Singularity Sky

Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 20, 2004

Singularity Sky by Charles Stross

Fifteen people showed up for the discussion of Stross’s first novel published in book form (a previous novel was serialized). Two people had not read the book and five had not finished.

Comments ranged from “The best book we’ve ever read,” to “I’m surprised it made the Hugo [nomination] list.” We found this post-cyberpunk space opera surprisingly complex for its length. The conflict begins when an artificial intelligence called The Festival drops telephones on a repressed pseudo-Russian colony and offers people anything they ask for (although not quite what they wanted) in exchange for stories. Chaos ensues.

Most of us thought Stross made fresh creative use of real physics, but others were not convinced by the techno-babble. Some of us thought the writing was smooth; others found it clunky and spotted gaps in the story. The two secret agents from Earth were well characterized, but other important characters were not.

One thing we did agree on was that the military dialogue and the space battles were not as interesting as the rest of the book, nor as well done as David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. Most of us enjoyed the humor–from sporks of the revolution to carrot-chomping alien Critics. We wondered, though, if we were missing some of the British humor, particularly the political puns.

We would recommend this book for those who enjoy hard SF. After all, information wants to be free–but beware of mimes with pies.

— Sandy Kayser