Ken MacLeod is a Scottish science fiction writer. His works include the Fall Revolution series, the Engines of Light trilogy, and numerous stand-alone novels.
The Fall Revolution series consists of:
- The Star Fraction
- The Stone Canal
- The Cassini Division
- The Sky Road
The Engines of Light trilogy consists of:
- Cosmonaut Keep
- Dark Light
- Engine City
His novels The Sky Road
, Cosmonaut Keep
, and Learning the World
were nominated for the Hugo Award
, and The Cassini Division
was nominated for a Nebula
His works provide examples of:
- Adventurer Archaeologist: Lucinda Carlyle from Newton's Wake is a self-described "combat archaeologist." This involves mostly jumping through wormholes and gunning down post-singularity alien robots.
- Alternative Number System: In Learning the World, the aliens are four-fingered, and count in base 8. When they learn that humans use base 10, their reaction is that having a base that isn't a power of two must be awfully inconvenient.
- Asteroid Miners: Asteroid miners don't actually make an appearance in Newton's Wake, but the folk duo play some of their work songs.
- Balkanize Me: The Star Fraction has a Balkanised UK, and mentions the UN having over two thousand national flags flying outside.
- Big Brother Is Watching: a defining element of Intrusion.
- Brain Uploading: The Fall Revolution books have brain backups, or minds that get copied from brain to computer and back to brain.
- Brown Note: The Cassini Division mentions the Langford Visual Hack, a Shout Out to David Langford's "blit" stories:
And yes, I know the Langford hack is just a viral meme in its own right, replicating down the centuries like an old joke, wasting resources every time we act on the insignicant off chance that if someone could think of it, somehow it could be done. What kind of twisted mind starts these things?
- Eternal English: Learning The World takes place 14,000 years in the future, by which time it seems virtually certain that English will have changed drastically, in the unlikely event that anything that could be called English still exists at all. Despite this, an important plot point hinges on the fact that the word "bug" could mean either "insect" or "spying device".
- Faster-than-Light Travel:
- Newton's Wake features both a network of wormholes (called the Skein), and starships with warp drives (which are ridiculously expensive to build, but nonetheless possessed by every major galactic power). Both are based on technology left behind by super-human intelligences after a particularly violent technological singularity.
- The Cassini Division uses wormholes and time travel to have a paradox-free FTL system. The end of the wormhole where you want to go is carried by an STL vessel to the destination. Once established, to go from A to B you make the trip instantaneously but jump forward in time from A's point of view: if you go 5 light years, you exit the wormhole at B five years after you left (from A's perspective). If you travel from B to A, you go back in time the same amount, so from B's perspective you arrive at A 5 years before you left. Combinations of wormholes that create paradoxes fall apart, so you can't leave A and travel back in time to before you left. This means that you can have two systems that have "real time" communication with each other through the wormhole that are nevertheless separated in time from one another.
- First Contact: The entire plot of Learning the World.
- Future Imperfect
- Immortal Immaturity: Lampshaded in Newton's Wake; a rejuvenated woman says people like her just get a bit "cannier", and passes the rest of it off as fatigue poisons and neural decay.
- Just a Machine: Opinion of AI in the Fall Revolution series tends to be divided. Truly synthetic intelligences and human uploads are often considered to be "flatlines"; a realistic simulation of a sentience but nothing going on beneath the surface. They tend to be classed as property rather than individuals. The Fast Folk, an AI and upload civilisation, are treated as horrifyingly dangerous but still "people", in a sense.
- Kraken and Leviathan: the kraken are an alien race in the Engines of Light trilogy
- Manipulative Bastard: Not only are Volkov and Matt Cairns in The Engines of Light this, despite their frequent ideological and personal cross-purposes, but the "gods" in their collective relations with the lesser races are Manipulative Bastards.
- Narrator All Along: In The Stone Canal, the odd chapters are about (amongst other things) a man called Jon Wilde being cloned by a robot with his personality called Jay-Dub. The even chapters are Wilde's memoir. It's not until chapter 18 that it becomes clear the Wilde narrating the even chapters is the robot, not the clone.
- No Transhumanism Allowed: Averted in several of his books.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: In Dark Light the characters come to the planet Croatan (Yes, it's where the Roanoke colonists went), where the population is divided into three cultures: "Christians" (Post-Industrial Revolution Victorians), "Heathens" (Autochthonous people with a cottage craft system capable of producing highly complex creations), and "Savages" (Hunter Gatherers who live on the outskirts of the actual civilization). The Heathens have a sort of gender-caste system, where gender is not determined by actual sex, but by conduct and career. The ritual to "become a man" involves the Heathens going out and killing a "Savage".
- Ruritania: The Former Soviet Autonomous Region of Krassnia in The Restoration Game. The book is mostly set in the present, in which Krassnia is a bit of the Georgia/Chechnya border with its own language and dreams of independence, but has extensive Flashbacks to Krassnia under the Soviets in The Thirties and The Eighties and as part of the Russian Empire in The Edwardian Era. The name is a Shout Out to an allegory by J.B.S. Haldane, in which the Republic of Krassnia has "materialism" as a state religion, and this very much informs the character of MacLeod's Krassnia.
- Selkies and Wereseals: Selkies are one of many varieties of "changed" human in the Engines of Light trilogy.
- The Singularity: Addressed in several works, including the Fall Revolution series and Newton's Wake.
- Spy Speak: In The Restoration Game, this is how Ross Stewart exchanges briefcases with his Krassnian contact; a brief sign/countersign about cigarettes followed by a complete non sequitur just to be on the safe side.
- Sinister Surveillance: in Intrusion. Of course, it's all for our own good...
- Tome of Eldritch Lore: In The Cassini Division two characters peruse a market stall selling old books. One tome, Home Workshop Nanotech, is the science-fictional equivalent of a tome of eldritch lore, being a mysterious ancient book containing world-shattering knowledge of things man was not meant to meddle with.
- Ultraterrestrials: The Engines of Light trilogy is set in the Second Sphere, an area of space colonized by successive waves of intelligent Earth-evolved life forms, starting with hyperintelligent giant squid, and uplifted dinosaurs. Who fly around in saucers and happen to look a lot like grays.
- Violent Glaswegian: The 'Bloody Carlyles' in Newton's Wake.