Two books by Charles Stross

Until this week, I’d only read one of Charles Stross’s books, Iron Sunrise, which I read in preparation for Hugo voting in 2005 (I didn’t actually vote on the Best Novel Hugo that year, but I thought about it…). I enjoyed it, and when I happened to be in the library earlier in the week and decided I wanted some SF in hand, so I picked up two of his.

Singularity Sky takes place before Iron Sunrise and introduces some characters who figure in the latter book, but it wasn’t critical to read them in the right order. I did something with Singularity Sky that I haven’t done in a long time — I read it in one evening. The story moves along briskly, with enough red herrings to keep me interested. This story is set, like Iron Sunrise, in a post-Singularity world where the Eschaton (which appears to be the transcendent computers of Earth) has scattered about 90% of the population of Earth across a few hundred light-years. There is FTL travel and instantaneous communication, but causality violations are Right Out…Or Else. The story opens with a weird infovore culture, The Festival, raining telephones on the New Republic, which has all the lovable characteristics of the Soviet Union of the 50’s and 60’s, but without the technology…except for the military. There are secret agents and wheels within wheels galore — strongly recommended.

I can’t say the same for Missile Gap, a short alternate-history-with-aliens piece. The McGuffin here is that, in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis (which became a hot war), the surface of the Earth was picked up and deposited on a huge flat world in the Magellanic Cloud; there are, of course, many other continents across the ocean, and the US and Soviets are desperately exploring and colonizing. But…We Are Not Alone.

The premise was intriguing, but there were too many threads for so few pages, and none of the characters really came to life for me. It was a pleasant read, but no more.