“Singularity Sky” by Charles Stross

Audiobook version.

Has a lot of interesting pieces, but not very well developed as a whole.

The historical premise is that the Eschaton, a God-like AI civilization, scattered humanity across the galaxy several hundred years ago.  Their only commandment is to not violate causality (ie don’t do time travel), presumably to protect them from someone going back and deleting the Eschaton from history.  The New Republic, composed of ethnic Russians and pretty much modeled on pre-Soviet Imperial Russia, is under attack by the Festival, a mysterious entity besieging one of the Republic’s remote colony worlds.  A fleet is dispatched with a sneaky plan to go into the future several thousand years, learn about the Festival, then go back in time to just before the Festival arrived at the colony.  This plan is sure to attract the attention of “Big E,” so Rachel the UN weapons inspector and Martin the engineer are determined to stop it, lest the Eschaton over-react and supernova humanity out of existence.

That’s piece one.  Lots of “military SF” bits with scenes on the bridge, “fire torpedo 1!” and all that.

Second piece is what the Festival really is – an automated information collection and trading machine.  It gives the people of the planet whatever they want in exchange for “entertainment” or information.  Naturally this wrecks the economy and the whole social structure of the New Republic on the world.  Some weird stuff goes on too, like the former governor who is granted his wish to be young and have a life of adventure – unfortunately adventure is dangerous, with zombie clowns wielding nanobot-disintegration pies and the like.  And there’s a Soviet-style worker’s revolution trying to break out until the people realize they don’t need any government when their every wish is granted immediately by the Festival.

Piece three is the romance between Rachel and Martin.  Both are tired and weary of long lives extended by advanced medical techniques, but believe in what they are doing.

As I said earlier, these pieces didn’t quite gel very well for me.  I never really got into the story, even though the premise seemed pretty interesting.

The idea of the Eschaton scattering humanity reminded me of “Riverworld.”  Only in that book, the scattering is after death.

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