Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Book Review

OK, Charles Stross' Iron Sunrise.

Not the deapest of novels, but solid nano-future fun.

It begins with a superb depiction of a solar system dying in a sudden explosion of a its sun. A chilling read. Most disaster scenarios rely on the aftermath for their horror - the survivors are the emotional hook. We just cannot comprehend millions and billions of deaths. The explosion of a sun, that awesome fire god our attavistic nature is so attuned to, is the annihilation of everything. A disaster without consequence, in a very real sense, the end of a universe.

That's how it begins - the story then develops to look at the aftermath. In a galaxy like our own times, with weapons of mass destruction, petty politics and mutually assured destruction. The intrepid heroes set off to prevent a futile retaliation - and on the way encounter luxury passenger class, killer clowns and space Nazis.

The story is redolent with suitably post-modern moral ambiguities, with a neatly twisty ending. The plot is reasonably paced, and allows us to take in a universe that is essentailly our world today scattered across the galaxy (In this novel, and Singularity Sky, its predecessor, the premise is that a hard take-off sigularity has scattered humanity across the stars by means unknown - sneidng them, effectively, backwards in time, so that moments (Earthtime) after the event civilisations hunded of years old spring up complete with the extrapolatoion of ethnic tensions between Serbs, Germans and Californians).

The only weakness, I found, was Wednesday. To give as little of the plot away as I can, all I'll say is that her reaction to devastating and overwhelming personal tragedy didn't convince - it read more like a convenient plot device than a study in human emotion. Considering this reaction is central to the plot but not the centre of the story may account for this. It's only a small weakness that we can, if we enjoy the book, forgive.

I'm looking forward to the next one recently out Accelerando (different setting it appears).


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