"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Monday, November 29, 2004

Singularity Sky by Charles Stross

Maybe I'm just getting old. Maybe when I was younger I would have understood this book better, or maybe I'm just trying to find a reason for my lack of understanding now. This is a well written science fiction book. I have no idea if the science is based on current theory or something the author dreamed up, but I have no idea what it all meant.

I do know that the book is about trying to stifle information and how information will out no matter what. It's an issue I tried to build a novel around and I had to give it up for now because I didn't get the characters and setting right. I think Stross did fine in that regard, even if I understood only the bare minimum. A long time ago, in the 21st century, an entity called the Eschaton took most of Earth's population and settled them on far flung planets. In one sector, the New Republic, rejected all tech save the very basic sort and clamped down on the development of tech and information throughout its colonies. Rochard's World is one such colony, a fairly backward, backwater planet ripe for revolution. And then the Festival came, granting all wishes. Believing its empire is under attack, the New Republic launches a counter attack that gets the attention of the Eschaton when it involves breaking temporal laws.

Told in omniscient third person, the narrative voice sometimes felt intrusive to me, though for the most part, it was seamless. The sections I had the most trouble with were the infodumps and explanations. The book for me was much stronger when the characters took center stage, especially Martin, the Earth engineer with a secret, and Rachel, the UN diplomat from Earth who has a secret of her own. Earth, and its tech, is viewed by the New Republic as evil, which leads to spying and counter spying and the more entertaining part of the book. I found the ending a bit unsatisfying, and though there is a sequel, I would have prefered a better payoff for reaching the end.

This book and the sequel have been getting good reviews, but I can't decide if I would recommend it. For the right reader, it's probably a great book. For another reader, it might be trash. For me, it's simply a book I read, no better or no worse than many others, a book I wanted to enjoy it more than I did.


  1. I really enjoy the way you write your reviews: you give enough plot to know if we want to read it, but a lot of your own opinion, which is really what matters to me. If I just need a brief plot outline, I could consult the dust jacket. Just love your last sentence- for me, it has been true about a lot of books.
    Sadly, I am not very familiar with most of your books here. For the past year, I have been living in the past, visiting a very long list I've accumulated of all the 'classics' I feel I should read. I write a little review for myself, mostly because I would forget that I ever read it if I didnt, and I am surprised that so many of them are not what I would consider to be great. But I do think they're worth reading anyway, if not for anything else, than just to be able to say that I did it!


  2. Thanks, Jay. In a way, I think the book dictates the type of review I do, how much of my feelings or opinion I give. The more I like a book, the less I want to gush. I hate getting people to read a book that way only to have them not like it. ;)

    I have a lot of classics here I'd like to read, especially a half dozen translations of Russian classics. Maybe one of these days.

  3. Anonymous11:53 PM

    I read it a while back and loved it. I didn't know there was a sequel out, though. I'll have to go get it.

    My two most recent books (sci-fi) were both very good. Crossing the Line by Karen Traviss and The Ethos Effect by L.E.Modesitt Jr.

  4. I haven't heard of Karen Traviss. I'll have to take a look. Thanks. :)