Book Review from the Pocket Pistol: Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross (Roughly 425 Pages)
The sequel to Singularity Sky, it follows the usual pattern for sequels: it’s more action-packed and less thought provoking. Luckily, Singularity Sky (which made my list of recommended fiction books) was pretty thought provoking, so there was a lot of room for the sequel to have less depth without actually sucking. The cover of the copy I picked up from a used book store quotes Entertainment Weekly, saying “A Hollywood thriller with a cyberpunk heart.” That’s pretty accurate, except I wouldn’t call it a cyberpunk heart so much as a cyberpunk face. Too bad I don’t consider that description very complimentary, at least in comparison with its predecessor, Singularity Sky.
In addition to its somewhat superficial character, this novel also misuses the term “libertarian” exactly once, where it should say “anarchist” — one of those things that I can’t help but notice. If this had happened in dialog, it would have been perfectly excusable, but the mistaken usage occurred in the narrative.
The pacing of the story is excellent, and the two primary characters are both very sympathetic. I also quite like the way the moral and ethical ambiguity of the Forces Behind The Scenes in Singularity Sky is maintained here, as well, though the way the author doesn’t really address that ambiguity strikes me as an unfortunately missed opportunity. In fact, the way the author avoids addressing that ambiguity seems like it may be a result of some kind of assumption that those forces are actually “good guys”, in much the same way that crime dramas are often predicated upon the notion that police officers and detectives are always “good guys” — and thus justified in behaving in a manner inconsistent with Constitutional protections of individual rights.
Overall, it’s definitely worth a read, if you’ve already read Singularity Sky and don’t have something more “important” waiting for your attention, but it isn’t a really critical read. In short, Singularity Sky is mandatory; Iron Sunrise is optional.