Ken MacLeod is a Scottish science fiction writer. His works include the Fall Revolution series, the Engines of Light trilogy, and numerous stand-alone novels.
The Fall Revolution series consists of:
- The Star Fraction
- The Stone Canal
- The Cassini Division
- The Sky Road
The Engines of Light trilogy consists of:
- Cosmonaut Keep
- Dark Light
- Engine City
His works provide examples of:
- Alternative Number System: In Learning the World, the aliens are four-fingered, and count in base 8. When they learn that humans use base 10, their reaction is that having a base that isn't a power of two must be awfully inconvenient.
- Asteroid Miners: Asteroid miners don't actually make an appearance in Newton's Wake, but the folk duo play some of their work songs.
- Balkanize Me: The Star Fraction has a Balkanised UK, and mentions the UN having over two thousand national flags flying outside.
- Brain Uploading: The Fall Revolution books have brain backups, or minds that get copied from brain to computer and back to brain.
- Brown Note: The Cassini Division mentions the Langford Visual Hack, a Shout-Out to David Langford's "blit" stories:
And yes, I know the Langford hack is just a viral meme in its own right, replicating down the centuries like an old joke, wasting resources every time we act on the insignicant off chance that if someone could think of it, somehow it could be done. What kind of twisted mind starts these things?
- Eternal English: Learning The World takes place 14,000 years in the future, by which time it seems virtually certain that English will have changed drastically, in the unlikely event that anything that could be called English still exists at all. Despite this, an important plot point hinges on the fact that the word "bug" could mean either "insect" or "spying device".
- Faster-Than-Light Travel: Newton's Wake features both a network of wormholes (called the Skein), and starships with warp drives (which are ridiculously expensive to build, but nonetheless possessed by every major galactic power). Both are based on technology left behind by super-human intelligences after a particularly violent technological singularity.
- First Contact: The entire plot of Learning the World.
- Future Imperfect
- Immortal Immaturity: Lampshaded in Newton's Wake; a rejuvenated woman says people like her just get a bit "cannier", and passes the rest of it off as fatigue poisons and neural decay.
- Just a Machine: Opinion of AI in the Fall Revolution series tends to be divided. Truly synthetic intelligences and human uploads are often considered to be "flatlines"; a realistic simulation of a sentience but nothing going on beneath the surface. They tend to be classed as property rather than individuals. The Fast Folk, an AI and upload civilisation, are treated as horrifyingly dangerous but still "people", in a sense.
- Kraken and Leviathan: the kraken are an alien race in the Engines of Light trilogy
- Manipulative Bastard Not only are Volkov and Matt Cairns in The Engines of Light this, despite their frequent ideological and personal cross-purposes, but the "gods" in their collective relations with the lesser races are Manipulative Bastards.
- No Transhumanism Allowed: Averted in several of his books.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: In Dark Light the characters come to the planet Croatan (Yes, it's where the Roanoke colonists went), where the population is divided into three cultures: "Christians" (Post-Industrial Revolution Victorians), "Heathens" (Autochthonous people with a cottage craft system capable of producing highly complex creations), and "Savages" (Hunter Gatherers who live on the outskirts of the actual civilization). The Heathens have a sort of gender-caste system, where gender is not determined by actual sex, but by conduct and career. The ritual to "become a man" involves the Heathens going out and killing a "Savage".
- Selkies and Wereseals: Selkies are one of many varieties of "changed" human in the Engines of Light trilogy.
- The Singularity: Addressed in several works, including the Fall Revolution series and Newton's Wake.
- Tome of Eldritch Lore: In The Cassini Division two characters peruse a market stall selling old books. One tome, Home Workshop Nanotech, is the science-fictional equivalent of a tome of eldritch lore, being a mysterious ancient book containing world-shattering knowledge of things man was not meant to meddle with.
- Violent Glaswegian: The 'Bloody Carlyles' in Newton's Wake.
- Reds with Rockets: MacLeod's works often include resurgent socialist armies. The Cosmonaut Keep trilogy begins on an Earth where an early 21st Century newly re-socialised Russia has successfully conquered much of Western Europe. Of course, as per MacLeod, it's more complicated than just a re-run of Soviet terror.