"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.