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Engine City [Hardcover]

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

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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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