Charles Strossí debut novel is set in the twenty-fifth century, in a world where society has depended for several hundred years on faster-than-light travel and an artificial intelligence called the Eschaton. The Eschaton is a time-travelling ultra-powerful being, descended from humans, that rules the universe.
ďBefore the singularity, human beings living on earth had looked at the stars and consoled themselves in their isolation with the comforting belief that the universe didnít care.
Unfortunately they were mistaken.
Out of the blue, one summer day in the middle of the twenty-first century, something unprecedented inserted itself into the swarming anthill of terrestrial civilization and stirred it with a stick. What it was- a manifestation of a strongly superhuman intelligence, as far beyond an augmented humanís brain as a human mind is beyond that of a frog- wasnít in question. Where it was from, to say nothing of when it was from as a other matter.Ē
Spaceship engineer Martin Springfield and U.N. diplomat Rachel Mansour Ė both originally from Earth - meet on the New Republicís home planet, a repressed and divided world on which all advanced technology other than interstellar weapons is prohibited. One of New Republicís more backward colonies, Rochardís World, is under attack from a strange and unfathomable alien intelligence called the Festival. The Festival are information gatherers and, in return for information, they give back, ďwhatever your heart desiresĒ. They have the power to reproduce material objects effortlessly and literally shower them on the people of Rochardís World. Anarchy ensues. In an act of retaliation, the New Republicís powers-that-be plan a surprise attack. They intend to use time travel to place their war fleet in advantageous positions. In doing so they come perilously close to breaking the Echatonís rules and thus jeopardize all of the New Republicís colonies. Springfield and Mansour are both working undercover (for different agencies) to diffuse the conflict between the New Republic and the Festival.
Despite his use of cutting-edge nanotechnology and his ironic portrayal of post-industrial society and political corruption, Strossí Singularity Sky doesnít bring anything new to science fiction. The plot tends to flag at times, and his characters could be better developed. Sometimes Stross spends too much time explaining his advanced technology and too little time depicting the people who use it. A disappointing read, the book is little more than another old-fashioned space opera, which is sad because Stross had the potential to do so much more.
The sequel, The Iron Sunrise, is due for publication by Ace in July 2004.