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Engine City [Hardcover]

Ken Macleod
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 7 2002 Engines of Light
The acclaimed Engines of Light series that began with Cosmonaut Keep and Dark Light reaches its staggering conclusion in Engine City. Two hundred years ago, a starship arrived at Nova Babylonia and unloaded a cargo of encyclopaedic information from the solar system of the mid-21st century. One hundred years ago, Nova Babylonia had used that information to create a Modern Regime - a heavily industrialised civilisation ready to defend itself against the aliens whose arrival was believed to be imminent. Today, Nova Babylonia is in decline. The alien invaders never came and the Regime has fallen. Into this corrupt city arrives an outsider whose purpose is ambiguous. But businessman or spy, he is not the only visitor. War is coming to Nova Babylonia. And the gods. Find out more about this and other titles at www.orbitbooks.co.uk

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From Publishers Weekly

The final book in MacLeod's Engines of Light trilogy (Cosmonaut Keep; Dark Light) starts a bit slowly, its plotline divided among several different planets, but soon gathers steam. The Second Sphere, a volume of human-occupied interstellar space far from Earth, was established millennia ago by highly advanced aliens for largely inscrutable reasons and has been the home of several different human species, not to mention sentient dinosaurs and giant squid (aka krakens), ever since. Indeed, humanity has had to adjust to being the bottom species on the totem pole, since the saurs and krakens are technologically more sophisticated than us and control all interstellar travel. Even more overwhelming are the space-dwelling intelligences known only as the Gods. Now, however, a group of renegade cosmonauts with their own improvised starship has upset the balance of this complex society. In addition, the Multipliers, an alien race who've been interfering in the lives of Earth's species since prehistoric times, have returned to human space, offering a peculiar form of immortality and challenging the Gods for control. MacLeod (Dark Light) includes several of his trademark political debates and these are as engaging as always. The Multipliers, eight-legged creatures whose appendages subdivide to the point where they can manipulate matter on the atomic level, are fascinating and very alien indeed. The novel doesn't stand well on its own, but should please fans of the series as well as readers who appreciate hard SF with a political bent.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

One of the most unorthodox contemporary sf writers here concludes something quite orthodox--a trilogy. What's more, The Engines of Light is a trilogy about human evolution, a theme that was well-worn in sf when MacLeod's parents were in diapers. But not to despair, readers who love MacLeod the quirkster. Mingulay, a planet in the center of the now-menaced Second Sphere, may be 10,000 years from MacLeod's home in Scotland, but his edgy satire of what human folly gets people and civilizations into remains as sharp as ever. His alien invaders seem neither particularly alien nor even odd, compared to some human cultures in the Sphere and even on Mingulay, and even gross political issues manage to get drawn into the human debate over whether to accept the gift of immortality and what the motives of those offering it might be. Perhaps this book will be only marginally accessible to those who didn't start reading the trilogy with Cosmonaut Keep (2001), so have that and Dark Light (2002) handy. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
2.7 out of 5 stars
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4.0 out of 5 stars An unusual ending for an unusual species Aug. 15 2003
In retrospect, I suspect I should *not* have been surprised by the ending of the book; in a sense, the ending--and the coda which follows it--were set up in the very first book in the trilogy, "Cosmonaut Keep." The central theme of this book appears to be irony, from first page to last.
MacLeod has created a bizarre universe, populated with many different creatures, including saurs, krakens, selkies, and, perhaps the most alien of all, the eight-legged Multipliers. There's a lot of intriguing ideas jammed in here.
Unfortunately, all those ideas, in a book this short, mean that a lot of characters get short shrift. Likewise, the book isn't long enough to stand on its own; why certain characters behave the way they do doesn't really make sense unless you've read the previous two books. Thus, the series ends leaving a lot of questions (not the least of which is why the book is written in the present tense when, and only when, Matt Cairns is the viewpoint character).
All in all, though, if you've read the first two books, you'll probably want to read this one just to see how it ends. If you haven't, start with "Cosmonaut Keep" and "Dark Light" before reading this one.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Solid conclusion to a neat SF trilogy March 7 2003
_Engine City_ concludes Ken MacLeod's second novel series, together called Engines of Light. In the first two novels (_Cosmonaut Keep_ and _Dark Light_) we learned that an asteroid passing near Earth in the mid-21st Century contained intelligent nano-bacteria, who collectively had the intelligence of a god. These beings made available to an international team of cosmonauts a starship, which they took hundreds of thousands of light years to a planet called Mingulay. There they learned that they were only the latest of many waves of colonization of that area of the galaxy, apparently all at the doing of the gods. This "second sphere" was inhabited by humans from ancient Babylon, for example, and by humans from more recent historical eras, and by intelligent dinosaurs, and by other hominids such as pithkies (Australopithecus). Travel in the Second Sphere is dominated by starships run by intelligent giant squid (the Krakens) and by the saurs, but the new Cosmonauts have a starship, if they can only figure out how to navigate it. In the second book, having learned to navigate the Bright Star, they travel to nearby Croatan (home of the lost Roanoke colony), and there the politically active, long-lived, cosmonauts naughtily foment a rebellion, while also contacting the local gods, and learning some scary secrets about the gods, and about other 8-legged aliens.
In _Engine City_ MacLeod works diligently to knit together the various threads of the first two books. In fact, at times the book seems too busy, too full of new ideas only a few of which would have sufficed for a full novel.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Incoherent, confused, disappointing Jan. 30 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Trilogies are hard. The most common pattern is a good start, a good to weak middle, and a weak ending. Macleod doesn't do that well.
The first book of this trilogy was an improvement on his previous writing, putting him almost at the same level at the earlier (weaker) books of Iain M Banks. By the second book he's slipped into the middle tier of writers, the third book sometimes reads like a satire of the first two. He seems desperate to find a way out of the story and finally just gives up.
Macleod shows signs of promise. He needs an editor, more discipline, and more practice. Stay away from the trilogies for a while.
As for you readers -- skip this book and skip the series.
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