Fiction Reviews

Cosmonaut Keep

(2000) Ken MacLeod, Orbit, 16.99, hrdbk, 308pp, ISBN 1-85723-986-5


While not the usual place to start a review, the first thing I have to say about this is: what a great cover illustration by Lee Gibbons. While, in some respects, it is relatively simple, it is also striking, beautifully coloured and (unlike some covers) directly related to the story. So, nice one Lee. OK, on with the plot...

The Russians are claiming first contact, but Matt Cairns thinks they are being economical with the truth. Meanwhile the USA/EU are running interstellar trading ships to the human extraterrestrial colonies. Later, thousands of light years away, the arrival of one such ship at a human/saur colony disturbs the research of marine biologists Gregor and Tharovar, not least because those on the ship do not know how the colony got there in the first place. What will historical research uncover about the first interstellar flight and what will it mean for the future of humankind?

Billed as the first of a new 'sequence' (a word which seems to hedge bets against 'trilogy' just in case either (a) people are ρissed off with trilogies [I am], or (b) there turns out to be more than three books in the sequence [wouldn't surprise me]), this is recognisably what we have come to expect from MacLeod, which is to say political intrigue and space opera, with a leaning toward Socialist values. Nothing wrong with that, even if it seems a bit obsessive. What's a writer without obsessions? Whatever, this is intriguing enough to create anticipation for the next book (not always a given with 'sequences'), and MacLeod's writing is as accomplished as we have come to expect so, on balance, I guess I'd recommend this.

Tony Chester

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