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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

Dark Light

Copyright 2002 by Ken MacLeod

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Mediocre (2/5)

I first read this on the 26th January 2003.

The starship "Bright Star" has travelled the five light years from Mingulay to Croatan in the neighbouring star system. This is a momentous arrival because this is the first starship built by and navigated by humans.

On board the ship are Gregor and Matt Cairns, Elizabeth Harkness and the Saur, Salasso.

The trip to Croatan was simply to test the starship. Their next trip is to the asteroid belt, to talk to one of the asteroid 'gods' inhabiting the Croatan system. They want to know why mankind and early Earth races like the Kraken or the Saurs, were abducted from Earth and brought to these new worlds.

This is the second book in the Engines Of Light trilogy, of which the first was the excellent "Cosmonaut Keep".

"Cosmonaut Keep", the first in the series is the more interesting stylistically, with the two narrative threads, one set in the future on another world, and the other set in a superbly-delineated Scotland of the 2040s, a Scotland under the European Union Socialist Republic. This second thread with its astonishingly realistic imagery, adds depth to the novel. In "Dark Light", there's a single timeline along which the variety of characters jounce and jolt along. Sadly, the characters of Matt and Elizabeth are just shadows of what they were in the first novel.

Even so it was an enjoyable read, and it's a promising series, but this book is lightweight. The introduction of the intriguing Stone and the people of the Great Vale suggest a rather different novel was in the offing. It was disconcerting to see Stone's demotion from primary protagonist at the start of the novel to minor character at the end. With Stone and Slow Leg, Macleod manages a higher intensity and quality. Had he maintained this throughout the novel it would have been an excellent book, better than "Cosmonaut Keep", but he didn't. "Dark Light" serves simply as a filler while we await "Engine City" (and I hope it's worth the wait).

Haven't puzzled out why it was entitled Dark Light.

Loaded on the 31st January 2003.
Cover of Dark Light
Cover art by Stephen Martiniere

Reviews of other works with covers by Stephen Martiniere:
Building Harlequin's Moon
The Risen Empire