ingularity Sky is another element of Charles Stross’s future universe, where computers underwent singularity (i.e. they turned the corner on human intelligence and streaked away), and in doing so, these now-godlike AIs teleported 90% of the human race to other planets, mostly in racial/regional blocks. So this one was a step backwards for me – having met Martin and Rachael in Iron Sunrise (and missing them in Accelerando), here we see them in their “courtship”, traveling to and enjoying the rustic pleasures of the New Republic.
So it’s meaning within meaning here. The New Republic was originally force-settled by some of the worst elements of Russia, i.e. accepting serf/peon/peasants, a leaching nobility and the secret police. They are a small collective with a handful of planets, but they have dreams of empire. This explains their shiny little battlefleet, just purchased from MiG, with its chrome levers and brass fittings and dashing new uniforms.
But one of their colony worlds has just been visited by the Festive, which is some sort of traveling-wish granters – armed with cornucopia machines, these intelligences are willing to trade goods for ideas, folklore and stories. And as one might suspect, when wishes can come true (easily and physically), the flames of hell have been stoked.
One has to think of modern Russia, going through all its turmoil, trying to catch up in a world of 3D printers and instantaneous communication. And picture the revolutionaries (for police states always have them), suddenly seeing just what the people will do to themselves (and others) once they truly hold the means of production. In little time, the colony world is in ruins, the shiny fleet is rushing into a foreshadowed fiasco, and the Eschaton (those departed yet always present AIs) are watching the actions of the New Republic, ready to intervene (drastically) if they push over the line with forbidden weapons and tactics. Yeah, it’s a cluster all around.
I really like Stross’s novels – they take the idea of Future Shock and roll it up into a story where technology moves so quickly, you almost can’t keep up. And really, when you look at our world that we are somehow coping with (where terrorists behead on the web, where kids have dataplans and pets are chipped), the velocity of change that Stross details feels right. Actually, you know, I read this book years back and didn’t enjoy it as much as I did in my second reading. I guess I’m older, wiser, and more leery of the technological cornucopia blossoming around us.
Great read. If you haven’t tried Stross, this is a great place to start.