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Singularity Sky Mass Market Paperback – June 29, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
In his first novel, British author Stross, one of the hottest short-story writers in the field, serves up an energetic and sometimes satiric mix of cutting-edge nanotechnology, old-fashioned space opera and leftist political commentary reminiscent of Ken MacLeod. Spaceship engineer Martin Springfield and U.N. diplomat Rachel Mansour hail from an Earth that has gone through the Singularity, an accelerated technological and social evolution far beyond anything we can imagine. The Singularity was triggered by the Eschaton, a super-powerful being descended from humanity that can travel in time and that essentially rules the universe. Springfield and Mansour meet on the home world of the New Republic, a repressive, backwater society that has outlawed virtually all advanced technology other than that necessary for interstellar warfare. When one of the New Republic's colonial worlds is besieged by the Festival, an enigmatic alien intelligence, the Republic counterattacks, using time travel in an attempt to put its warships in position to catch the Festival by surprise. Springfield and Mansour, working for different masters, have both been assigned the task of either diffusing the crisis or sabotaging the New Republic's warfleet, no matter what the cost. As a newcomer to long fiction, Stross has some problems with pacing, but the book still generates plenty of excitement.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In the twenty-fifth century, human society has depended for several hundred years on faster-than-light travel and an artificial intelligence called the Eschaton. Interstellar colonies are scattered all over, and one, the New Republic, has become a classic refuge for antitechnological holdouts. But the New Republic is suddenly under attack, literally, by the technology it has tried to suppress, which now appears under the name the Festival. An Earth battle fleet is on the way, but is it coming to help, to ride to power on the coattails of the Festival, or to fulfill some entirely separate agenda, possibly set by the Eschaton, which has achieved consciousness, sentience, and probably a lust for power? If no element of Stross' novel is very original, all of them are formidably well-executed, especially the meticulous and imaginative portrayal of the New Republic and its Victorian technology. In addition, the book possesses the rare virtue of neither requiring nor precluding a sequel. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Having enjoyed the Laundry series , I found this book slightly disappointing.
The flow of the wrting seemed disjointed and the main themes of the narrative diffuse.
It felt very much like the introduction to a series. I have since read thar Stross has only written one sequel to this book. I am not
overly eager to read that on the evidence of this first installment.
The book lavks the bounce and humour of the Laundry series , this said it is not a bad book . The pace is fairly even and characterization fair. However the ending was flat and telegraphed some chapters before the conclusion.
I am at present reading other titles by Stross which I am enjoying . Singularity Sky should not be the first work one reads by this talented author.
I may return to the story for another pass at enjoying it in the light of reading other non- laundry titles
Along the way, however, Stross seems to employ every gonzo-journalism, "power to the people" revolutionist cliché (ie., pg 85 "what we've got here is an unprecedented opportunity to cast off the economic slavery that bind us to soil and factory..."). And while the main characters (Martin and Rachel, which are really one character) can be cliché (ie., Bones or Chuck television series), they are fun, witty, and exercise an agreeable mixture of cynicism and wry humor. At times they are reminiscent of a classic Twain or Vonnegut character that plays foil to the dullard establishment.
Singularity Sky does reveal an evolved approach on some venerable themes: 1) a seemingly omniscient, super-artificial intelligence that exists to ensure humans do not violate the space-time continuum; 2) a primitive civilization chances upon a "genie's lamp" and is granted wishes (and technology) at the expense of its proverbial soul resulting in a "Pandora's Box" effect; and, 3) that the pen (freedom of expression) is always mightier than the sword (the attempt to prevent it).
Luckily, the novel is not all entirely metaphor or political criticism (maybe?). The New Republic battle fleet combat sequences are entertaining for those that like the techno-military gab of a Tom Clancy novel. Unfortunately, the reader must choose: 1) to suspend virtual reality, since the interplay between officers, crew and machinery seems ponderous, verbose, and more akin to the interplay on a Clancy submarine rather than on a 25th century starship; 2) to accept that Stross used the battle sequence as yet another metaphor: no matter how sophisticated, advanced, and powerful this New Republic thinks it is, ignorance and isolationism will be its undoing; or, 3) all of the above.
Stross' theoretical explanation of "faster than light" travel is satisfactory at best, with his descriptions often reading like a watered-down version of Greg Bear's machinations in Moving Mars. The omniscient super-artificial intelligence Eschaton is alluded to several times, however it tends to lurk in the background, only rearing itself indirectly through bipartisan communication with Martin. And while Stross builds-up the Eschaton character as the "hand of God", that hand is never played directly into the plot. Didn't Anton Chekhov preach that if you hang a rifle on the wall in the first chapter somewhere within the remainder of the story the rifle must be fired...? Well, maybe I missed the shot. Or maybe Martin was the 200-page "shot". Either way, the same lack of denouement could also be attributed to the Fringe and Mime creatures.
The good news is that Singularity Sky is a fun read, the same way Star Trek can be fun, and where it lacks in execution it surely makes up for it in dripping demagoguery. I get it, Mr. Stross. You are not a fan of big government. Page 299: "As long as you expect someone or something else to take responsibility for you, you're a child." And "What would you call a parent who never let their children grow up? That's what we think of your government."
That's cool. I'm not a fan of big government either.
It feels like Stross aimed for something in the spirit of Vernor Vinge's Fire Upon the Deep, tied into a post-Singularity, relativity-cognizant style... and missed. That's not going to stop me from vigorously recommending many of his other works, however... (*cough cough* Laundry Files, Accelerado, etc).