Iron Sunrise

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Iron Sunrise is the second novel by Charles Stross, hailed by many in the field of science fiction as the person to watch. The novel opens with Wednesday Shadowmist, a teenager, trying to escape pursuers on the station Old Newfoundland Four. Wednesday hides a satchel she had been carrying before she is caught and returned to her parents, who then (along with the rest of the planet Moscow) evacuate right before its sun explodes.

At the same time, Rachel Mansour, a secret agent-type of Old Earth, is sent to investigate why leaders of different worlds are being assassinated one by one. Both she and Wednesday (and others) are fighting against a race called the ReMastered, who are a mix of religious fanaticism and technological extremeness. Wednesday knows the ReMastered destroyed her world, and she wants to make them pay any way she can.

Stross writes in the tradition of other hard science fiction writers such as Larry Niven (exact science as opposed to comic book reality), which is always refreshing. However, there are little things that get in the way of his story. Instead of picking a way to refer to a character and using it throughout the novel (i.e. first or last name), Stross seems to use whichever name he feels like writing at the time and that causes confusion. This flip-flopping leads one to think that there are more characters involved in a particular scene than are actually present. These and other editing problems (i.e. Wednesday, in the first three pages, is described as both sixteen and seventeen years old) jar one out of the story.

Except for a few distractions, Iron Sunrise is a fun read. The plot itself is typical space opera stuff, but sometimes space operas can be a guilty pleasure.