February 27, 2020

The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod.

On sale next month!

It’s a brave new 21st century world out there, with a combustible mix of technology and “old world thinking” still driving much of society. This week, we’re taking a look at just one of those new future visions in The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod out next month from Pyr Books. Fans of this space will remember our review of Mr. MacLeod’s cyber-thriller The Restoration Game last year.

The Night Sessions takes us into an Orwellian world recovering from a centuries’ long religious and counter-religious civil war that had roots in our own era. (Starting with the modern Global War on Terrorism, in fact). The future world of The Night Sessions lives in an uneasy peace, one where tiny enclaves of religious sects still exist (along with a Jurassic Park-style Creationist theme park in New Zealand, complete with animatronic cavemen & dinosaurs!) along with vehement anti-religious sediment. It is along this backdrop that Detective Inspector Adam Ferguson must investigate the murder of a prominent religious leader. Things are not what they seem in this science fiction murder mystery, as Ferguson uncovers a hatred and ideology so old that it threatens the modern fabric of society.  I like the social framework of the world that MacLeod weaves, not a shiny-white utopian future, nor a grim Blade-Runner looking world, but that grey shade of reality in between. We may have space elevators and orbiting solar disks to mitigate the warming climate, but such technology is still always prey to old prejudices. And speaking of space elevators, it was a wry twist to mention an attack on such as a battered old movie theme in the future! First conceived by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, is an “Attack on the Space Elevator!” already a battered old saw? I haven’t been above using such a plot twist in my own (yet as unpublished) science fiction myself on occasion… hey, Kim Stanley Robinson did it in his Red Mars series, right? (Though the elevator under attack in Robinson’s series was on Mars!)

But I digress. Do give The Night Sessions a read if you’re looking for a smart, fast-paced science fiction tale with a murder mystery twist; Mr. MacLeod doesn’t disappoint in weaving a convincing future realm that is at once exhilarating and frightening in its complexity and sincerity. Perhaps Orwell found it easy for a future totalitarian state to do away with religion, but The Night Sessions show that the only thing that might be more frightening than an imaginary god might be the real one that we would invent ourselves as in his stead. Human nature is just hard to suppress, no matter what the technological background. And what happens when said technology starts to “get religion” itself? And with that we’ll stop, before we cross the border into spoiler-land… Complex stuff to be sure, and an interesting read!

Next week, we journey into the realm of statistics, numbers and polls that we’re being bombarded with this election year with a review of Proofiness by Charles Seife!

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