Set 400 years in the future, Scottish author and computer journalist Charles Stross' debut novel, Singularity Sky, is a highly intelligent space opera with a decidedly twisted sense of humor. It poses the question: What happens when visiting aliens demand to be entertained?
After humankind discovers faster-than-light travel, a godlike race of post-humans called the Eschaton issue a warning of causality violations (time travel) by instantly removing 9 billion humans from Earth and relocating them throughout the galaxy on countless low-tech colonies. The next transgression with time travel will mean total destruction.
Centuries later, one such backwater colony called the New Republic has been doing its best to suppress information -- and ideas -- from the general populace. But when a nomadic group of aliens known as the Festival make a remote planet in the New Republic their temporary home, generations of repression fly out the window. Ringing telephones start falling out of the sky all over the planet. On the other end of the line, Festival members ask to be entertained. Any new information -- be it scientific theories, fairy tales, or local mythology -- is rewarded with anything the respondent desires. Anything!
Singularity Sky is a truly visionary look at the future of humankind. Stross' vision, however, has its fair share of comic elements. Painting on a vast canvas of hard science, Stross lets his colorful imagination go wild by introducing the Festival, an intergalactic traveling road show that would put Grateful Dead followers to shame. What transpires once they arrive at Rochard's World is worth the price of the book alone! Paul Goat Allen