The Bactra Review: Occasional and eclectic book reviews by Cosma Shalizi   92

The Cassini Division

by Ken MacLeod

London: Orbit, 1998

The True Knowledge vs. the Rapture for Nerds

Damn that's good.

Ahem. That's not how I meant to begin this. I wanted to say that The Cassini Division is a marvelously intelligent, gripping and lightning-fast book, a witty wide-screen blitzkrieg of an anarcho-communist hard-science space opera with brains to spare. Which it is. And that there are some Deep Issues in politics and ethics here, like the Singularity ("the Rapture for nerds"), post-humanity, conflicts between intelligent species, and how to run a socialist utopia of thirty billion people on "crass self-interest" and might-makes-right nihilism, a.k.a. the true knowledge. And that I have no idea whether the protagonist is the savior of the human race, the biggest mass-murderer in history, or both. As Constant Readers know, I'm usually good for a few thousand words of agonizing (to read) reflections about that sort of thing. But to hell with that. The Cassini Division made me want to laugh, cheer, sing The Internationale, read everything else by MacLeod, and join the Cassini Division when I grow up. I haven't had this much fun with a book in ages.

This is the third book in a series of, currently, four, but the only one published in These States. I can assure you that absolutely no acquaintance with the previous books is necessary to slurp down this one, though, dammit, I want to get the full back-story, and see what happens next. In the words of the poet: "More, more, I'm still not satisfied!"

Erratum: p. 82, for"Bernoulli" read "Bérnard".
240 pp.
Science Fiction
Currently in print in the US as a hardback (New York: Tor, 1999), ISBN 0312870442, US$22.95 [buy from Powell's], and in the rest of the world as a hardback, ISBN 1857236033, UK£15.99, and as a paperback, ISBN 1857237307, UK£6.99. LoC PR6063.A2515 C3.
25 September 1999