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Dark Light
Ken MacLeod
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Dark Light

(Engines of Light #2)

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,283 ratings  ·  44 reviews
With Cosmonaut Keep, Ken MacLeod launched a new interstellar epic with all the engaging characters and ingenious SF inventiveness of his earlier Fall Revolution novels.Now, with Dark Light, MacLeod delves further into a human future crammed with innumerable varieties of intelligent alien life. For intelligence, it turns out, is rare -- on planetary surfaces. It is ubiquito ...more
Published January 21st 2002 by Tor Books (first published 2001)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,283 ratings  ·  44 reviews

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Aug 01, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Better than the previous novel, but very uneven. The shifting perspectives in the last novel was annoying and in this one, the use of the present tense format is often irritating. I stick with this series simply because it is an interesting concept. The last chapter was really the worst of it all, which is unfortunate: highly descriptive with a clear attempt to build to a climax but with a weak payoff.

I've found that the attempt to combine the political aspects and the more science fictional el
I especially loved when gender stereotypes were broken. In one of the societies the books follow, someone is a child or a woman until they pass the test and become a man, which is defined as communing with the gods and hunting. So a young, skilled man remains a woman because he won't take the test, and some women act as men and are called men -- and this is reflected in the sexual situations in the book too. Another thing I didn't care for was the shifting tense parts of the book were written in ...more
Storyline: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Writing Style: 2/5
World: 2/5

Ever heard a band's early version of a song? Before they signed with a label and the producer (or whoever it is that does these things) help them clean it up? The difference can be shocking. The cleaned-up version keeps the distinctiveness of the band or the song, but it finds the right place for all the instruments, adjusts the timing, weeds out the distracting elements, and produces a final product that resounds with professionalism. Whe
Dean C. Moore
Nov 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There’s a lot to like about this franchise. The premise is one of the more exciting I’ve read in a while, namely, the idea that vastly superior alien civilizations, which are god-like in their sophistication relative to us, might be moving humans and other alien races around on a cosmic chessboard of near infinite proportions with a hidden agenda only they can divine. In fact, it’s a premise I utilize in my series, The Hundred Year Clones. So, no surprise, I was looking forward to seeing what an ...more
Roddy Williams
‘The Second Sphere was founded by gods and populated with a host of kidnapped alien races. For Matt Cairns and the cosmonauts of the Bright Star it is their new home, but their unexpected arrival may trigger disaster. For, hidden among the stars, the gods still watch over their creation… and they do not tolerate dissent.’

Blurb from the 2002 Orbit paperback edition

Macleod’s rather disjointed sequel to ‘Cosmonaut Keep’ suffers mainly from having no clear structure and rambles a little through a na
Oct 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, sequels. This follows quite directly from the first book in the series, and doesn`t really stand on its own too well. That said, it`s a pretty good follow up. The homemade starship that closes the first book arrives at its destination, interpersonal plotlines that weren`t particularly compelling from the first book are closed off quickly and efficiently and we get to meet another new world in the Second Sphere, a distant volume of space filled with tiers of beings from the space god bacteria ...more
Aug 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
2nd book in series. Maybe I'd have appreciated it more if I remembered the first book better. Premise: A galaxy where some races manage to become space-faring, but there is a more powerful race which manipulates the space-faring races (including wars between them) so none of the space-farers advance too far. However, the book is mostly about the repercussions of the first trader starship run by humans to arrive at a planet with several human societies at different tech levels, conflicts between ...more
Apr 20, 2013 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
Sep 07, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, fiction, series
What were very intriguing premises in the first book get lost in flat characters and their foibles. Whether the characters were there or not make very little difference in whether the plot would have unfolded as described.
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, scifi
the characters are kind of thin, I don't really know what's going, but I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT ...more
Pedro Pascoe
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Not gonna lie, this one was a chore to read, and I nearly chucked it in less than halfway through the book.

The main storyline, such as it is, is somewhat engaging. This volume delves a little deeper into the 'gods' lifing various species from Earth at various epochs, and the possible ramifications of this. Chasing this story are characters from the first volume, 2 of which seemingly inexplicably disappear from the majority of the story (or if it was explained, I missed it), leaving us with some
Matthew Reads Junk
Same problem with the first book, so very little actually happens. The exciting premise mentioned on the back cover, occurs midway through the book and then is dismissed for more exciting talk of communism, socialism and revolutionaries! Dull, and not nearly enough of an emphasis on 'science fiction' ...more
Oct 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So so science fiction. This is second book in a series, I haven't read the first and wish I had as it's necessary to understand the background. I wish the author had kept off politics. Even though he's a Scot, he doesn't seem to understand the difference between communism and socialism. ...more
good story, ending is too abrupt... give it 3.5/5....
Tim Hicks
This seemed familiar. Checking my notes, I found I'd read it before. That tells you how much it stuck with me.

In a word: Disappointing.

There are some interesting ideas here, especially the meanings of "man" and "woman," and the probable culture clash that's building. But they soon bog down in the uninteresting lead characters, the high-school-level politics, the weak and implausible plot developments, and more.

Lydia swoons like a Jane Austen sidekick whenever she sees Volkov, despite abundan
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the second book in the "Engines of Light" series. In this Gregor Carnes and his group o0f associates have finally cracked the problem of Faster-Than Light travel and they travel in their ship the "Bright Star" to the planet Croatan. They immediately contact the trader family from Cosmonaut Keep who have arrived weeks earlier in a Kraken ship. Their ship is impounded by the Port Authority. Gregor Carnes and Elizabeth who are the main characters in Cosmonaut Keep only have small parts in t ...more
Fred Hughes
Nov 25, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I skipped a bunch of pages but I'm sure they would not have rescued this disaster.

Characters are shallow and not well developed but rather just thrown into the mix.

Plot line is confusing and made no sense.

As this is book two in the series it appeared that you had to read book one to understand what was going on as it was not revealed in this book two.

Unfortunately this is not how to write a series of books. Each book must be able to stand on it's own without the reader having to go back to previ
Natasha Hurley-Walker
I thought this book would cut straight to the chase and we'd learn more about the Galaxy-spanning war of the gods. Instead it gets massively bogged down in the politics of yet another pre-industrial Second Sphere world, and tries a little too hard to be a satire on the futility and inevitability of revolution. The "heathen" society is a really fun thought experiment, but I suspect it doesn't hang together if you really think about it. Picks up a little toward the end, but generally plods along w ...more
Apr 18, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Knocking off 2 stars because frankly the fact that he kept just straight up mocking the otherwise really interesting gender stuff of the Sky People was absurdly annoying. Haha, we get it, Stone "isn't a woman," keep driving that point home and never interrogating why, you chucklefucks. It'd be one thing if it was assholes like Volkov saying that and getting taken to task for it but ALL the characters do it, and are never questioned on it, which makes it clear that it's more the author's position ...more
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
2.5 stars. At the end of the previous book, one story line had been resolved and the other was ready to take off. This second book focuses on a small step in that story line - as characters zip off to another world at light speed. The scope of the book is pretty small, covering a few months on one planet. Unfortunately, I didn't find it to be a particularly interesting few months. There are a few reveals we can expect to be important in the next book, but most of the book is spent on a personal ...more
Dec 08, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unlike the first book, _Dark Light_ is one continuous time line. But if you are looking to learn more about Gregor & Elizabeth, the main characters from book 1, they are pushed to the background. Matt takes a central role, along with other Cosmonauts. Plus a couple new characters.

We learn a bit more about the gods, the saurs and how the human second sphere works. But it bogs down into politics. Somehow the primary Cosmonauts will be able to shift the human population in how they govern in a sho
There's an impressive amount of ideas considering it's only 300 pages long. It's not quite as impressive as Mcleod's earlier books but there's a bit less politics and no jumping between time streams this time so it's a bit quicker to read. In short, entertaining to read and interesting human and alien
cultures although some of his characters seem a bit too similar to those in his previous series.
Isabel (kittiwake)
When the human-crewed spaceship from Mingulay, the Bright Star, arrives at Croatan, it triggers social and political upheaval. And when the Bright Star's crew fly out to an asteroid to communicate with the gods, they find out more about the gods' intentions in setting up the Second Sphere.

"Dark Light" was even more exciting and fast-moving than "Cosmonaut Keep", and has set the scene for a dramatic conclusion to the trilogy in "Engine City".
Stephen Graham
Apr 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In most respects, this is a better book than Cosmonaut Keep. MacLeod has reached his stride in the setting and is telling a much more woven together story, that works more fully with the varied human societies. It would be interesting to see where this series would have gone had real-world events not influenced it. ...more
Sep 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm REALLY liking this one. It lives in a world where the basic problems of space flight exist but it doesn't get bogged down by them, there are real problems. I'd suggest it to anyone who likes proper science fiction... you know the kind without blaster pistols and Kirk banging alien space babes... ...more
Matthew Talbert
Nov 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As with the first book, this is a great speculation on political science, particularly the left, as well as religion and living in a society where it is literally possible to talk to the gods. Then there are the intriguing aspects of light-speed limited travel which has all sorts of ramifications for trade. A great book!
Feb 09, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In Cosmonaut Keep, MacLeod gave us some pretty good characters in an interesting setting. In the second book, they've mostly devolved into ideas, their personalities lost behind their driving ideals. Less satisfying. ...more
Adam Crouse
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Dinosaurs? Powers above? Politics? Space travel? Yes, yes, yes and yes! This book has it all. Cosmonaut keep was a little slow to get into, but it picked up in the end and the steam kept flowing with Dark Light.
May 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was not an easy read. The characters all have their own conflicting agenda that are hard to discern, and it has been some time since I read Cosmonaut Keep, which this book's story follows. I should read the next book while this one is fresh in my memory, but I feel like taking a break. ...more
Jul 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Accidentally read this out of order, perhaps explaining why it felt like a muddle of characters and plot arcs that didn't balance as well as I'd have liked. The grand theme reveal was underwhelming, and I'm still not sure what the principals' trajectories were at the culmination. ...more
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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

Other books in the series

Engines of Light (3 books)
  • Cosmonaut Keep (Engines Of Light, #1)
  • Engine City (Engines Of Light, #3)

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