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Dark Light [Paperback]

Ken MacLeod
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 24 2002 Engines of Light
The Second Sphere is thousands of light years away from Earth - if Earth still exists. For Matt Cairns and the cosmonauts of the Bright Star, this distant corner of the galaxy is their new home.
But the Second Sphere is also home to other civilisations, lifted from their worlds by a race of god-like aliens. On Croatan, two of these civilisations live a precarious co-existence, separated by eons of technological advance. The arrival of the Bright Star is an event that may trigger disaster, for this is the first human-crewed starship to arrive at the ancient colony.
And all the time, hidden among the stars, the gods are watching. They have always been watching.

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From Amazon

With his sharp, fast-paced, challenging novel Dark Light (sequel to the Prometheus Award-nominated Cosmonaut Keep in the Engines of Light series), Ken MacLeod reaffirms why he is science fiction's hottest new writer at the turn of the millennium.

From the days of the dinosaurs, mysterious aliens have been transporting earthly life forms across the galaxy to the worlds of the Second Sphere. Here, the descendants of humans abducted from the Stone Age and from colonial America coexist with dinosaurs--and with the saurs, their intelligent descendants, who are technologically superior to the humans. This arrangement is disturbed by the arrival of nearly immortal (but far from indestructible) humans from 21st-century Earth--men like Matt Cairns, who have no desire to let the secret of interstellar flight remain in the hands of the inscrutable, almost godlike aliens.

In addition to the Engines of Light series, MacLeod has written the Fall Revolution quartet: The Cassini Division (a Nebula Award and Arthur C. Clarke Award finalist); The Star Fraction (a Prometheus Award winner); The Stone Canal (also a Prometheus Award winner); and The Sky Road (a Hugo Award finalist and recipient of the British SF Association Award). --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In this worthy second installment in MacLeod's Engines of Light series (after 2001's Cosmonaut Keep), human beings and a few other intelligent planetary species now know themselves to be little more than playthings, manipulated at will by the Powers Above. These virtually transcendent beings live for millennia in such out-of-the-way places as the Oort Cloud, the Asteroid Belt and magma beneath planetary crusts. Matt Cairns, once a citizen of 21st-century Edinburgh, has found himself apparently rendered immortal and transported to the Second Sphere, an interconnected web of civilizations located thousands of light-years from Earth. The humans and two other advanced species who inhabit the Second Sphere, saurs and krakens, are the descendents of intelligent beings kidnapped from Earth over the ages by the Powers Above for inscrutable reasons. Having broken an embargo on human-controlled interstellar flight, Matt and his friends travel to the planet Croatan in search of answers to the mystery behind the Second Sphere's existence, but it soon becomes clear that their presence may well trigger a planetary revolution. This middle book in what will be at least a trilogy doesn't stand well on its own, so readers are advised to begin with Cosmonaut Keep. The novel features several interesting alien species, some fascinating speculations on the relationship between sex and gender, and MacLeod's trademark mix of radical socialist and libertarian politics. Both novels are worth reading but not quite up to the high mark established by his previous series, The Fall Revolution. (Jan. 16)Association Award and is a finalist for a Hugo Award.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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RAWLISTON SPRAWLS; from space it's a grubby smudge, staining the glassy clarity of the atmosphere along fifty kilometers of coastline. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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By A Customer
I enjoyed Cosmonaut Keep, the predecessor to this book, and I thought the ideas presented to be provocative and engrossing. Dark Light, however, adds very little to the previous story. Yes, the same characters exist in the book (although Gregor and Elizabeth have merely bit parts), and it's in the same universe, but the story is droll and not-at-all sci-fi.
If you're interested in how socialism works or the benefits of different styles of democracy, read this book. If you are looking for characters confused by their gender identity (are you a man or a woman? It depends on your actions), you may like this book. If you want interesting SCI FI, however, steer clear.
I found myself actually skimming paragraphs and daydreaming through far-too-long treatises on formation of political parties, all the while waiting for something interesting to happen. There is a very small payoff that continues the story when they visit "the gods", but it is a paltry fraction of the book's text. I don't know if the next book will deliver a more interesting, but I won't be rushing out to buy it. Disappointing.
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A group of ancient cosmonauts from Earth itself squabble amongst themselves and with multiple sapient races on a planet ten thousand light years from Earth. Obscure debates about the virtues of anarchy and socialism and whether a republican form of government is a step away from true democracy seem to interest them almost as much as the true meaning of the 'gods' among the asteroid belts.
Yet the gods are real--if not truly gods. They pursue their own motives and bicker amongst themselves, even as the humans squable on the planet below. They rain gifts on some, but Matt and his fellow cosmonauts wonder whether those gifts have strings attached--strings that may involve yanking occasional light-speed ships into far-distant wars. And suddenly the type of government on this obscure planet matters a great deal. Because if the gods can send humans on a far journey to war on other species, they could also send another species to war on the humans.
Author Ken Macleod has created an interesting world with a seemingly stable coexistence between multiple sapient species and between stone age and early industrial human societies. The space-travelling families who visit worlds once every couple of centuries provide a destablizing yet progress-rich catalyst to the planet dwellers below. Fans of political fiction may enjoy Macleod's concern for the battles between socialist causes. I suspect, however, that many U.S. readers, at least, will find this portion of the novel to be slow going without any unexpected insights.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Needs more high tech to really work Feb. 10 2002
The second of a purported trilogy, Dark Light seems merely okay, much like its predecessor, Cosmonaut Keep. I think its essential flaw is that it focuses too much on political theory and novel low-tech cultures and governments, whereas the triumph of MacLeod's best novels (The Stone Canal and The Cassini Division) are explorations of the merging of HIGH tech and unusual politics, and how the two act on one another.
Most of the high tech in Dark Light is of the pedestrian sort: FTL travel, longevity, powerful and enigmatic aliens. The meat of the book focuses on the city of Rawliston (whose tech is slightly behind modern America's), and the low-tech culture of The Great Vale, beyond the limits of the city. MacLeod introduces some gender-ambiguity issues in the people of the Vale which I found tiresome at best. He does better with Rawliston, with its "democracy through drawing lots" government, and suspicion of the human-navigated spacecraft on which our heroes arrive.
Dark Light turns of the focus of the novel squarely on long-lived Matt Cairns (whereas in Cosmonaut Keep his descendant Gregor shared the spotlight). The quest of Matt and his cohorts to learn why their ship was brought to this sector of space by the powerful aliens is the most arresting element of the book. Unfortunately the threads of this story are spread a little too thinly. There is finally a payoff, but it takes quite a while to get there, and too much time is focused on a supporting cast that didn't engage me.
Just as with the first book, I felt that Dark Light was a good foundation on which to build. Alas, it's this second book in the series should have done a lot of the building!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat disjointed Jan. 24 2002
Let me start off this review by saying that I really enjoyed "Cosmonaut Keep" both for the political intrigue typical of Macleod, and because of the fascinating circumstances in which it took place. It is therefore with some regret that I can only give the sequel, "Dark Light", three stars. Don't get me wrong, this wasn't a bad book, and by the standards of most science fiction it was a great book, but it really wasn't up to Macleod's usual high standards.
The plot picks up where "Cosmonaut Keep" left off: with the familiar cast of characters traveling to the planet Mingulay. Unfortunately, right off the bat the writing gets awkward. Gregor and Elizabeth, the two main characters from the first novel, have a role in the first twenty pages, and then completely disappear for the next 150. Now, I understand that Macleod is looking for an epic feel, with a large cast of characters, but it really interrupts the flow of the novel when two important characters fall completely off the radar.
As the novel continues, we learn of Matt Cairn's quest to solve the mystery behind the origination of the Second Sphere, and later, having received his answer, engaging in political-military intrigue to equip Mingulay to meet its fate. Unfortunately, Macleod's touch isn't as deft as it usually is in this area. The machinations of the characters seem more contrived than meaningful, and I was frequently left wondering why they were even bothering. Motivations in this novel are muddy to say the least. Also, Macleod on several occasions seems to be on the verge of delving into the nature of faith, but then he backs away, leaving interesting, but half formed, ideas on the page.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Confusing, Shallow characters. Plot line muddy. Requires you to read...
I skipped a bunch of pages but I'm sure they would not have rescued this disaster.

Characters are shallow and not well developed but rather just thrown into the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by fastreader
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Addition to The Engines of Light Space Opera
"Dark Light" is a compellingly readable sequel to "Cosmonaut Keep" in Ken MacLeod's "The Engines of Light" space opera science fiction series of novels, reaffirming his status as... Read more
Published 21 months ago by John Kwok
5.0 out of 5 stars Motivation is the key...
Matt Cairns, Gregor Cairns and the rest of the crew of the Bright Star have left Mingulay and visited their nearest star system, right next door. Read more
Published on April 15 2004 by Michael Valdivielso
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Middle-of-Trilogy book
This book was in many ways superior to Cosmonaut Keep, the first in the trilogy. While the first book had good characters, world building and wild speculation, it used an... Read more
Published on Dec 23 2003 by Commodore
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of interesting speculation, requiring some patience
Those who have read COSMONAUT KEEP should find this a worthwhile continuation. I liked it better than the first book, myself, because of the increased political and theological... Read more
Published on March 11 2003 by Neal Reynolds
4.0 out of 5 stars Will the real socialist please stand up?
Oh, those Brits! Having to contend with Banks, Reynolds and Mielville isn't enough. We must have this bloke inflicted on us as well. Read more
Published on March 22 2002 by Frances Huntington
5.0 out of 5 stars deep cerebral science fiction
The most powerful sentient beings known in the universe have been relocating humans, Saurs, and other intelligent species from one star system to another for at last several... Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2002 by Harriet Klausner
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