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Doesn't quite know what it's trying to be
on 29 August 2010
This was Stross's first novel, and I'm afraid that shows. I came to this after reading 'Halting State' by the same author, which I absolutely loved. But while Halting State is obviously a book by a confident author at the peak of his powers, Singularity Sky is rough around the edges.
The main problem is that Stross seems unclear what kind of book he's writing. Bits of this are really hard SF, the sort where the author spends ages explaining the relativistic implications of faster-than-light travel. There is some clever social and political comment - I particularly liked the early scene where the communist revolutionaries realise that possession of the Cornucopia machines they are being offered (which can make anything) mean that the workers can quite literally own the means of production. But then there are the interminable battle sequences where gunnery officers read off missile trajectory co-ordinates a bit like you'd get in Honor Harrington books. And then there's the comedy old admiral, who seems to have no influence on the plot. Oh, and the alien who rides around in a hut on chicken legs.
And that's the problem with Singularity Sky - it tries to be too many things, and it doesn't do any of them well. It's like a weird cross between Peter F Hamilton, David Weber and Terry Pratchett. And not in a good way.