Volume 22, Number 2 (Spring-Summer 2004)

Singularity Sky

by Charles Stross

(Ace Books, 2003)
Reviewed by Pat Matthews

An unknown agency calling itself The Festival begins dropping cell phones out of the sky on a remote colony of the New Republic, a space colony modeled after 19th Century Russia-complete with revolutionaries. Very soon afterwards, the voices at the other end of the cell phones start granting wishes to whoever finds them. Any and all wishes. An elderly Duke becomes a small boy with talking animal companions. People grow wings. Pots of gold and geese that lay golden eggs are commonplace, as is renewed youth. (But don't stand too close to the Golden Goose without radiation shielding!)

Of course, the New Republic sends a battle fleet out after whoever is distributing this forbidden technology. Along for the ride is a clueless offworld engineer, hired to upgrade and maintain the fleet; a UN diplomat with an agenda of her own; and an even more clueless young Political Officer. In the background lurks a superintelligence called the Eschaton, whose only agenda is to keep the time stream clear and paradox-free. And riding along with the Festival is a group of beings called The Critics, one of whom is a lot like the Baba Yaga.

Laugh, bite your nails, yawn your way through far too much detail on space battles if you don't enjoy these things, and get a heavy dose of static society exposed to the free market of ideas and goods in a wild romp worthy of our own post-Singularity future. Lots of fun!

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