Ken MacLeod
The Cassini Division (1998)
Reviewed: 2003-01-06

MacLeod's third novel is a sequel to The Stone Canal. Sort of. Set a few years later, or ten thousand in the past, depending on your frame of reference, the story shifts from New Mars back to the Solar System. Ellen May Ngwethu is on a mission from the Cassini Divison, the Solar Union's elite military unit stationed around Jupiter who keep the post-human entities in check that roam the atmosphere of the giant planet.

In other words... the Division was there to kick post-human ass.

In The Cassini Division we learn what happened to the Solar System after the escape of the New Martian colonists, and we get to hear different viewpoints about some earlier events. Three hundred years from our present, human civilization has rebounded, turned into an anarcho-socialist society, and has an uneasy standoff with the Jovians who keep broadcasting viral radio transmission that sabotage telecommunications and electronics throughout the Solar System. Ellen's mission is the fulcrum of a plan to put a final solution to the Jovian problem, to regain contact with New Mars, and to ensure that the distant colony will not trigger another Singularity.

Ellen is an old woman in a young body, a person of strong convictions, opinions, and prejudices, capable and dangerous, easily more macho than any of the male characters, used to doing the dirty work. In short, she is ideal for carrying a fast-paced adventure story.

MacLeod has again stirred a tasty cocktail by taking many established transhumanist ideas, recapitulating some of the discussions of that community, adding an enjoyable story and a liberal dose of politics, and packaging all in witty prose. There is a lot of cool technology, retrocomputing, and a very fascinating mode of interstellar travel that does not violate causality. (No, I don't find the computer security aspects very convincing, and there are problems with the wormhole approach, but overall MacLeod does fairly well.)

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