Top positive review
Singularly perplexing, but a modern classic
on 19 August 2017
Singularity Sky is one of those modern SF classics that I'd been meaning to read for ages, and I'm glad I finally did. An intelligent space opera plot accelerates into something much weirder, and the book is full of quirky and interesting characters, with a nice line in humour. I've read a lot of Stross's stuff in a haphazard fashion over the years, and I can't help but think his style works best within hard SF like this.
So, small gripe. Is it worth knocking a star off? Well, I think so, though this book is far from the sole offender. I learned more about the setup of Singularity Sky's universe from the Amazon blurb than I did from the first 70 pages of the novel - all that stuff about the Eschaton, etc. The reader is sort of plunged into the middle of the world, and information about its rules is kind of drip-fed throughout. I see this tactic a lot in modern SF and I understand why it's used: it makes for more coherent world-building, it avoids excessive info-dumping, and it allows for the kind of killer first line hook that Stross deploys in this novel.
But it's confusing as hell for the reader, unless they're incredibly SF-literate. For the love of God, if your universe is that convoluted, just put a damn prologue in, or explain the set-up on the back cover, and have done with it. I would have to reread Singularity Sky to get the full story within context. It's a good book, so I might just do that. But it's sort of presumptuous to foist a book on your readers that they're unlikely to fully appreciate on the first read.