A while ago I read Accelerando by Charles Stross, a whirlwind tour of the solar system and beyond before, during, and after a Technological Singularity. It was an enjoyable read at a breakneck pace. So when I was in Chapters in Winnipeg, I picked up Iron Sunrise, which features a different Singularity and a different future. It was another enjoyable and breakneck read, though a couple things bothered me–Stross really likes his adverbs, and they had a tendency to stand out for me, for whatever reason; and the book is actually a sequel to his Singularity Sky, but I had to go online to find that out. Nowhere on the covers or inside the book is this little fact mentioned. Had it been, I probably would have picked up Singularity Sky instead. (Oh well. It’s not the first time I’ve started in the middle of a series; I read William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy 2–1-3.)
OK, here’s the background: in the dawning decades of the 21st century, a godlike AI was born, one that calls itself the Eschaton. It deported something like 90% of the human population of Earth, via wormholes, to Earthlike planets in a volume of space hundreds of light-years in diameter, and issued a decree that the human race was not to monkey about with time-travel and other causality violations. The Eschaton is deadly serious about not messing with causality; more than once he/it has wiped out a population to ensure that the rules are obeyed.
There’s another group, the ReMastered, who are eerily similar to the Nazis–blond, blue-eyed, brutal–who seek to destroy the Eschaton, and replace it in some far-future time with their own AI that they have named the Unborn God.
As the book opens, someone–no one’s sure who, of if they know, they ain’t telling–has killed the star that the planet Moscow orbits around. Through a piece of technological magic, the core of the star has been artificially aged a billion trillion years in mere objective seconds. The star goes nova, and Moscow is no more, evaporated in the blast.
The survivors–mostly people who lived in stations orbiting Moscow Prime at a distance of several light-years–get the hell out of Dodge. They mostly settle in the stations of Septagon system. But there’s a huge catch.
Moscow–like most systems–had a long-range deterrent program in place, intended to prevent such an attack. There are four slower-than-light craft loaded with drones, now enroute to a system named New Dresden, with which Moscow had a simmering trade dispute. If they don’t get a stop code from at least two Moscow diplomats, they will, in four years, slam their drones into New Dresden at something like 99% of the speed of light. New Dresden, like Moscow, will be no more.
And someone’s killing the Muscovite diplomats, one by one.
And so it falls to UN Agent Rachel Mansour, aided by Wednesday, a Muscovite survivor, and a motley crew of others, to stop whoever it is that wants New Dresden to die. And they’re running out of time. And diplomats.