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The Night Sessions

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  926 ratings  ·  103 reviews
The first Enlightenment separated church from state - now the second Enlightenment has separated religion from politics. In this enlightened age there's no persecution. But the millions who still believe and worship are a marginal and mistrusted minority - and now someone is killing them.
Hardcover, 324 pages
Published August 7th 2008 by Orbit (first published 2008)
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Average rating 3.58  · 
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Perry Whitford
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Can you imagine a future where religious fundamentalists have caused so much damage that the world embraces a politics of 'radical secularism', marginalising all faiths and denominations by effectively failing to recognise their existence?

Sounds like paradise on Earth, right? So speaks a confirmed atheist anyway.

This is the society Ken MacLeod conjures up in The Night Sessions, a world partially ravaged by the Faith Wars - or Oil Wars, dependent on which side you were on - but still on its feet, still r
Aug 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, recommended
This is probably Ken Macleod's best book to date.

In previous novels, Macleod has tackled Trotskyism (The Star Fraction), he has created a society that implements Nozick's brand of Libertarianism outright (This is probably Ken Macleod's best book to date.

In previous novels, Macleod has tackled Trotskyism (
The Star Fraction), he has created a society that implements Nozick's brand of Libertarianism outright (The Stone Canal), and he has explored the war on terror (The Execution Channel).

In this book he moves his sights to religion. The attacks of September 11th 2001 become the opening salvo in the Faith Wars, wars that the west did not win. The backlash against religion is severe, with the police pursuing a "Boots in Pews" policy throughout the UK as all religion is persecuted.

As usual for MacLeod and the other new Scottish hard-SF authors, the novel is primarily set in Scotland. MacLeod's use of the familiar (to him) always serves to give his work a sense of realism and grounding that provides good counterposition with the strong-SF elements of the story, in this case the development of global warming and AI.

Interestingly, the book also shares a view of the development of the internet with Charles Stross' Halting State - in fact the non-singularity near future authors view of the intertubes seems to be converging on convergence, so to speak.

The best fiction, no matter it's setting, always speaks to the reader about their world as it is now. The very best can do this through millenia, because they deal with the generics of human nature. Science fiction is not like this - it ages rapidly and painfully. However, when it is fresh and appropriate, as this is, it's relevance can be startling. Nobody can read this book without a sense of foreboding, as so much of it feels painfully possible.

Jan 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, sci-fi
I saw a description on this book as sci/fi police procedural, which is pretty accurate. Although I thought it had more depth than just a straight up whodunnit.

The story is set in a future world that has been forged by a great war. I know, you've seen this before, but wait, there's more! It's not your typical nuclear destruction, although tactical nukes were used, but the world was not destroyed. You see, these wars were called The Middle East Wars or Faith Wars. These wars were follo
Neal Asher
Feb 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
I think the last Ken Macleod book I read was either Star Fraction or The Cassini Division and Night Sessions definitely won’t be my last. It only took a few pages before I felt something loosening up in my chest because the pages were speeding past and I knew I was in safe hands. This was a thoroughly engaging tale, despite the ‘oops’ moments.

Though this book is great science fiction, it is also a demonstration of how there ain’t nothing that dates so quickly as science fiction. Here
Peter Tillman
DNF. Confusing, plus Nasty Religion and Eight Deadly Words ( you can ask ;-). Disappointing. Not for me! To the recycle pile it goes.
Joell Smith-Borne
Mar 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-f
I liked the near future world of this book, and the exploration of what a society in the middle of a big backlash against religion would look like. The physical layout of the book bugged me--the scenes would change abruptly and completely with no visual indicator, so I had many "wait, what?" moments. The ending was also kind of unsatisfying--the more I think about it, the less I understand how the A-B of the book leads to the C of the conclusion. In fact the conclusion is sort of like a 4--not o ...more
Jason Pettus
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: subversive, dark, sci-fi
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

I was a big fan of Ken MacLeod's last book with Pyr, the fascinatingly unique day-after-tomorrow political thriller about central Asia, ancient mythology, and MMOs used for revolutionary purposes, The Restoration Game; but this newest is a big step down from that one, a book that that similarly aims
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
I can't remember the last time I bothered finishing a book I liked this little.

Much of my dislike comes from too many or too few details. There were a lot of threads interwoven throughout this police procedural, and although the author tied them all together, the crimes feel more spread out than necessary; it didn't follow that the perpetrator would go from Crime A and Crime B to Crime Z. Other unexplained details include the space elevators and soletas, which cast a shadow over the
Jul 31, 2012 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading The Night Sessions, but I was left wanting more. I wanted to know more about the world MacLeod had begun to reveal and about the characters that I felt I only barely knew. I liked how MacLeod showed the many different kinds of people—and robots!—who are drawn to religious faith, but I wish there could have been more of an exploration of what ideas lead robots or people toward faith in the first place. The central mystery was interesting enough, but I would have loved to see mor ...more
Apr 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
...The Night Sessions is packed with interesting concepts but it also a very efficiently written book. MacLeod packs more into the 260 odd pages of this novel that some books double that size carry. One of the few negative aspects of the novel, is that some of it is glossed over very quickly. Stuff that would have deserved a closer look. That didn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying this book however. From what I read online, The Night Sessions is not generally regarded as MacLeod's strongest books. Obviously I can't...The ...more
Apr 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Oh, Mr. Macleod. This is a detective novel, and the detective part is perfectly fine. But it’s set in a world in which all religions have been ruthlessly, violently, and for the most part successfully repressed. Which is both the core of the novel and somehow not sufficiently appalling as rendered. I also question whether any of the plot points that rely on theological questions from Scottish history (and there are a ton of these) make any damn sense at all to someone unfamiliar with that histor ...more
Did Not Finish. Got to the halfway point, skipped ahead to the end. The intriguing premise didn't pan out for my tastes. Best part: the LEKIs (AIs) were more interesting than most of the humans.

RATING (DNF): 2+ stars.
Simon Mcleish
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Originally published on my blog here in November 2009.

Investigation of crimes which may turn out to be terrorism has become something of a staple for TV crime shows nowadays, particularly American ones. It's partly because of the public concern over attacks, partly because it will involve higher stakes than a simple murder, and partly because it enables the writers to make some political comment (usually critical of the high-handedness of the Homeland Security forces, in the American cas
Lutfi Turan
Sep 01, 2014 rated it liked it
It has been long time in my mind that in the future, which is not so far from today, religious people would be the minority and this minority would be subjected to the suppression to some level. So the book caught a good idea to start with and it does not distress the reader with an endless secularism-religion debate. Like many have already said it is between a crime and science-fiction book which is OK. But I have to say in both genres the book has some flaws.
As a detective story the story is
Tim Hicks
Nov 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Stay with it through the odd prologue, which - you're not going to believe this - has a New Zealand religious fundamentalist flying to Edinburgh to meet others of his ilk, and ending up in a bar being picked up by a transvestite. Trust me, really, because in a few pages you're going to be dropped into a police procedural.

Oh look, I thought, an experienced Lothian Police officer with a bright female protegée. Hello, Inspector Rebus. But no, Rebus's bacon roll has been replaced by an ostrich tik
Alisa Hedden
May 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Occurring in a near future, taking the idea that the events of 9/11 were the opening salvos of a world-wide war divided by lines of faith, this paints a pretty bleak picture where the people that still have a religion are driven to extremes in their needs to justify their faith. Basically starts off with the idea of “If this goes on, where will it lead?” All someone has to do is take a look at the news to see how politics is decided more along the lines of greed or faith rather than logic and th ...more
Picked this up because ever since watching Blade Runner as a kid, I've been drawn to the idea of blending near-future sci-fi with the hardboiled detective genre. In this version of near-future Earth, a catastrophic clash of civilizations (and the subsequent Faith Wars) has resulted in the abolishment of religion from civic life in the West. Although religion is not illegal, it's been scrubbed from dailylife to such an extent that government agencies can't even refer to it directly. Which is a bi ...more
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although a world in which all religion was outlawed sounds like a great idea, this was not a great book. It was basically a detective story dressed up in a science fiction costume. In other words, there was not enough of the science fiction. What was the purpose of the space elevators? Why were there two? More details about the Faith Wars were also needed. Many characters were introduced and details about their lives were provided, but then their storylines went nowhere (eg, Dave Warsaw, Corneli ...more
May 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Ken MacLeod is a friggin' genius; this is what science fiction is all about. MacLeod's future history is unlikely, but relevant...a war in the Middle East produces both conscious AI (battlefield mechs) and a harsh backlash in the West against the religious proclivities that egged on the war. A fertile background for a murder mystery that eventually becomes much more. Highly recommended.
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Very provocative and innovative story of a post-oil world, 15 minutes in the future. This book is thoughtful and well-paced. He has a good hand on various religious controversies in the world of Christianity and brings some surprising developments to the table.
Oct 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
A mystery-thriller plot frames MacLeod's fascinating examination of religious and other forms off fanaticism and extremism, set in a familiar world of high-tech, political realignments and artificial intelligences. Quite a fascinating novel with more than a hint of redemption at its conclusion.
Apr 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Set in the near future, the book is part police procedural and part political thriller with an interesting premise.
Martin Bates
Jun 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Sci-fi detective story which makes in unusual
Oct 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Are you saved?" - a phrase of almost banal religious proselytizing to me in the now, is given an incredibly interesting and stimulating new meaning in this very enjoyable and fast-reading piece of detective sci-fi.

It contains some delightfully 'Scottish' (what some might see as Scottish Nationalist, capitals intended) moments (the perfect form of the single mention of British newspaper 'The Telegraph' had me snorting) and it intrigued me that the only element of the future-Scotland presented t
Frank Burns
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I thought I had missed this one but it turns out it was a re-read after all. A good old police procedural with a sci-fi and Scottish twist. Ken is riffing off the post 9/11 paranoia that informed his work for the next few books. I felt this one, on re-reading, had strong characters and a decent flow that meant I got through it in a day or so. The main plot twist was unexpected and it was just an entertaining read with a few things that will cause me some reflection in the near future. Pretty muc ...more
Charles Cohen
Nov 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
A fun but confusing conspiracy thriller involving space elevators, Samson, and Christian robots. MacLeod is always an exciting read, but in 250-0dd pages there's just WAY too many ideas for one conspiracy.
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable Scottish detective story set in a post-religious world where robots have found religion and they appear to have a master plan.

I love the cynicism of this book.
Catriona Beel
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent! My first book by this author and I really enjoyed the whole thing. Now looking forward to reading more of his books. I love finding a new great author to read 😊
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Liked it a lot. Read it quickly.
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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 of