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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Corporation Wars (3):

Ken MacLeod

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To purchase The Corporation Wars: Emergence

Title: The Corporation Wars: Emergence
Author: Ken MacLeod
Genre: Novel
Written: 2017
Length: 357 pages
Availability: The Corporation Wars: Emergence - US
in: The Corporation Wars - US
The Corporation Wars: Emergence - UK
The Corporation Wars: Emergence - Canada
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • The third volume in The Corporation Wars-trilogy

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Our Assessment:

B : solid and engaging conclusion to this three-part work

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Locus . 12/2017 Russell Letson
The Scotsman . 28/9/2017 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Episodes of space operatics and alien encoun­ter (or infection) punctuate meetings, speeches, debates, and plain old conversations about rights, policies and procedures, and the meaning of vir­tual life. (...) There are plenty of other ingenious twists and interesting sidebars along the route to a resolu­tion, which mixes physical conflict, legal maneu­vering, transformation, and realpolitik. And then there’s a coda (in an aptly titled chapter) that pulls back to put the entire complex action into a larger context. MacLeod manages big Ideas (po­litical and futurological) and propulsive action without short-changing either side of that classic science-fictional tension-of-opposites" - Russell Letson, Locus

  • "There is much to enjoy here – intellectually, emotionally, metaphysically and especially if you like seeing undead robot Nazis getting their butts kicked, both cerebrally and actually. (...) I know he will hate the suggestion, but I think of MacLeod as one of our most profoundly religious novelists, questioning humanity, interrogating ethics, speculating about the future. Even the title of this finale, Emergence, is slyly hopeful." - The Scotsman

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:

       Emergence is the final volume in the The Corporation Wars-trilogy, and begins on the moonlet SH-119, in orbit around "the superhabitable exoplanet SH-0". The Rax -- the 'Reaction', the conservative-fascist faction setting up their 'New Confederacy' here -- are led by Mackenzie Dunt, who is avowedly Hitlerite: "he affirmed the rational core of Hitler's thinking: the inevitability of struggles for existence at every level -- individual, spiritual, material, national, racial and species, and the celebration of that inevitability as the highest value of the highest authority".
       The Rax claim to have: "conquered and claimed SH-119", but they do not have it to themselves: freebots -- small-scale robots that have attained a level of consciousness -- are at work there mining and assembling technology (that the Rax, for one, could use -- especially fusion drives and pods). Nominally neutral in the conflicts between the Rax, the Axle -- the Acceleration, a faction pushing for more rapid change --, and the controlling but distant Direction --, the freebots quickly see, by the way they are mistreated by the brutal Rax, that it may be high time to reconsider their stance.
       The big prize is the exoplanet SH-0 -- a planet that: "for the Direction, is the primary commodity to be traded with the Solar system" --, and there are some exploratory forays on it -- complete with encounters with local lifeforms. Most of the action -- and conflict --, however, plays out on SH-119.
       The capitalist-legal framework that the Direction has imposed is neatly used by one of the characters, as he incorporates himself -- helpfully funded by the freebot consortium that also realizes this stratagem is in their interest -- making for another powerful player in the conflict, whose actions then determine much of the outcome.
       This far-future world of Macleod's is richly imagined, with its artificial intelligence in various forms, most notably those of stored humans' memory that are then able to live and act atop a variety of 'frames'. Often almost instantaneous communication between the different grouping and actors, and the speed at which almost everything moves forward -- "Seba's focus within the workspace saw the solution Carlos had thought of before Carlos could even formulate it" -- make for an unusual but gripping kind of rapid-fire action, but there's also a fair amount of good old fashioned up-close-and-personal combat.
       This is very much the third part of a single work, and there's not much point in starting here; it really should be read as one work. The final chapter -- a true 'Coda' -- jumps (very) far into the future, to a more settled (new) world, a nice rounding off of the story as a whole.
       Not really standing on its own, Emergence is an enjoyable continuation of and conclusion to The Corporation Wars -- which really should be seen (and read) as a single work, rather than a trilogy. It adds a few more layers to MacLeod's clever conception and playing it all out quite entertainingly. The ideological differences between Rax and Axle aren't quite as much at the fore as one might expect, and the presentation of the Rax-as-modern-Nazis is somewhat simplistic -- and then isn't even played up or out as much as it could be -- but the artificial-intelligence aspects are the more interesting to all of this in any case.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 August 2023

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The Corporation Wars: Emergence: 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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© 2023 the complete review

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