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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Night Sessions

Ken MacLeod

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To purchase The Night Sessions

Title: The Night Sessions
Author: Ken MacLeod
Genre: Novel
Written: 2008
Length: 261 pages
Availability: The Night Sessions - US
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Our Assessment:

B : solid combination of police procedural and science fiction

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 8/8/2008 Eric Brown
Publishers Weekly . 27/2/2012 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "As ever, MacLeod's depiction of the near future is achieved through solid characterisation and brilliant detail. His forte is the depiction of how belief systems can corrupt, and The Night Sessions is a stunning indictment of fundamentalism of all kinds." - Eric Brown, The Guardian

  • "MacLeod’s visionary fusion of science fiction and police procedural is replete with thought-provoking scientific and social speculation, particularly the exploration into the consciousness of robots and their significance in society." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Night Sessions is set in a future which differs socio-politically from the present in that it is set after the 'Faith Wars' -- a global conflict that saw religion once and for all removed from the public sphere, the Jeffersonian ideal of a complete separation of church and state finally realized. It did not bring with it the end of religion or religious practice, but a complete marginalization of it -- "faith-heads had called it the Great Rejection" -- the religious now an unelectable (and small) fringe group, left to follow their fantasies if they so wish, but with no influence on public discourse, much less the law.
       The novel's opening line is: "'Science fiction,' said the robot, 'has become science fact'", and among the technological advances in these times are robots with a form of robot self-consciousness -- from the leki that assists the novel's central figure, inspector Adam Ferguson, to about a thousand humanoid robots (a Sony product that proved a flop, the robots too close to human form, yet without human rights) --, far more advanced communication and tracking technology, as well as two elevators that reach into space. Meanwhile, global warming has also become an issue.
       The novel's two main locales are Scotland and New Zealand. About a tenth of all the humanoid robots ever built had settled in Waimangu, a Creationist theme-park (funded by Americans) in New Zealand. One of the workers there, John Richard Campbell, is a lay-preacher, too; without a proper congregation he preaches to the local tin men -- but his preachings also come to the attention of a fundamentalist group in Scotland.
       With religious figures targeted in Edinburgh, Inspector Ferguson tries to figure out what is going on -- slowly uncovering a conspiracy that involves extremely reactionary fundamentalist forces and thought ... and robots.
       Macleod impressively offers a Scottish police procedural that happens to be set in a future -- and technologically considerably more advanced -- world, one which nevertheless resembles our own in most of the (human) fundamentals. The significant technological advances, such as the robot technology, are introduced and woven into the story very well, while the rationale of the religious nuts behind the crimes being investigated is all too familiar. It's in this balance between big, big themes and the everyday that the novel does, however, feel a bit out of kilter. Robot self-consciousness is already a pretty big issue to deal with, but in its resolution MacLeod ups the ante considerably -- something the fairly pedestrian criminal-investigation build-up doesn't seem to be quite enough for.
       The Night Sessions is a good read, but winds up feeling a bit like a slice of a much bigger story, and its regrettable that MacLeod didn't explore or elaborate on parts of the story more.

- M.A.Orthofer, 15 December 2013

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The Night Sessions: Reviews: Ken MacLeod: Other books by Ken MacLeod under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Scottish science fiction author Ken MacLeod was born in 1954.

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© 2013-2023 the complete review

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