book-reviews

Singularity Sky

by Charles Stross

Rating: ★★★★

While the main story in Singularity Sky is a fairly average military sci-fi espionage plot, without particularly deep characters or even that much narrative tension, Stross still managed to charm me here. His secret weapon was the worldbuilding: the novel benefits from a great conceptual setting (Weakly godlike AI as benevolent constructor of a populous and varied human galaxy), and it's just fun watching him describe things that fall out of that setting.

The conflict in the novel stems from the arrival of the Festival, a sort of playful roving cultural aggregator from the higher end of the technological curve, in a backwater autocratic republic. The Festival lacks any strictly harmful intent, as we would render it, but its attempts to 'trade' with the suppressed peasantry amount to political sabotage which entirely disrupts the system and threatens the New Republic. It's a great example of economic warfare.

Similarly, the actual warfare, when the New Republic's fleet carries out a (near causality-violating) manoeuvre to respond to the Festival, is Stross' bemused response to the images of space warfare popularised by previous understandings of the concept. The outdated forces attempt to fight AIs by relaying orders across a Star Trek-style bridge, and, well, that goes about as well as you would expect. The Festival doesn't even care.

Stross impressed me with Accelerando, and he's done so again with the worldbuilding and his general approach to taking-scifi-seriously in this series.