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The Cassini Division    by Ken MacLeod order for
Cassini Division
by Ken MacLeod
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2000 (1999)
Hardcover, Softcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

By the 24th century, the Outwarders had long ago transformed themselves into supermen, or perhaps demi-gods, and left Earth behind. They also left behind the Fall, when the capitalist system collapsed, and the Greens, who brought about the Green Death. As Earth struggled to recover from these disasters, the Outwarders, most of whom had degenerated into madness, released viruses from Jupiter which severely limited the use of electronic computation and communication by true humans.

Finally, the Solar Union built a socialist Utopia for humanity, or at least for the vast majority of humans. A few, the non-cos, still clung to the ideal of capitalism, and lived precariously in the deserted cities on the fringe of civilized society. The Cassini Division, in ships and forts in orbit around Jupiter, formed the front line of humanity's defence against the Outwarders, who have disintegrated Ganymede, created a wormhole from Jovian space, and are now rising from the surface of Jupiter with unknowable purposes and powers.

Ellen May Ngewthu is one of the high command of the Cassini Division, and she is determined to relieve humanity from the threat of the Outwarders once and for all. Her quest to achieve this goal and to convince others to fear and mistrust the Outwarders as much as she does, takes her to the mid-Atlantic towers of the Solar Union and to the almost deserted city of London. Finally she goes through the wormhole to the far off world of New Mars, which has been colonised by refugees from slavery under the Outwarders. There she finds a libertarian society, very different from the anarchist / socialist regime of the Solar Union. This significantly complicates the situation, and threatens to disrupt all her plans.

The Cassini Division is excellent hard science fiction, with believable scientific extrapolation, well drawn characters and an exciting plot. It is also a great deal more. Ken MacLeod takes a particular delight in turning our social, moral and political ideologies inside out, but he does it with both wit and grace, which softens the blow. A writer to enjoy and to watch out for in the future, perhaps a little uneasily.

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