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    TOR, August 2001

    Moh Kohn was raised to be a follower of Trotsky (the leader of the Russian Revolution exiled and assassinated by Stalin), but has become a security guard. In this near-future novel, however, being a security guard is dangerous and even political. When one of his jobs goes wrong, Moh sets off with a beautiful scientist on a journey that just might change the world.

    Before Moh's father was executed by the U.S./U.N., he was a computer programmer who may, possibly, have created an artificial intelligence that will revolutionize the world. The A.I. is supportive of Moh's neo-communist beliefs (property is bad but prices are essential guides to resource allocation) but the U.S./U.N. has vowed to stop the spread of any real A.I. even if it means wiping out human civilization on Earth.

    Ex-Christian programmer, Jordan Brown has been contacted by the mythical underground, the Black Plan, and joins Moh to determine whether there is any way to overcome the status quo without triggering massive retaliation. Jordan discovers new talents when he brings the skills he learned listening to the preachers in his Christian conclave to the wider world.

    Author Ken MacLeod (click here to see our other reviews by this author) has created a powerful (and very British/European) future world where multiple mini-states bicker and war amongst themselves avoiding any single apocalyptic battle but killing as many people annually as were killed in all of World War II. The U.S./U.N. looks down from space ready to launch star wars strikes against anything that threatens the established order.

    If MacLeod's world-building is his strength, character-building is his weakness. Jordan and Moh seem contorted to fit into MacLeod's world view. Indeed, where A.I.'s drive so many human decisions, the role of individuals becomes minimized (much as Marx argued that social forces rather than the individual drive history).

    The near-future world of the Fall Revolution is strong enough to survive MacLeod's characters. As THE STAR FRACTION is a first novel, I look forward to seeing MacLeod's growth in the sequels.

    Three Stars

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