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Dark Light    by Ken MacLeod order for
Dark Light
by Ken MacLeod
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

Dark Light is the second volume in the Engines of Light series, the first being Cosmonaut Keep, which introduced us to a very strange universe indeed. Gods dwell in the skies and have interfered in Earth's affairs for millennia. Humans and prehumans, at widely separated levels of civilization, have been transported to planets in the Second Sphere, thousands of light-years distant from Earth, at different times during those millennia, to live with alien-seeming creatures such as the ocean dwelling Kraken, and the enigmatic Saurs.

The action in this volume takes place on the planet Croatan. It is home to two peculiarly different societies: the Christian, capitalistic city of Rawliston, typical busy brawling trading port (both sea and space); and the Sky People, self isolated in their great valley, rigidly holding to their own customs and resisting change. Change has already impinged on all their lives. Two centuries before, the Bright Star with its immortal astronauts arrived on the planet Mingulay. They had communicated with the Gods of Earth, bringing a wealth of new technologies, and old political philosophies revitalised. Now, patched up to make a human (rather than Kraken) controlled spacefaring capability, and using the astronavigational techniques developed in Cosmonaut Keep, the Bright Star appears in the skies of Croatan.

MacLeod expertly juggles his complex universe and exotic aliens with one hand, while with the other he portrays believable and interesting characters, human and not so human, going about their daily business in these strange worlds. This could be one of the great SF series, but the next volume will be critical. The political machinations of the immortals, anarchist-socialist Matt Cairns and Stalinist-communist Volkov are interesting enough and fit in the context of this volume, but could become tedious if taken too far. I look forward to the next entry with more than ordinary interest.

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