The Barnes & Noble Review
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
The book's strengths include Stross's considerable humor, his cutting-edge knowledge of modern science (he knows how a working interstellar vehicle would power up, and how quantum entanglement might be used to communicate faster than light) and a flair for moving things along.
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. (Aug. 5) Forecast: In a blurb, Michael Swanwick calls Stross "the Next Big Thing in science fiction," a notion seconded by James Patrick Kelly and Gardner Dozois. He may well be right, but this novel isn't it. Stross is also the author of the story collection Toast: And Other Rusted Futures (2002). Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
When an information plague called "The Festival" strikes the isolationist planetary colony of the New Republic, the world's economy quickly descends into chaos, and its populace becomes a hotbed of revolution against its government. A fleet of battleships approaches the beleaguered planet, but political intrigues and hidden agendas hinder the efforts to combat the plague. Set in a far-future where faster-than-light technology and artificial intelligence have molded the course of civilization, Stross's debut novel explores the concept of freedom of information and the human race's desire to forge its own destiny. This far-future visionary novel belongs in most sf collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.