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on 29 July 2013
I'd been meaning to read a Ken Macleod novel for some time and as I'd heard good things about this, I thought I'd give it a go.

This is a very intelligent, inventive, original and superbly written book. It's no secret Ken has left-wing leanings and, like the much missed Iain M Banks, he's not afraid to weave this into his work. It contains a well-constructed plot, great characterization and enough technical stuff to keep the biggest nerd happy. Again, as with Banks, the high-concept stuff meshes perfectly with the character-driven story. He has created a fascinating, believable yet very worrying vision of the future. I found it thoroughly enthralling and just I couldn't put it down. I'll definitely be reading the rest of Ken's work.

We may no longer have Iain's books to look forward to, but Ken is right up there with him in terms of the quality of his writing and the fertility of his imagination and I'd urge anyone who loves quality Sci-Fi to give this a read.

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Those who like the safe, the normal, the everyday commonplace should not read this book, as it is certainly anything but. Macleod creates a world where the US/UN is the bad guy, where England is divvied up into many semi-autonomous city-states, each of which have their own idea of what the perfect society should be, and most of whom are at gun-point loggerheads with all the others, where the Net is pervasive and invasive, and may just be the locus of the real world power, a conscious AI, and where your ideas and assumptions about anarchy, communism, socialism, and capitalism will be stood on their head.
The main characters of Moh Kohn, mercenary extraordinary, Janice, bio-chemist, Jordan, programmer and rebeller against the purantistic creed of his birth society, and Catelin, idealist and Kohn's former lover, are well realized and interact with each other and the rapidly changing socio-political environment in believable manners.
The plot is very fast-paced, almost too much so. At the beginning of the book we are dropped into this wildly different future with very little explanation of where you are or what the overall world picture/history is or how it got that way. The casual reader who is not steeped in science fiction, in being able to accept things as they are presented, and hold his questions in abeyance will probably feel lost and confused. These items are really not explicated in cohesive detail till near the end of the book, with bits and pieces presented all along the way, as the reader is carried along pell-mell through this odd society with each twist and turn of the plot.
Stylistically, the work uses pretty utilitarian prose which gets the job done and is normally unobtrusive, but is not likely to garner any awards. Although there is a fair amount of techno-babble, there is very little use of British slang, always a problem for their American cousins to understand. At a few places, Macleod inserts some sly insider references to other science fiction works and writers - which frequently caused me to have a laughing fit, as the irony used was beautiful.
A rich mixture of cyber-punk and politics, a rather terrifying view of a possible future, and strong action make this a page turning mind-enhancing trip through the land of a fantastic and all too relevant tomorrow.
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on 23 May 2008
An interesting, original and enjoyable romp that portrays a future Britain in the grips of political turmoil. The descriptions of the countless different factions, communities and statlets was a joy to read for a politics nerd like me.

However, I was never quite convinced by the whole "trots in space" malarkey and the depiction of middle class North London immersed in the space age was always going to be awkward (Alexandra Palace as a spaceport?! Sorry, just couldn't buy it). In places the plot was very difficult to follow and there is a particular event towards the end that I found quite baffling; lets just say that the characterization isn't quite consistent.

You have to applaud Mr MacLeod's ambition, especially for a debut novel, but on finishing The Star Fraction, the jury is still out on whether I shall be reading one of his books again.
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VINE VOICEon 20 November 2007
Well I hit all the buttions- a lefty man with a techno fixation who loves North London so this book was right up my street, though a little tough on the Greens- Ken must have spent too much of his time enguageing with deep ecologists and eco-feminists and not understanding the concepts of eco-socialism but I'll forgive him his blanks spots. The story is not exceptionally original but the setting and world he outlines is fundamentally different from the usual sci-fi extrapolations.
Buy the book if you are a lefty lad- don't bother if your not- you'll miss 90% of the jokes.
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on 8 January 2001
I don't pretend to know a great deal about the theories of Trotsky or socialism except in a very generalized way, but I must say, this book (and the sequels) are absolutely fantastic. The society that MacLeod describes is intensely interesting, especially for a teenage product of good ol' American capitalism such as myself. It is an eye-opener to the different schools of thought out there, even if the anarcho-capitalist society is extreme by today's standards. The technology and AIs are also interesting for all those "hard" sci-fi fans, so it has some of it all, and is masterfully written - unlike many lower quality authors, it doesn't reveal everything at once, and actually leaves some things up to the reader to figure out. Overall, absolutely incredible. I suggest everyone read it, whether you are a communtist dissenter or a capitalist pig.
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on 23 April 2005
My missus found this for a couple of quid in a charity shop, and what a lucky find - after reading The Star Fraction I was straight on Amazon buying everything else available by MacLeod. I'm a huge fan of Gibson, Neal Stephenson etc, and I'm so happy to finally find a convincing British voice to rival them... Yes - unlike the other reviewer here, I really think he does have a very distinctive voice of his own; partly this is the constant (but never tiring or distracting) wordplay and punning which give the text an almost poetic density and richness, but also a great passionate intensity, leavened by a good old bit of British corrosive sarcasm and realism. OK, it's not the easiest going - it's not Tom Clancy that's for sure - and you really need to read closely as the small detail is vitally important, but the excitement of the plot and the relationships was more than enough to keep me focussed and gripped all the way through. The science kicks arse too; I'm no expert but I have several freinds involved in AI / artificial life / evolutionary systems, and the science in Star Fraction certainly *feels* plausible. I really like the politics too: the extrapolation of ideas to ludicrous extremes and the revelation of the paradoxes in politics (e.g. the extension of green politics being fascism - something which I've long suspected myself - and the logic of 'free market socialism') are both funny and really thought-provoking.
As you can probably tell I'm a convert; I really can't find anything bad to say about this book. It's a classic, and one that I'll be re-reading soon.
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on 18 June 2001
Ken Macleod has brought politics back into SciFi in a way which is understandable to a broad audience and an absolute hoot for those of us who were active in the far-left politics of the early 70's he describes so well (in fact I think I was at half the meetings..).
The issues he raises about the intertwining of technological and political/social change are fascinating. This is what the best SciFi ought to be about - exploring what it means to be human, or not....
He's even given me some good ideas to explore in my 'day job' as an academic.
Incidentally, I actually published the 'Harry Wicks' edition of "The Transitional Programme" (The Star Fraction, p151) and interviewed Harry to get his intro. (Back in the days when I worked for the International Marxist Group, British Section of the FI).
Keep it up Ken.
(Prof.) Colin Talbot
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As much political drama as it is sci-fi, the Star Fraction presents a fragmented and unstable Britain in a high technology future.

The Soviets have rolled across Europe, leaving Britain as a Balkan-style patchwork of territories and enclaves. Everybody seems to belong to one faction or another, and the splits are political, religious and geographic; most seem to employ private militias. This is far from a utopian future.
Against this backdrop we have the story of Moh, mercenary, Janis, scientist, Jordan, kid, and various other bit players. It is a conventional thriller, with thin characterisation, and a fairly clunky narrative. And in other circumstances, I would have found little merit in it.
But the whole book is rescued by the political backdrop, and if you lived through the late seventies, and had an interest in politics, you will probably enjoy this novel.
You will find far better writing elsewhere, and richer stories too, but as vision of a possible future the Star Fraction is an interesting novel.
Four stars.
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on 25 March 2014
Mix 1 part Alasdair Reynolds to 1 part Peter F Hamilton and a splash of politics and maybe a hint of Ian M Banks. So good I had to get the series. Read them end-to-end. Now need to read them again to see how clever MacLeod has been with the plot.
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on 27 May 1999
I found it hard to stay interested at the start but after staying with it I can't put it down. Good first novel with a sort of Ian M. Banks style/feel to it although I'm sure that MacLeod would not like to be compared with his old school pal.
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