I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read The Star Fraction by Ken MacLeod in my life. I remember buying this as a paperback way back in the early 2000s. It sticks in my mind because it was one of the first, maybe the first, book I’d ever found and chose for myself in a bookshop.
Since then, I’ve read it countless times. So much so the original book gave up on me years ago and I moved to Kindle, and more recently to the Audible version.
Back when I first read this, many of the political issues and dogma raised in the book washed over me. I understood them as basic concepts but never paid them much thought. As I’ve come to understand them further, the more I understand and enjoy this book.
Set in a balkanized future where the UK has undergone civil war and mini-states, some only the size of city blocks, are now the norm. They range wildly from Christian enclaves such as “Beulah City” where your actions and monitored and filtered, to open, freewheeling societies like “Norlonto” an almost utopian free market where you can do as you please.
Moh Kohn, the protagonist, and leader of the Felix Dzerzhinsky Workers’ Defense Collective (a band of Communist security mercenaries), is entangled in a growing war between the Army of the New Republic (The ANR) who claim they are the legitimate government of the UK and the Hanoverian Regime – loyalists of the Royal Family.
The plot is complex, hell it took me a handful of reads to get everything, but well worth it. The other books in this series hold a similar place in my esteem – when I’m on re-reading bender I’ll always read them all.
The narrator, Stephen Crossley, has one of those deep, gravelly, imposing voices that does well with this story. I’ve not yet listened to the other books in the series but I have looked ahead. They’re read by different people, which makes sense since they’re told from different perspectives.
All in all, hard science fiction with plenty of political food for thought about what could be… and maybe what could still be.