Bewildering Stories

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Charles Stross, Singularity Sky

reviewed by Jerry Wright

S.S. Cover
Title: "Singularity Sky"
Author: Charles Stross
Ace Books
HB Price: $23.95

Charlie Stross is a madman. Oh, right, he is a Science Fiction writer, and therefore by definition, he is a madman, but I digress, or perhaps not. Anyway, anyone who has read "Lobsters" or any of his Manfred Macx stories knows that Charlie tosses off ideas like crazy as they come fizzing from his brain.

Singularity Sky is no exception. This is Charlie's first novel, and it has been aborning for a number of years, I am given to understand. The book fizzes with ideas, concepts, throwaways, and many SF in-jokes. The beginning of the book, and much of the action takes place on "Rochard's World", a colony of "The New Republic". It starts when something, perhaps a post-human thingie, called "The Festival" drops millions of telephones on an unsuspecting circa-1800s style public, offering all, peasants, revolutionists, and rulers alike, anything, (and I mean anything) they want in return for stories, histories, any sort of information whatever.

Oh, how did a bunch of Eastern European throwbacks end up on a planet 250 lightyears from Earth? Well, 400 years previous, in the late 21st century, The Singularity came about. Vernor Vinge came up with the original idea, that some day Artificial Intelligence combined with Mankind will transcend what we call humanity. Anyway, something called The Eschaton appeared, and without a "by-your-leave" transported most of humanity, nine billion souls, and spread them across the galaxy. For some reason, he/it/they stuck various mind-sets together, and so those longing for the Tsarist/Kaiserish past ended up together, many of them on "The New Republic".

When the leaders of The New Republic learn that their colony on Rochard's World has been invaded by the "Festival" they assemble a fleet in the finest manner of David Weber's Manticorean Navy, and FTL off to trounce the evil invaders. Charlie is well aware that FTL may very well by its nature include time-travel, and the boys from the New Republic, decide to use this ability in what seems to them a clever fashion.

Ah ah ah... The Eschaton says, "Do nothing that can change history, or be destroyed!" And it has the power to do just that. The NRNavy is running perilously close to running afoul of that command. And so there are two, two, mind you, spies from different agencies there to make sure that the New Republic does nothing that could bring down the Eschaton on Earth or anyone else for that matter.

And that is just the very beginning of the book. There is information on Light Cones, and Time-like manuevers, and far-future cybernetics, and spacewars and all kinds of weird stuff, and when you find out what the Festival really is, it will cause your mind to twitch, just a bit. This book is exciting, adventurous, funny, and filled with that "sensawunda" we all look for in our Science Fiction.

Copyright © 2003 by Jerry Wright