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Cosmonaut Keep (Engines of Light #1)

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  2,748 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
Matt Cairns is a 21st-century outlaw Programmer who takes on the shady jobs no one else will touch. Against his better judgment, he accepts an assignment to crack the Marshall Titov, a top-secret orbital station operated by the European Space Agency. But what Matt will discover there will propel him on an extraordinary and quite unexpected journey.

Gregor Cairns is an exobi
ebook, 300 pages
Published April 1st 2010 by Tor Books (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jun 16, 2011 Lorelei rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
Conceptually an interesting book. I won't repeat the plot summary, but, to read, a very frustrating book. The author chops between the two stories in an abrupt manner that does not serve either character development or exposition. And there is an overuse of organisational acronyms that is truly baffling. I gave up trying to sort through which faction or organisation was which. First and last names are also confusingly used. In such a short story with such an array of ensemble characters it was t ...more
Perry Whitford
MacLeod's patented political stew of socialists vs capitalists, the state vs private enterprise, Russia vs America, with a Scottish techo-nerd caught in the cross hairs of secrets and conspiracies.

Matt Cairns is the resourceful geek, a freelance software manager in Soviet-annexed Scotland around the year 2050, who ends up with a data disk containing the blueprint for a spectacular piece of machinery.

In a second storyline set light years away the human populations of another solar system live wi
Jul 15, 2009 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, trans-humanism
Cosmonaut Keep is the first in a new series by Ken MacLeod, who wrote The Stone Canal and The Cassini Division. As in those earlier works, this novel skillfully interweaves the personal and the political in a tapestry of transcendental posthumanity.

MacLeod again uses two narratives spanning an unknown amount of time to tell his story, and this conceit (while a bit confusing at first, at least in this novel) works. The "present" narrative takes place in the near-future, albeit in an alternate wor
Peter Cowman
Apr 14, 2013 Peter Cowman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults and Mature Teenagers who enjoy thinking as they read
Shelves: sci-fi, favourites
First of all, I want to make it clear I am newish to Sci-Fi so will not be comparing it to other authors of the genre.

This book is quite extraordinary for me. It has an unusual style in the it has two story lines running side by side, one revealing the history of the characters on Earth, and one moving through the present in Space. The different narratives alternate between chapters and I found this to be infuriatingly effective. The plots were fascinating to me and so my attention was held by h
Althea Ann
My first book by this author. It's first in the "Engines of Light saga," but, I was pleased to discover, works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel... at the end, of course, there is room to wonder "what happens next" but the characters, and their relationships, all come to a nice stopping-point.

"Cosmonaut Keep" is really 2 novels in one. There are two completely separate plotlines, and the connection between them is not made explicitly clear until chapter 18 (of 21).
In the first one, we meet
Interesting, and a worthwhile read, but it didn't knock my socks off. It was well-crafted, with alternating chapters taking place in two different times and locations, only slowly letting the reader see how they are connected. Clues for understanding what was going on in one area were given in the other, which was clever, but I found the corresponding changes between first- and third-person a little jarring. The near future is thoroughly detailed and felt like a believable world, but the politic ...more
Jan 30, 2008 Doug rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I took this one back to the library after a few chapters. As with a lot of sci-fi, too busy too soon. I did appreciate the references to computer programming and the author obviously is well-trained in science, but the setting of a future colonized world with archaic feudal families (and castles and tapestries) was a little too ludicrous. That the "saurs" (or greys in our alien mythology) love to smoke cannabis is quite amusing though.
Apr 26, 2011 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm on a MacLeod kick lately. I have to be in the right mood to enjoy his writing, but I loved this! Two interwoven plots taking place centuries apart, a Stalinist EU, the IWWWW or "Webblies", a Trotskyist faction organizing a coup on a scientific space station, flying saucers, paranoid X-Files-ish black helicopter conspiracy, and his usual in-jokes for lefties, i.e. pretty standard Ken MacLeod.
Jeff Raymond
Not sure when I got recommended this one, but it never really got around to catching me and I ultimately got frustrated and put it down. Not sure what it was that irritated me, to be honest, especially with the accolades it received.
A bit confusing at first until you clue in that the author is switching between present and future with alternating chapters. Mostly the book is just prologue, it feels like setup for later stories. 350 pages and nothing much happens aside from pushing a button and finally starting a ship.
Aug 07, 2015 Helen marked it as could-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Lost interest, started reading another book, and just never went back to it.
Not finished, very slow, tedious and any other number of words I can pull from a thesaurus...

May try later, not feeling it now.
Jun 01, 2017 Venatici rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Addictive yet aimless - the story point is? Unknown. Needs direction.
Roddy Williams
‘After the conquest of Europe, the Russians quit stalling. Their troops reached the Atlantic, their cosmonauts reached the asteroids. Now the stars await them.

Something else got there first.’

Blurb from the 2001 Orbit paperback edition.

The structure of this novel is interesting in that it consists of a dual timeline in alternate chapters. The first – in first person narrative – follows Matt Cairns, a freelance software expert in a near-future Socialist Republic of Scotland.
The second strand follo
Mike Franklin
3.5 stars

This was my second book by Ken MacLeod and was much better than my first; Learning the World. For the most part the elements of this story were more realistic and believable than that previous book.

The book consists of two stories told in parallel; one set several centuries after the other. One charting the lead up to starflight and the other the descendents of that starflight. Both stories were engaging, interesting and well told. The characters were well rounded and convincing. The Ea
Jun 20, 2016 Rich rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Persevering with Cosmonaut Keep was nearly a frontier too far for me. After a hundred pages or so I was still snoozing through, feeling as though I wasn't even absorbing the salient info, let alone the details. Nonplussed as to where things were going plotwise, wondering how the different threads connected together, and occasionally bamboozled by the tech descriptions, I nearly threw in the towel. I'm glad that I didn't, as events do eventually make more sense and get increasingly engaging, but ...more
Morgan Murray
Jan 05, 2010 Morgan Murray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
Cosmonaut Keep is a somewhat odd book - definitely the first in a series. There's a lot of character development, and a significant amount scene-setting. There's not a huge plot, as the author devotes the book to explaining the political landscape between two sets of characters.

The book follows two sets of characters - one thread is from the first-person perspective and follows a post-euro-russo-harminsation computer hacker called Matt as he gets involved in Earth's first contact sometime mid-21
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in July 2001.

Beginning a new series, Cosmonaut Keep has two independent storylines. The first takes place in a shattered Europe in about fifty years' time, in a Scotland which is a Socialist Republic and then in a space station; it is concerned with first contact with a bizarre alien species, a bacterial lifeform which forms colonies which are incredibly powerful computers.

The second story is set farther into the future, and in quite a distant part of the gal
Jan 10, 2012 D rated it liked it
The thing that makes Cosmonaut Keep interesting is the amount of detail the author put into the universe in which it takes place. Throughout the book, the universe's extensive history and intricate political setting is gradually explored, giving the reader a good overview by the time the time they reach the end.

At times, the universe exposition seems to take priority over the plot. The characters often feel more like historical figures in the universe's history, rather than, well, characters. A
Isabel (kittiwake)
A god stood in the sky high above the summer horizon, his long white hair streaming in the solar wind. Later, when the sky's colour had shifted from green to black, the white glow would reach almost to the zenith, its light outshining the Foamy Wake, the broad band of the Galaxy.

Two linked stories are told in alternate chapters. One is a first contact story about the meeting between between humans and aliens, while the later story involves the descendants of some of the characters now living on
Mar 31, 2016 Tomislav rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
2nd read - 3 July 2011

This was the yahoogroups/goodreads hardsf book of the month for June, and so I re-read it in the past few days.

Having read the entire series previously, I was better able to understand the whole set-up of the Second Sphere and its inhabitants from the beginning this time.

I'm glad to have this in a British edition, because the politics are very Anglo-centric, and the language helped me understand that. I have the second two books in the series, Dark Light and Engine City in
Ray Heinonen
Cosmonaut Keep is about 2 tales interwoven. Set on Earth and another world, Mingulay, but separated by time, we learn how humans came to live on this world that is many light-years away. We also learn that the descendants don't have the ability for interstellar travel, but are visited by humans (from Earth) who do. The focus of the story is the history of how it got this way, and how the isolated humans try to acquire interstellar travel again.

There is a range of characters, human and extraterr
Peter Tillman
Dec 12, 2012 Peter Tillman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another fine thinking human's space opera

I don't think I'm giving away too much by saying that Cosmonaut Keep is a variant of the old Elder Races Rule the Universe shtick -- in this one, Fermi's Paradox is enforced by stern Galactic Gatekeepers, and woe to junior races who run afoul of the gods. They *hate* spam -- and care about due process about as much as you do when you spray Raid on an anthill. ....

MacLeod's writing just keeps getting better, and I'll happily put up with his hothouse polit
The other John
This one's a split story--the even chapters tell a tale of the mid-21st Century, when humanity first encounters alien life. The odd chapters are set hundreds of years later, when humanity has reached the stars. But not as conquerers. Or even explorers. Human beings are simply passengers of another species, the Kraken. There was only one human effort that made it to another solar system and the descendants of those folks are now being eclipsed by the growing human interstellar community. The two ...more
Apr 20, 2013 Cristián rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Engines of Light is comprised of 3 books.

I must admit that it didn't sound too much fun at the beginning and it's a little confusing when you start reading the first book, but it quickly becomes interesting. In every book there's a clash between different social ideas, individualistic vs colectivistic societies.
The story is well told and and the plot isn't easy to predict. I liked the way it simulates societies that have lived centuries with a particular thought on life and the way they deve
Feb 01, 2011 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
The book has an interesting setting / world concept, and suggests potential for the series it begins. However, taking this book by itself (I haven't read the rest of the series), I was left with the feeling this was largely background for what will develop later in the series. Patience with drawn-out books or series is not one of my virtues. I have some curiosity about what develops of the series' potential, but also wonder whether that will be drawn out as well.

Readers who care more about the j
Mike Maurer
A start of a new series always takes a bit to set up. Here, Ken MacLeod does double duty. One story line is set in the near future. Another, quite related, is set much farther in the future in a different place. The mystery and the intertwining of the two times is revealed slowly over the course of the book (the chapters actually have neat titles).

I wanted to understand the underlying mechanics of both worlds. A lot of questions at the end of this book. It is the first of three. I suspect to giv
The first in the Engines of Light trilogy, Cosmonaut Keep is the story of a group of political renegades/refugees who develop the first human faster-than-light space travel based on alien technology. It is interspersed with the tale of the descendants of this first group of rogue colonists who are attempting to rediscover this lost technology. It features both dinosaurs and super-intelligent space squid, both of which I am discovering turn up in modern sci-fi at an unexpectedly high rate. All in ...more
I almost didn't finish this book. It very nearly didn't pass my 100 page rule. It take place on Earth and in near space and also hundreds of years in the future in a distant part of the galaxy. It kept making vague references to events which seemed important to the story line but weren't explained with any detail. Somewhere around page 85 it started getting to these details and then the story started to make since. After that the story line from both eras became much more interesting and this bo ...more
Dec 25, 2012 Farth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Très bon récit de science-fiction où l'on suit l'histoire à deux époques très éloignées. Bien qu'il puisse se lire de manière indépendante, la lecture du reste du cycle s'impose afin de mieux appréhender l'univers en développement.

Malgré tout, il reste moins intéressant que La Division Cassini du même auteur. Si l'on retrouve bien les idées socialistes de Ken MacLeod, il manque un certain souffle au texte. Après réflexions, l'auteur est plus à l'aise dans la partie concernant l'anticipation proc
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Ken MacLeod is an award-winning Scottish science fiction writer.

His novels have won the Prometheus Award and the BSFA award, and been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards. He lives near Edinburgh, Scotland.

MacLeod graduated from Glasgow University with a degree in zoology and has worked as a computer programmer and written a masters thesis on biomechanics.

His novels often explore socialist, c
More about Ken MacLeod...

Other Books in the Series

Engines of Light (3 books)
  • Dark Light (Engines Of Light, #2)
  • Engine City (Engines Of Light, #3)

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