature in which the content far surpasses what one might expect from the length.
Jake Mohlman
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars alternate history and more 17 May 2013
By Travisji Corcoran - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I like Ken Macleod's writing because it's political. I don't always agree with the politics - Ken is some sort of weird Troskyist / Libertarian hybrid that I still haven't managed to really understand - but it's always fun to see him poke at political topics (this is the same reason that China Mieville is one of my favorite authors. Well, that and he can WRITE).

Anyway, the Human Front is a good little novella. It starts in an alternate history where the US made contact with the LGM in flying saucers sometime in the 1940s, and the events have unfolded very differently given that hard-line anti-communists now have nearly unkillable assault aircraft.

In the same way that libertarian fiction always ends up with the Good Old American Boys shooting at the Red Coats / UN / New World Order, as best I can tell Trot fiction always ends up with either (a) a cabal in a Scottish pub planning the worker's uprising, and / or (b) the workers having their uprising.

THF is not different - you get exactly what you signed up for.

...but then stuff gets weird. The ending is the part that I liked best, but sadly I can't go into detail without giving away the conclusion. I wish that the ending had stretched out a bit longer. It reminded me of Spider Robinson's early stuff in that way - we spend a whole lot of time not understanding what's going on, and then the moment of resolution - the really good part - goes by in a flash.

Anyway, even with the pay off a bit shorter than I'd like, 4 stars. Read it.
4.0 out of 5 stars Five Star novella at a premium price 22 Dec. 2013
By H. F. Sutherland - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Gardner Dozois thought enough of this novella to give it the coveted placement as the last entry in the 19th edition of his Year's Best series. I certainly enjoyed it and found it worth re-reading several times. Quite possibly the best novella of 2001. MacLeod was able to create an engrossing story complete with credible characters, dialog, and world politics, along with an incredible twist or two.

As of 2013, the "chapbook" prices seem appropriate for the moderately serious collector. Anyone else might first try to find a copy of the Dozois collection. Of course, that will not include the essays.

[Note: I do NOT own The Human Front in this format. I hope someone will comment if the version for sale here is an expanded version compared to the one available in Year's Best. That one ran about 40 pages in trade paperback format. I didn't see any differences in the 10 pages or so of the excerpt that I could view here. (which seemed to each contain about half as many words as a trade paperback page.)]
4.0 out of 5 stars Get it if you are a MacLeod fan 31 Aug. 2013
By R. Reid - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Despite being a slim volume, it provides a lot of insight into MacLeod. The main novella is entertaining and interesting, but the alternate history vein has been mined to death elsewhere, and the political story is intriguing, but it's no Fall Revolution. (You could say it's an alternate MacLeod.) It's almost worth it just for the confirmation of my suspicion that the Engines of Light series essentially started as a bet.
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