I read Charlie Stross’s Iron Sunrise over the weekend. It’s a sequel to Singularity Sky, which I reviewed briefly when it came out. I enjoyed Singularity Sky, but I didn’t feel that it was that strong of a book; it had some interesting ideas, and a couple of the characters were memorable, but it didn’t completely work for me. I probably would have been happier buying the paperback, frankly.
Iron Sunrise resurrects the two or three most memorable characters from Singularity Sky and sends them, plus a handful of new characters, on a quest to stop someone from killing two planets. The main character is a covert UN “black chamber” weapons inspector in a world where there are too many people with too many fun toys. The big problem isn’t nutcases who build nukes in their kitchen (although cheap heavy elements and home nanofabs are a bad mix); the real problem tends to come from authoritarian institutions who are willing to get in a fight with something that introduces itself as “I am not your god” and novas the stars of people who step too far outside the lines.
I really enjoyed Iron Sunrise much more then Singularity Sky, although I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if I hadn’t read the previous novel first. There were a number of situations in Iron that echoed similar situations in Singularity, but played off the similarity towards interesting goals. Basically, I found it to be well written with interesting characters, plots, and gizmos. Just the thing for a summer weekend. There were a couple points in the book where it felt a little too 2004, and a few other points where it felt like we were hearing some of Stross’s website rants all over again (like the panopticon bit), but none of it really detracted from my enjoyment of the story. All in all, it’s one of the top books that I’ve read this year (along with his earlier Atrocity Archives).
Still, as good as his novels are becoming, his short stories tend to be even better. Go read “Lobsters” online some time for an example.