Reviews of Cassini Division, the (1997)
Review by archren (2006-03-17)
Compared to Ken MacLeod’s later work, “Cassini Division” (1998) is a little underwhelming. The main ideas involve the clash of civilizations: the anarchic-socialists (from whose perspective the book is narrated), the uploaded post-Singularity consciousnesses of Jupiter, a capitalist anarchy on the far-flung planet New Mars (accessible only via tricky wormhole travel) and the non-cooperators left on Earth, who haven’t joined in any of the parties.
That’s most of the problem, really. The plot seems like more of an excuse to examine all these societies than an interesting story in its own right. The author doesn’t quite seem to pay enough attention to the main plot threads. Generally speaking, I found it a bit hard to read and a bit too easy to put down.
There are some interesting narrative tricks here: the entire story is told from a first person POV, and only one person’s, to boot. However, the “present tense” parts of the story are told in past-tense voice, and the flashbacks (sometimes inserted in such a ways as to kill narrative momentum instead of helping it) are told in present-tense voice. An odd choice that doesn’t seem to make much difference.
The parts where he’s actually examining the societies are admirable: fairly balanced, showing the upsides and downsides of all of them. However, it sometimes seems unsubtle, more like a sledgehammer than you’d like. Also, the narrator is not the most sympathetic person you’ve ever met. So if you’re interested in Ken MacLeod, I might recommend skipping this one and heading for his later works: the Engine of Light series or (the much more enjoyable) “Newton’s Wake.”