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Cosmonaut Keep (Engines of Light) by Ken…
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Cosmonaut Keep (Engines of Light) (edition 2000)

by Ken MacLeod

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1,017168,361 (3.36)18
Member:SystemicPlural
Title:Cosmonaut Keep (Engines of Light)
Authors:Ken MacLeod
Info:Orbit (2000), Hardcover, 308 pages
Collections:Ebooks, Fiction, My Recommendations
Rating:****
Tags:None

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Cosmonaut Keep by Ken MacLeod

  1. 00
    Dark Light by Ken MacLeod (pgmcc)
    pgmcc: Sames series. The trilogy is more than the sum of the parts.
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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
This took forever to read, for a relatively slim book. Too much real world stuff going on, not sure I've given it a fair crack of the whip. I didn't enjoy it as much as some of his others. ( )
  jkdavies | Jun 14, 2016 |
My first book by this author. It's first in the "Engines of Light saga," but, I was pleased to discover, works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel... at the end, of course, there is room to wonder "what happens next" but the characters, and their relationships, all come to a nice stopping-point.

"Cosmonaut Keep" is really 2 novels in one. There are two completely separate plotlines, and the connection between them is not made explicitly clear until chapter 18 (of 21).
In the first one, we meet Gregor and Elizabeth, two young marine biologists living on the planet of Mingulay. Here, humanity co-exists peacefully with the alien saurs (and several other spacegoing races.) Visited by spacegoing traders, the colony does not feel totally cut off... but Gregor's family is involved in a generations-long Great Work - the goal of rediscovering the secrets of interstellar navigation on their own, so that humanity will not have to depend on others for space travel. Drama erupts when Gregor develops a passionate infatuation with the beautiful daughter of a space trader, unaware that his parter Elizabeth has far more than mere friendly feelings for him...

The second plot is far closer to our own time - in a near-future, Russian-dominated EU, computer programmer/hacker Matt is given a disk of information by his dissident girlfriend, Jadey, right before she gets arrested. Matt flees to the still-capitalist U.S. The disk seems to contain specs for building a flying saucer. Right after he discovers this, the government announces that it has made first contact with intelligent aliens. Soon, Matt finds himself at the center of subversive political and scientific plots, and in an affair with the rah-rah-America test-pilot Camila...

The first plotline reminded me a lot of Anne McCaffrey - the second, more of Bruce Sterling. However, both were enjoyable, with a good mix of ideas and old-fashioned soap-opera. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Cosmonaut Keep has a peculiar structure that alternates chapters between a first-person account set in the mid-21st century on and near Earth, and a third-person narrative an unknown number of centuries later on the planet Mingualay within a remote interstellar polity called the "Second Sphere." The protagonist of the later thread is evidently the great-grandson of the hero in the earlier one. Both lines of narrative read quickly, although there is more "action" in the terrestrial one, and the alternating structure allows for the routine creation of cliffhangers and unresolved suspense. The bouncing between first- and third-person narrative voices is awkward at first, but I got used to it, and it was justified in the end.

There are many parallels between the two plot lines. Both stories concern themselves with the human achievement of interstellar travel in the context of encounters with extraterrestrial intelligences. The nature of the aliens is informed by actual 20th- and 21st-century ufological lore, and the 21st-century characters have varying degrees of knowledge about and regard for that body of knowledge. In both threads, there is a lot of attention to politics: Earth politics framed by a conflict between a Soviet-style consolidated socialist EU and the capitalist technocracy of the US, and Mingualayan politics involving different intelligent species of the Second Sphere. There is also a fair amount of love story, or at least "sex story," as the two lead characters each proceed through major amorous relationships.

Cosmonaut Keep is the first volume of a trilogy titled "Engines of Light," and it has impressively satisfying dramatic closure for the opening book of a defined series of this sort. At the same time, the novel opens up a variety of intriguing enigmas that certainly create room for its sequels.
4 vote paradoxosalpha | Dec 18, 2015 |
I'm rereading this book and it's actually more interesting the second time around. ( )
  fabooj | Feb 3, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ken MacLeodprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gibbons, LeeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martiniere, StephanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0765340739, Mass Market Paperback)

Like a British--specifically, Scottish--counterpart of Bruce Sterling, Ken MacLeod is an SF author who has thought hard about politics and delights in making unlikely alternatives plausible, grippingly readable, and often downright funny.

Cosmonaut Keep swaps between two timelines whose characters share the ultimate goal of interstellar travel. In an uncertain future on the far world of Mingulay, human colonists live in the title's ancient, alien-built Keep--coexisting with reptilian "saurs," trading with visiting ships piloted by krakens, and hiding their laborious "Great Work" of developing human-guided navigation between the stars.

Meanwhile, alternate chapters present a mid-21st-century Earth whose EU is (to America's horror) Russian-dominated with a big red star in the middle of its flag. Rumors of alien contact abound, and computer whiz kid Matt Cairns finds himself carrying a data disk of unknown origin that offers antigravity and a space drive.

Clearly, the later storyline's Gregor Cairns is Matt's descendant. There are ingenious connections and surprises, with witty resonances between their wild careers, their travels, and their bumpy love lives. The foreground action adventure points to a bigger picture and a master plan known only to the godlike hive-minds who built the "Second Sphere" of interstellar culture, and who regard traditional SF dreams of unlimited human expansion through space as precisely equivalent to floods of e-mail spam polluting the tranquil galactic net.

Cosmonaut Keep opens MacLeod's new SF sequence, Engines of Light. It's highly entertaining and intelligent, promising more good things to come. --David Langford

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:48 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

When Alexander Cairns made his fortune, he did some gambling - financing interstallar probes to look for other life forms. Now his son has discovered that one of them has sent back evidence of alien intelligence, and a space ark financed by a rival family is obliviously approaching the area.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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