Having abandoned the space opera scene with his previous novel The Execution Channel, Ken Macleod looked to head deeper into the near-future with his next offering. The aftershocks of 9-11 still resounding in 2008, The Night Sessions approaches religious fundamentalism from a decidedly unique approach: a setting wherein religion simply isn’t acknowledged by government, and by default, citizenry. The story’s payout playing things safe thematically, Macleod nevertheless delivers a well-paced mystery with loads of technical, science fiction intrigue.
Starting with the World Trade towers attack and escalating into a conflict that peaks at nuclear war in the Middle East but doesn’t come to an end until the Coalition forces are driven from the arena due to lack of money and soldiers, The Night Sessions is set in a weary UK that has seen religion legally marginalized as a result of its failures in the Middle East. The official government stance ‘non-cognizance’, most people have a sour taste for religion in their mouths from the fallout of the Oil/Faith Wars, and do not practice. But not everyone, however, as at the start of the novel Detective Investigator Adam Ferguson and his partner, the tripod-robot Skulk, are called to the scene of what appears to have been the mail-bombing of a Catholic priest. The investigation which results taking the pair from dirty alleys to major corporations, underground to above-ground churches, and from the comfort of the police briefing room to the dangers of the real world, the implications of the priest’s death spread from Edinburgh all the way around the globe in a story of extreme belief only science fiction can tell.