Iron Sunrise – Charles Stross (2006)
‘Charles Stross’s visionary debut novel, Singularity Sky, was hailed as ‘a carnival of ideas’. Now he confirms his reputation as a writer at the very cutting edge of science fiction with his stunning follow-up novel, Iron Sunrise.
When the planet of New Moscow was brutally destroyed, its few survivors launched a counter-attack against the most likely culprit: the neighbouring system of trade rival, new Dresden. But New Dresden wasn’t responsible and, as the deadly missiles approach their target, Rachel Mansour, agent for the interests of Old earth, is assigned to find out who was.
The one person who does know is a disaffected teenager who calls herself Wednesday Shadowmist. But Wednesday has no idea where she might be hiding this significant information. Time is limited and if Rachel can’t resolve this mystery it will mean the annihilation of an entire world…’
Blurb from the 2007 Orbit paperback edition
Continuing the adventures of UN Black Chamber agent Rachel Mansour, Stross takes us into rather darker realms, albeit laced with a good dash of post-modern humour.
When an advanced weapon causes New Moscow’s sun to go nova (the ‘Iron Sunrise’ of the title) the blame falls on their trade rivals and stellar neighbours, New Dresden. One of the evacuees from New Moscow is Wednesday Shadowmist, a strange girl who has had an invisible friend since childhood called Herman. Herman, as previous readers will know, is a subprogramme of the godlike singularity the Eschaton and Herman is worried that the Eschaton is unaware of the development of such weapons. In Old Newfie, a new Moscow space station, Wednesday finds some documents which Herman deems very important.
Meanwhile, Rachel and her husband Martin (another friend of Herman’s) are sent to the area to investigate since someone is killing off new Moscow ambassadors to stop them cancelling a clutch of missiles which are heading through interstellar space toward New Dresden.
It soon becomes clear that a new power is rising in the network of human worlds. The ReMastered are a civilisation of what could be possibly described as Nazi Mormons.
They are highly augmented, very strong, seemingly devoid of compassion and are committed to recording everyone’s ‘soul’ (i.e. a digital copy of their consciousness) in order to upload them into the ‘Unborn God’ which is a posited ‘humanised’ rival to the Eschaton.
It’s a solid piece of work, full of ideas, but one has to say that lately the styles of certain writers seem to be merging into each other. It reads very like Asher, and if Alastair Reynolds didn’t have such a distinctively rich gothic edge, I’m sure he’d fit into the same template.