Re: MacLeod's Cassini Division

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Mon Oct 02 2000 - 21:00:19 MDT

At 01:16 PM 2/10/00 -0400, Robin wrote:

>"The Cassini Division" by Ken MacLeod

>People like us are clearly the bad guys in the book, but it
>was interesting to see what our worse crimes are from MacLeod's perspective.
>MacLeod seems to favor some sort of socialist society, though he was never
>very clear how it worked. He is, however, able to depict an
>anarcho-capitalist society, and it isn't a terrible place

The problem here is that you can't really evaluate McLeod's perspective
(assuming he has just one) on the basis of this novel alone. THE CASSINI
DIVISION is part of a 4-volume construct (to date), which opens with THE
STAR FRACTION. THE STONE CANAL is a complement to CASSINI. The most recent
book, THE SKY ROAD, rescinds part of that history and re-runs it.

His fiction is notable for its Realpolitik, and for its use of a
left-anarchist alternative to extropian-style projections. I find it

Here're some more thoughts from my new book TRANSREALIST FICTION:


MacLeod, Ken. *The Star Fraction*. London: Legend, 1995.
---- *The Stone Canal*. London: Legend, 1996.
---- *The Cassini Division*. London: Orbit, 1998.
---- *The Sky Road*. London: Orbit, 1999.

< An audacious Marxist (or perhaps post-marxist) version of a world going
through, recovering from, and absorbing a Singularity has been sketched by
Ken MacLeod, like Iain M. Banks a Scots writer with affinities to the
anarchist left. These novels began with *The Star Fraction* (1995), which
nearly won the Arthur C. Clarke award, a kind of frenzied Trotskyist vision
of a world convulsed by political fractions and manipulated by an emergent
AI weapons system. Subsequent volumes explore a variety of future cultures
that might emerge from this abrupt discontinuity. *The Sky Road* (1999)
actually revises the future history of the other three, ensuring that a
menacing Spike does *not* occur, or at least is delayed. *The Stone Canal*
(1996) and its sequel *The Cassini Division* (1998) portray with high, sly
humor and impressive technical and political insight two contesting
utopias, one a Banksian anarchosocialist Union on a damaged Earth, the
other an anarchocapitalist libertarian world on the far side of a wormhole,
10,000 light years from Earth and in its future. Both alternative regimes
(or anti-regimes) are thus at arms-length yet able to communicate and even
visit. Jupiter, meanwhile, has been redesigned by posthuman entities, the
`fast folk', that blend organic roots and AI enhancements. Are they
dreadfully dangerous - trapped in psychotic virtual realities, but likely
to emerge at any moment - or should they be welcomed as our successors?
MacLeod is superbly sardonic in setting all these groups at each other's
throats and minds. His vision of a Singularity is distinctly unnerving, and
his several contrasted utopias are no less troubling even as they seduce us
in succession. >

Damien Broderick

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