August 10th, 2004

A Tuesday lunchtime "A quick dose of the Strosses" review: Iron Sunrise

Charlie Stross' first published novel Singularity Sky (aka Festival Of Fools) introduced us to the post-Singularity world of the Eschaton, and to Rachel Mansour, UN weapons inspector. Rachel's back in Stross' latest novel Iron Sunrise, and bringing the Eschaton's agent (and now her husband) Martin along.

Unusual weapons lie at the heart of Iron Sunrise's complex plot. Someone has destroyed a star, and the planet Moscow. Its core iron-bombed, the star supernovas - leaving a widening circle of destruction. Moscow's revenge weapons, relativistic missiles, have launched, headed for its nearest rival New Dresden. It's a one way ticket unless three of Moscow's ambassadors send the recall code. It's just a pity that someone is killing them one by one...

Just over 3 and half light years away from Moscow, the space station of Old Newfoundland 4 is waiting the radiation wavefront, and its own doom. An evacuee gothette is being hunted by dogs, as she's found something unusual instead of boarding her ship. Wednesday is a bearer of secrets, secrets that someone doesn't want to be heard. The Eschaton is trying to find out who killed Moscow and why, while Wednesday is just trying to stay alive. Toss in Rachel and Martin, sent by the UN to try and find out who's killing the diplomats, a gang of heavies from the Re-Mastered Race (a bunch of nasties who want to kill the Eschaton to instantiate their own version of the Singularity), along with an old warblogger (a cross between Spider Jerusalem and a Christopher Brookmyre character) who's on the trail of something big. Mix them all into a single space liner, and you've got the recipe for a caper thriller Stross style.

Stross gives us a complex, many-layered story, peppered with memorable characters, and a fast moving plot. Unlike most space opera, where the fate of the future hangs in the hands of one man, Stross' characters are concerned with preserving the status quo. This is the best of all possible worlds, and they'd like to keep it that way, thank you. Even it means making unlikely alliances along the way.

Another recommended read.

[Insert usual Stross disclaimer here. Oh, and note that I was an early reader and sounding board for ideas, so my name's in the front of the book...]
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Get ready for the Perseids... says:
PERSEID METEORS: The Perseid meteor shower peaks this week. Look for rare but lovely Perseid Earthgrazers when the sun goes down on Wednesday, August 11th. Then, before dawn on Thursday, August 12th, go outside for the main event: as many as 60 meteors per hour. Getting away from city lights is a good idea: dark skies reveal more meteors.

VENUS AND THE MOON: Early Thursday morning just before dawn when the Perseid meteor shower is supposed to be most intense, Venus and the crescent moon will appear side-by-side in the eastern sky. This lovely pair would be worth waking up for even if there were no meteor shower.
To help spot the shower, the BBC gives a map of just where to look, while Spaceweather gives you the option of listening to the meteors...
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