CanVention 22 and the Aurora Awards
If It's Tuesday,
this must be TOR
Cosmonaut Keep by Ken Macleod
The Alchemists Door
by Lisa Goldstein
ed by Harry Turtledove
by Stanley Schmidt
Logic by Laurie J. Marks
Iron Grail by John Woodstock
The Sacred Pool by L. Warren Douglas
The Sky So Big And Black by John Barnes
Spaceland by Rudy Rucker
Straw Men by Michael
Sisters of the Raven by Barbara Hambly
To Trade The Stars
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Ellen Datlow and
Murder Mysteries. Original short
story and radio play by Neil Gaiman. Graphic story script and art by P.
Journal of Pulse Pounding Narratives
& Metropolis Essay
Reign of Fire
Cosmonaut Keep by Ken Macleod
Tor Paperback: ISBN 0765340739
Review by Ernest
pages List price $25.95 Purchase this book at Amazon
Matt Cairns is a software project manager living in Russian controlled
Edinburgh, in the Scottish Highlands. Gregor Cairns is his many times
removed great grandson, and he lives on a planet about 100 light years
from earth and about 300 years into the future.
Cosmonaut Keep faithfully alternates between their stories, chapter
after chapter, as they slowly wend towards each other and the
culmination of this, the first book in Ken MacLeod's "Engines of Light"
series. The obvious question, how'd we get here? Is semi-answered by looking up
at the heavens and seeing the colonists ship, the Bright Star, still in
orbit after 200 years of abandonment. The real questions, when, how, and
why did the Bright Star leave Earth, and how long did the trip here
take, these are the questions that unravel more slowly.
Matt isn't some guy who works for a company, though he may work for "the
company" from time to time. He's a freelance code maker that assembles
teams of AIs and geezer geeks to patch, hack, or create code in the
middle of the 21st century. He's also a hardware hacker, and has the good or
bad fortune to have a thing for an American secret agent, an attractive
lass named Jadey, whom he cobbles up black market gadgets and software
for, with a minimum of need to know.
Jadey, on the other hand needs to know a lot, and what she needs most is
someone to take apart the data on an encrypted disk she's gotten off a courier (deceased)
and possibly to figure out what to make of it as well.
It turns out that what you can make of it is nothing less than a
flying saucer and a space drive.
It also turns out that the Russians have been in touch with Alien intelligences in the asteroid
belt for some time and thanks to a mini-revolution on their deep space
station, all sorts of weird science are about to be unleashed on the
world, including the computing technology to make every crypto code in
the solar system totally useless.
It's only moderately
surprising, then when Matt and Jadey find themselves on the lam from the
Socialist Securtiy Appartchnick shortly after divining the nature of the
disk's data. Black helicopters never quite show up, but that's part of
the fun. A lot of old fashioned conspiracy theory is kicked
around, without ever quite getting nailed down.
bit I liked, along those lines, taken from a scene where scientists are
about to test out the space drive for the first time:
"Shut the Airlock," he advised. "Okay, everybody out of the bay."
"Why?" asked Kahn. "It's safe enough."
"We don't know
that." He scratched his throat, making noises into the mike. "There
might be some, uh, eltectromagnetic phenomena."
you think that?" I asked.
If he hadn't been standing in the
air at an angle to me, I would have sworn he shuffled his feet and
"If, well, what one hears about close encounters
with these kinds of machines is anything to go by."
The aliens are little green guys, or at least I think they come in green
as well as as every other color imaginable, but the surprising thing is
how little they actually are. Buy eyed monsters? Not really, just
bugs...microbes, to be specific.
Microbes that have been
inhabiting our asteroid belt for a very, very long time. How long? Well,
when the colonists on the Bright Star reached their new home world, they
were greeted by the evolved descendants of terran dinosaurs, which had
been moved there sometime before by the little guys. That long.
Gregor knows all too well that he is descended from Matt, who was
on the original crew. He knows, because Matt's title is handed down from
generation to generation, as well as the grand work that he had started.
Sure, they figure, it was easy to be the First Navigator when you had
all of Earth's computing technology behind you, but how was anyone
supposed to chart a course from star to star with simple computers and
only your own brain to guide you? Not easily, that's for sure, and yet,
that was the task that Matt had left his heirs, for if they could learn
to fly between the stars, they would be the only human world not at the
mercy of the alien pilots and starships that restricted mankind to a 100
light year sphere around Earth.
Cosmonaut Keep is idea
rich SF with an engaging storyline that merges post-modern and retro SF
and is packed with sex, politics, human and alien technology, and even
some character development. Both Matt and Gregor are in their early
twenties, and both of them are trapped in dizzying orbits of binary babe
systems while on the verge of unleasing pardigm shifting on technology
their worlds. It must run in the family. Where do I sign up for
I'm always worried when I know a story is going
to switch viewpoints every chapter, but often, as is the case here, it
works well for the story development, and things move along briskly, so
that you don't get a chance to pine for the other storyline for long.
Best, as the tale winds up, the two threads start to interweave nicely,
tying things up nicely at the end, while
opening things up for the bigger story that the series will reveal.