Invisible Sun by Charles Stross
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The good and the bad.
First of all, ya'll should know I'm a big Stross fanboy -- and have been ever since Accelerando and hardly anything he's ever written since then has come off as anything less than extremely interesting. I didn't even have a problem with the Eschaton's get out of jail free card.
However... this book, with some admittedly awesome ideas interspersed throughout, didn't land the way it should have. Even Charlie called it in the apology at the end of the novel. It was plagued by 2020 and the tragic death of his editor and probably a bit of burnout on a massive multiple-timeline alternate history geopolitical nightmare of a tale that was originally planned to be TWO more books rather than this rushed, smaller, single capstone.
Don't get me wrong here. I loved these spin-offs of the Merchant Princes with its Cold War sensibilities and escalations between whole earth timelines where history came out VERY different. The idea behind it and the execution has been pretty awesome. Better than the Merchant Princes originals, even. Machiavellian politics and hardliner misunderstandings about what a NUKE happens to be is a very precious thing to me. Think Renaissance Italy coming up against American Politics with a whole bunch of cold war spies hopping between timelines and you've got a good picture.
So what happened?
This one felt rushed. When we're heading up to not just 2, but alt worlds 3, 4, and 5, with a world blasted to hell in one, and we're dealing with joint ventures to MARS, when there are succession issues in some and all-out military coups in another and things get very, very hairy indeed, I found myself feeling a bit short-changed on the character front. The basic plots were great, the tech and the drill-down of the complications are FANTASTIC and even mind-blowing, in perfect Stross style -- but I gradually found out, much to my chagrin, that I wanted to savor it. I would have been much happier with spending a lot more time with the characters, being reintroduced in a more fluid way, let them find new loves, obsessions, etc, before throwing them into the soup.
In other words, I think I would have preferred two books instead of one short capstone. I think Stross's normally excellent quality got strangled by a time deadline and/or the desire to just FINISH it and move on. I can't blame him, but I can feel pity for the series.
This is NOT a bad book, mind you. I'm being harsh because I've loved the others and just wanted to see it put to bed with all the accolades it should have deserved. I mean, seriously, this is some funky-cool s**t going on. I just wanted more for it.
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