Scottish author MacLeod’s first published novel finally appears in the US, completing the trilogy—in reverse order—of The Cassini Division (1999) and The Stone Canal (2000). Here, 21st-century Britain is chaotically Balkanized, with enclaves of religious fundamentalists, anarchists, unionists, and politicos of every leftward shade, each with its own independent foreign policy despite their nominal, and brutally authoritarian, US/UN rulers; terrorist actions and mercenary companies are covered by Geneva conventions. Moh Kohn’s father, a computer programmer and committed revolutionary, was executed by the US/UN. Now, Kohn works as an ideological mercenary, toting a voice-activated, highly customized gun complete with Internet links. When Janis Taine, a scientist on the verge of a breakthrough, finds the US/UN techno-cops taking a dangerous interest in her work, she seeks Kohn’s help. Also joining the party is Jordan Brown, a refugee from a religious enclave where he sold fundamentalist approved software (“Creation astronomy kit, includes recent spaceprobe data, latest cosmogonies refuted”). So when Kohn accidentally awakens what appears to be a true Artificial Intelligence, the three find themselves pursued by a triple whammy of religious fundamentalists, the STASIS police, and computer wackos. Meanwhile, a revolution is brewing, sparked by the sinister Black Plan and the mysterious, ambitious group of the book’s title.
By far the most overtly political of the trilogy—back home, MacLeod’s probably known as “Red Ken”—packed with ideas, scintillatingly plotted, if rather burdensomely absorbed with British political minutiae. Still, fans of MacLeod’s other work won’t pass this one up.