(1996) Ken MacLeod, Legend, £5.99, pbk, 341pp. ISBN 0 09 955881 5
Imagine a conspiracy so secret even its members do not know its purpose; this is the Star Fraction. It appears on the 'Net and issues instructions, warnings and stock market advice to whomever will listen. In a world split into a million mini-states, religious enclaves and data ghettos, everyone believes the Star Fraction is meant for them. But what is it really? An emerging AI, a government in exile, or a god? Perhaps Moh Kohn, communist mercenary, knows the answer? Locked in his brain are secret memories that could reveal the truth about the Star Fraction. But with a contract on his head and fanatical anti-tech police on his trail, he will be lucky to survive.
There is nothing really new in this book, we have seen AI conspiracies and streetwise mercenaries before, but never quite like this. MacLeod has a wit that takes some of the portentousness out of so much post-cyberpunk writing. His world of 'Nets and social experimentation seems more real than a lot of stuff, because we know none of this stuff is really going to happen the way we thought it would in the '80s. Sure, everyone has access to vast amounts of data, but it's kind of hard to usher in the New World Order when only seven people and a goldfish are accessing your Web site.
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