Singularity Sky by Charles Stross
Published by Orbit in 2005
Singularity Sky is Charles Stross’s debut novel. Humanity has spread out among the stars and fractured into societies with different technological levels and administrative structures. Rochard’s World is an outpost of the New Republic, an authoritarian, mid-20th century tech level society. An entity called the Festival arrives and showers technology on the world, granting wishes in return for information. The government responds by attempting time travel, which is prohibited by the god-like Eschaton.
Rachel Mansour, agent of Earth’s UN and Ambassador to the New Republic, and Martin Springfield, agent of a shadowy agency acting as an engineer on the New Republic’s flagship, are working to prevent the violation of the time travel rules.
It has spies, technology indistinguishable from magic, slapstick humour, time travel and explosions. It also has a dose of political philosophy. It is lacking in diversity, in part due to the setting. The New Republic is a patriarchal society and members struggle to accept Rachel as female. She wears trousers and so they see her as an effeminate man, unable to conceive of a woman with authority. I appreciated the recognition of the absurdity but feel an opportunity to diversify the background characters was missed.
I said a while ago I wasn’t going to review books I didn’t enjoy and in part that’s because I don’t finish reading them. I can’t say I loved Singularity Sky, but I liked it enough to finish it. I found it quite heavy-going, especially the first part, and I’m not really a fan of slapstick humour, particularly in the written form. There are some interesting ideas in Singularity Sky and the concepts are intriguing, more so perhaps than the plot or characters. If that’s how you like your sci-fi, then this might be for you.