The Star Fraction
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
The Star Fraction is Ken MacLeod's first novel, published in 1995. The major themes are radical political thinking, a functional anarchist microstate, oppression, and revolution. The action takes place in a balkanized UK, about halfway into the 21st century. The novel was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1996.
The world is controlled by the US/UN, a sort of semi-benign meta-dictatorship which doesn't rule directly so much as enforce a series of basic laws on a vast number of microstates. Many of the microstates are in a near-constant state of low-intensity warfare. Among the laws enforced on them is a prohibition on certain directions of research, such as intelligence augmentation or artificial intelligence; precisely what is prohibited is of course secret, and as violation of the prohibitions will result in the swift and efficient death of everyone directly involved, scientific research is a dangerous proposition at best.
The main characters – a trotskyist mercenary, a libertarian teenager from a fundamentalist microstate, and an idealistic scientist – find themselves caught up at the center of a global revolution against the US/UN. The revolution was planned, and partially automated using financial software, in order to break out when a certain set of conditions were reached. The stakes are raised at the end of the book, when it is revealed that the autonomous financial software has evolved into an intelligent form, which might cause the paranoid US/UN to make a "clean break" with Earth, knocking the planet back to the Stone Age with the orbital defense lasers.
The Star Fraction is the first book of two series: one is a trilogy, and ends in The Cassini Division with a war between humans and a society of uploads inhabiting the massively re-engineered Jupiter; the other consists of The Star Fraction and The Sky Road, and occupies a parallel universe, in which one of the main characters makes a different decision at the end of the first novel, which results in a very different, catastrophic outcome.
- "1996 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-20.