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3.6 out of 5 stars
Singularity Sky
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on 30 January 2009
The cover blurb tells me this is `One of the most significant works of SF published this decade,' according to The Guardian. That may well be the case, I don't pretend to be able to judge that, all I can say is that now I've finished it, my head hurts. (Time travel and causality will always do that to me.) It's not a quick read, it's densely packed with surreal ideas and seemingly incongruous side-trips. It contains ideas so big that it took me most of the book to get my head round them, but that's good. Being of a generally unscientific mind I'm not in a position to know where the real science ends and Mr Stross' imagination kicks in, so I just had to trust him on that. Besides, I was really looking for the human story within.

In a universe where The Eschaton - a godlike presence - has descended upon Earth and spread 90% of its population to suitable new planets in outlying star systems, there is no central government, but there is the UN, a talking shop for the various new worlds populated by humans. Different colonies have evolved different social systems, most moving forward, but a few, like The New Republic, a spacefaring society closely based on pre-revolution Russia, sticking firmly with tradition.

The human story is that of Martin and Rachel - both agents, he for the Eschaton and she for the UN, completely independent of each other - trying to intervene in different ways in the potential disaster that the New Republic is racing towards when it reacts in warlike manner to what seems to be an invasion of one of its colonies by the inhuman `Festival' - a datavore in search of entertainment and information. The datavore's material gifts so upset the economic and social balance of Novy Petrograd that the New Republic responds by declaring war.

There are rather too many strands to this story to make me entirely comfortable with it. We spend a lot of time in the company of the (space) Navy of the New Republic, the senile admiral and crew of the Lord Vanek who have confusing names like Sauer and Bauer (and I'm easily open to confusion when these are just walk-on characters) and it's within these sections that my head starts to ache with an over-exposure to techno-talk. (I'm sure it's good techno-talk, but it leaves me skimming.)

However, in the end the side-trips are all worthwhile because as we learn more anout this universe, the human strands come together - though not until the very last section. The payoff eventually works well and Martin and Rachel live to love and fight again another day.

I look forward to reading Iron Sunrise, which follows on from this - though I'll not rush to grab it immediately. Maybe I'll have a little lie down in a dark room first.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 19 May 2006
Charles Stross is a beacon in SciFi, his vision and imagination outstrip many of his peers still stuck in space operas.

Singularity Sky is a tightly wound, well written hardcore sci-fi adventure romp. Hardcode, because Stross is not shy of technical details regardless of wether he's exploring human computer interfacing, AI, or space travel.

As a result of this, some of the book may be daunting, however Stross expertly weaves humour and emotion into his characters, preventing them from becoming as alien to us as the beings they encounter.

The book follows the adventures of a engineer and a diplomat, involved in an overarching plot designed by the Eschaton, a near omniscient Artificial Intelligence, so powerfull, it has to deny its own divinity.

If you love SciFi that intrigues as it challenges, teaches as it thrills and that shines with well placed wit, this is for you.
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on 13 April 2009
This is the first book of charles stross and it is an interesting start. The autor builds a bold conceptual framework: the post-singularity world of a humanity which travels in interstellar space and it is expanded im many planets but living in many different social systems and allways under the haunting presence of "eschaton" a sentient artificial intalligence from the future. There are many hard science fiction themes here and the overall framework promises to be fascinating. But what the book delivers in the overall theme lacks in plot: the story of a romance between a UN agent and an eschaton agent who both try to stop the violation of eschaton's basic rule (don't violate causality) is rather simplistic and the portrayal of a society which lives in a kind of old russian feudalism so many centuries in the future is not convincing. Fortunately his next novel "iron sunrise" is much better.
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on 5 September 2014
This book is jam-packed full of great scifi ideas, and for those I would give it 4 stars. Everything from relativity to biotechnology to a touch of steampunk maybe.

But I found the first third or so dragged, and the ideas perhaps crowded out the characters a little, so that lowers the rating a bit. I did enjoy it however - at times it remind me of Red October, at times Douglas Adams' humour, both good things.

An aside to the publishers: The edition I read (which might not be the latest one, I think it's a year or two since it was purchased) was littered with distracting mistakes - stray capitals, repeat letters, missing full stops. Not sure whether those were bugs from poor OCR, or perhaps it was an older draft not the final polished one, but I would appreciate better editing. Ebooks might be cheaper, but they're not free.
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on 18 May 2013
Having really enjoyed the 'Laundry Series' by the author I thought I would give some of his other works a try. This was the first one and I must say I did not really enjoy it. It seems to be space opera in one volume - I love space opera, but this is too condensed. Also there are too many pages devoted to how a captain orders his crew to move ships (think most submarine films you have seen). In places Mr. Stross is guilty of slinging together random sciency words which have no business being together.

There are some good bits of the book - especially the towards the star, but after about 1/3 if the book it becomes a hard slog; slow paced with just too much detail. Overall, I would have to say I don't recommend it, but if you do decide to read it, you may well have a different opinion - it's a bit of a marmite book I think!
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I picked this book up and read the first page - and bought it at once! Why, because any book that starts with telephones that fall from the sky and causes a revolution in the first few pages is going to challenge th reader. This seems like space opera, space invasions, evel empires and so on but the issues of freedom, mind sets that are set on 'suspicious' play very well in todays world, especially when the story covers the idea that 'information wants to be free' and that actually restricting the flow of information causes more problems that it solves. This is a great sc-fi story and while its not as hard edged as William Gibson its still a great read... and its not too many sci-fi stories that have a Monty Python reference !
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on 31 March 2015
I've read many of Mr Stross's books -including the excellent 'Laundry files' series - and thoroughly enjoyed them. I stumbled over this one, which I gather is his first book, and read the reviews on Amazon with interest before I bought it. I'm glad I was not put off by some of them.

I guess this - and indeed all his books - are 'Marmite' books - love them or hate them. If you like Gibson, or Banks (Culture universe), if you like word play, political philosophy and defective charters, then you'll like this. If you are looking for a straightforward 'easy on the tired brain book' then this isn't it. Good plot, good science, clever book.
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on 3 January 2015
I've read quite a lot of Stross and enjoyed all of it . . . except for this.

The writing is poor and clunky in places, at various points the characters state their intent to take the plot off in interesting directions, then seem to forget this entirely after a few pages and continue along on a run of the mill narrative.

There are some interesting ideas in there, but they're not taken anywhere. The same themes get much better treatment in his other series.

If this is the first thing you've read by Stross don't let it put you off - his later work is excellent. If you haven't read it I'd suggest you don't bother.
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on 22 October 2010
I read SF now and again for leisure purposes and, by and large, I put them down without a second thought. This, however, warrants a little more attention than that. One of the strangest books I've ever read, it's surreal storyline is disturbing because it actually makes sense. "Monty Python" meets "War of the Worlds," a real tour de force by an author new to me, but one I'll look out for in future. And the title of my review? Look out for the six foot rabbit armed with a machine gun carrying the scalps of farmers around his belt - he's a real treat and completely understandable in terms of the story.
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on 7 April 2012
Charles Stross is undoubtably one of the most original and creative authors around, but he clutters an otherwise flawless narative style with showing off his impressive vocabulary. If you like lots of obscure words, you will probably find this gives the prose a lyrical quality reminiscent of William Gibson. Otherwise you will find it intensely irritating (In a manner of William Gibson.) Another flaw he shares with Gibson is that he does not handle endings terribly satisfactorally.
I find the book a very enjoyable read, though not as good as the Laundry series
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