Friday, January 26, 2007
Charles Stross - Iron Sunrise
Iron Sunrise starts with a remarkable act of terrorism - a sun is artificially made to go supernova and billions of people die. However the rest of the story is not just about identifying the culprits, it deals with a more interesting aspect of this act of terrorism - the consequences of the revenge enacted.
One of the planets destroyed in the explosion, New Moscow, had within the outer reaches of it's solar system a Weapon of Mass Destruction designed to prevent attack on it's owners because of the sheer awfulness of the response. Back in the 1960s, the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) between the Cold War protagonists went something like this - the use of a nuclear weapon or weapons would inevitably provoke a nuclear response. The response, coupled with the original attack would cause such horrific destruction, that the original attack was rendered pointless. There could be no winners.
Charles Stross has updated this. The destruction of New Moscow unleashes Faster Than Light weapons bombs that cannot be detected, and will utterly destroy their target worlds. The catch is, that they will take three decades to reach their destination and no one knows what their destination is.
Stross has very cleverly used the great gulfs of interstellar space to his dramatic advantage here. Normally these distances are annoying for SF writers - space based action would take too long for exciting stories. Here it gives the characters in the novel plenty of time to speculate on the consequences of the attack and hunt down the people with the abort codes.
This is very much SF for the early 21st century. Email and blogging is updated, lack of bandwidth is an interstellar problem and there are dictatorial regimes around the galaxy, while an impotent United Nations looks on. Iron Sunrise was written in 2004, so a plot line that deals with an imperialistic knee-jerk response to a terrible terrorist attack has obvious real world parallels. It's too the author's great credit that this doesn't dominate the novel in a patronising way, while simultaneously making some great politic points.
Singularity Sky - Charles Stross