Ken Macleod is not a writer who burst onto the scene. But his Fall Revolution tetraology eventually opened readers’ eyes to a new voice capable of evolving, or at least capably extending the field. The tetraology a combination of politics and near-to-far future science fiction, its has a highly atypical structure that showed an eye for clever, cutting dialogue and plotting. Macleod followed this up, however, with the Engines of Light trilogy, which in all fairness was largely a familiar sf experience. Seven stand alone novels followed thereafter, some of which played within genre conventions, and some which were more challenging in intent. Learning the World, Descent, The Night Sessions, and Newton’s Wake were shaded more toward core genre experiences, while The Execution Channel, The Restoration Game, and Intrusion showed a greater willingness to address socio-political ideas. This all leads to the question, what would Macleod do in his next project, 2016’s Dissidence?
Volume one in the Corporation Wars trilogy, Dissidence is a difficult novel to review as most if not all of its major ideas and premise are left open ended. The plot reaches a natural pause in a larger arc, but overall the book serves as an introduction to: setting, thematic agenda, and characters, and to set these balls rolling. Carlos is a virtual operator revived a thousand years after his death to do what he does best: kill. His consciousness revived ino a virtual environment, he is asked by the Locke Corporation to lead a small team of operatives commanding mech exoskeletons through space to take back a small moon. The moon occupied by a group of robots who recently found group sentience, they seek to defend their new found autonomy with barriers both legal and physical. The mission seems clear cut, but as the political alignment of Carlos’ team, the robots, and the wider galaxy begin to fray, things go haywire.