Sunday, September 18, 2005

Charles Stross - Singularity Sky

This is a brilliant debut Science Fiction novel. Stross has done something quite special here, as you can see from the tributes on the back of the book. He's come up with a whole new idea, and done it brilliantly.

His concept - that a large area of space is populated by humans (the mechanism of which I won't go into) - where much of that area has achieved a sort of classless, technological society, where concepts of profits etc have been eradicated in the interest of a mutually assisting, forward looking society, is used to challenge preconceptions in the most surprising of ways.

One area of this human space, which behaves in a way more recognisable as our society - a sort of capitalistic region within the larger, better area, is terribly fearful of change and technology.

Now what Stross does that is so brilliant, is that he throws into this contradictory universe, a mechanism so alien, so inhuman, that both types of human society can't quite understand it. But one of the societies is less able to cope than the other.

To the backward, class-ridden, rigid, anti-technological society, comes a fantastic, all powerful, alien system - "The Festival". In exchange for stories and ideas the "the festival" donates unimaginable technological wonders and the machinary to create more such marvels. A goose that lays golden eggs for a poor peasant, exotic weapons for a bank robbers, palatial homes and so on. Within hours society is on its knees.

If you like Science Fiction, I can't recommend this enough. If you're a radical leftie there are enough in-jokes to keep you smiling, but the book is political enough to make you realise that Stross isn't simply taking the piss. He's also making a lot of interesting points.

EDIT: Stross has made his latest novel, Accelerando, available for free download in a variety of formats.

Related Reviews

Iron Sunrise - Charles Stross


Stefanie said...

I tried reading this book last year and just couldn't get into it. Your review makes me want to try again.

Anonymous said...

I am ALWAYS looking for books just like this... well, I mean, like this in the sense that they permit people who don't think about post-capitalist societies 24/7 to approach that idea, through fiction.

Thank you for the recommendation. Even if it's sort of a taking-the-piss allegory, I'm looking forward to it... What do you think of Ken McLeod?