Vicky Williamson

Halting State

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Charles Stross, Orbit, £7.99

In the mid 1980s there was a rash of science fiction films and books set inside computer games and virtual reality. More recently this setting has gone out of fashion. It's strange because what was then just speculation and imagined technology is now closer and more vivid and its implications are much broader.

Charles Stross has explored some of the issues thrown up by recent, and potential, advances in computer technology in his near future thriller set in a newly independent Scotland.

The Execution Channel

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Ken MacLeod, Orbit, £17.99

The world of Ken MacLeod's The Execution Channel is a disturbingly familiar place. The flu pandemic has happened, as has the war with Iran. Omnipresent CCTV and security surveillance have destroyed civil liberties, and the "crisis" has destroyed democracy.

Sucked into instability by war, debt and "natural" disasters, the US is struggling to maintain its position as the world's lone superpower. Even its allies are reviewing their options.

Revolution on a Galactic Scale

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Review of 'Dark Light', Ken Mcleod, Orbit £16.99

Dark Light' is the second instalment in Ken Macleod's science fiction space opera, 'Engines of Light'. Ken Macleod is one of a handful of contemporary left-wing authors--others being China Miéville, Iain M Banks, Marge Piercy and Ursula LeGuin--who have shown the power of this genre to explore alternative histories and imagined futures.

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