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Literature / The Eschaton Series

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A Speculative Fiction series by Charles Stross about a universe where a godlike AI called the "Eschaton" has randomly uprooted and spread humanity across the universe. Contains two books, Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise.

This series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Rachel Mansour.
  • Alcubierre Drive: One of about six methods of FTL travel or communication currently in use. It's mentioned to be extremely dangerous and difficult to use.
  • Alliterative Title: Singularity Sky.
  • Balkanize Me: Earth is mentioned to have tens if not hundreds of thousands of states. They seem to get along, however. At one point when the New Republic is trying to establish what "nationality" Martin is, he tries to explain that they don't really think that way on Earth any more.
  • Beam Spam: The New Republic's ships are covered with powerful LIDAR sensor grids, which double as a massive laser batteries.
  • Big Bad: In the second book, the ReMastered
  • Bittersweet Ending: In Iron Sunrise, disaster is averted, and Rachel gets her vengeance on the Corrupt Bureaucrat, but in doing so finds out that the ReMastered have infiltrated Old Earth and realizes there's a lot more work to do
    • Arguably this is over-shadowed by the epic Downer Ending.
  • Clownification: The Mimes are near-dead white creatures who attack their victims by throwing nanotech pies at them — the nanobots transform the victim into a new Mime, complete with pies of their own. Fortunately for those being pursued by Mimes, the nanobots also induce certain tics in those affected, who occasionally walk against the wind or get stuck in invisible boxes.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle - At the end of Singularity Sky the Festival offhandedly eats the New Republic's entire navy. The author has compared it in interviews to a Napoleonic-era fleet of tall ships going up against a modern-day submarine.
    • A submarine whose automatically-launched torpedoes destroy the fleet before the circus-cum-sysadmin running the thing has even realised there's a threat.
    • Stross says his inspiration for the book was the Russian Baltic fleet's 18,000-mile journey to its crushing defeat in the Battle of Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese War. Complete with an analog of the Dogger Bank incident.
  • "Day of the Week" Name: Wednesday Shadowmist
  • Deus Est Machina: The Eschaton bootstrapped itself from a telephone exchange.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Festival descends on a quiet and fairly conservative people; causes chaos in its pursuit of entertainment; is accompanied by Critics, Traders, a bewildering Fringe and terrifying Mimes; and finally departs as suddenly as it came, leaving the locals still wondering what happened. Charles Stross currently lives in Edinburgh.
  • Downer Ending: Iron Sunrise All indications show that multi-cultural space Nazis will beat an all powerful AI with a non-intervention rule so painfully it posses no memory of their existence...
  • The Dragon: Portia Hoechst in Iron Sunrise, as an ambitious field commander for the ReMastered.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Wednesday Shadowmist in Iron Sunrise - although she's pale because she wants to be. She has chromatophores in her skin which means she can change her skin color.
  • Fetish: Lolitas are mentioned explicitly in passing and various fetishes are very explicitly mentioned in the second book. Wednesday comments on exhibitionist BDSM in progress. invoked
  • Future Imperfect: Unsurprising, given the mess the Eschaton left behind it, but Rachel's grasp of 20th century history is a bit muddled (she compares the cruise ship she's on to an old-fashioned nuclear vessel like the Titanic), and Martin comes from a "traditionalist" village in the People's Republic of West Yorkshire where they believe that real Yorkshiremen wear kilts and drink pints of Tetley's tea note .
  • A God Am I: Subverted in that the Eschaton specifically states it is not God - however, it is willing to take strong, Old Testament action so that causality will not be violated.
    • A number of the tribal communities that Eschaton recruited colonists from ignore this rule and worship Eschaton, and tend to be belligerent about it with those that read the Eschaton's laws as written. Warbloggers are able to make quite a living off these conflicts.
  • A God I Am Not: The Eschaton.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Franz, gradually over the course of Iron Sunrise, because Portia killed his girlfriend, but not without leaving open the possibility of resurrecting her to make him cooperate.
  • Inspiration Nod: Having made the New Republic military a conscious parody of Napoleonic-era Prussia, Stross then gives their leader, Admiral Kurtz, the same delusion as Prussia's Generalfeldmarschall von Blucher: he believes he's pregnant with an elephant.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Frank "the Nose" Johnson, whose blog has the rights to the name "The Times of London".
  • La Résistance: The New Republic's determined attempt to recreate 19th century East European feudalism in a post-Singularity universe has naturally created one of these, with a philosophy that combines communism, anarcho-capitalism and radical transhumanism.
  • Lensman Arms Race + Space Cold War: The Eschaton and the ReMastered. The AI perceives time in a non-linear fashion, hence causality weapons give it a major headache. Despite this, it does not have any "Future" memories of this Nazi cult and is understandably worried, as its hinted that this is a sign that the ReMastered won their cold war. How this can happen is unusual considering that Eschaton can, and will erase threats to itself from existence.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Vassily Muller reveals that he is Burya Rubenstein's son just before trying to kill him near the end of Singularity Sky.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The ReMastered are very Nazi-like - (their philosophy has been "memetically engineered" from Nazism to be just as unpleasant without containing the seeds of its own destruction.) To the point where they make The Draka look like pleasant company.
    • In fact, Stross's working title for the book was Space Nazis Must Die.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: Or, rather, "Never bring a tazer to an artillery duel."
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Rachel laughs at Martin's supposed West Yorkshire accent during the lifeboat's escape.
  • Orphaned Series: Stross has explained that he will not be writing a third book in the series because he feels he made some mistakes so serious at the end of Iron Sunrise as to make that universe unviable.
  • Outside-Context Problem: The Festival is definitely a threat to the New Republic, in more ways than one. However, the Republic's government & military have no idea of what the threat really is, and reflexively place the Festival in the nice, neat mental box of "enemy invasion." This leads directly to the aforementioned Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • The Purge: In Iron Sunrise, Portia has all the agents who supported Vannevar Scott's rogue operation killed (at least temporarily) when she takes over his department.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: The Critics are giant intelligent mole-rats.
  • Sequel Hook: The end of Iron Sunrise, as described in Bittersweet Ending, above. Nothing will come of it, since Stross has abandoned the series.
  • Shout-Out: Little references to other works are scattered throughout the books. At one point a wheelchair-bound character stands up and shouts, "My emperor! I can walk!"
    • Brits who lived out the Thatcher years will recognize a reference to the People's Republic of South Yorkshire. (The seat held by the man who made that remark is now held by Nick Clegg...).
  • Subspace Ansible: FTL communications are possible via "causal channels," which make use of quantum-entangled particles.
  • The Commandments: The Eschaton gave humanity three:
    I am the Eschaton. I am not your god.
    I am descended from you, and I exist in your future.
    Thou shalt not violate causality within my historic light cone. Or else.
  • The Singularity: The big one was the emergence of the Eschaton. The New Republic gets another one when the Festival arrives.
  • Slasher Smile: Portia Hoechst in Iron Sunrise.
  • Time Travel: Used quite originally in Singularity Sky - the New Republic, thinking they are being invaded in far off world, send a fleet designed to get there just after the news of the invasion was sent from the world, so that from the perspective of the people sending the message the fleet arrives immediately. It doesn't work.
  • The Trickster: The Festival is a whole race of tricksters who desire stories.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Averted, much to the shame of the New Republic.
  • Star Killing: The weapon whose test inadvertently triggers the Iron Sunrise.
  • Status Quo Is God: Almost literally. The ban on violating causality is a status quo engineered by the Eschaton and enforced with its godlike powers.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: In an unusual way. Stross realized after Iron Sunrise that he had "irretrievably broken" the series's universe, so he abandoned it. However, he had intended to write a third book, and shared details of the plot on his blog. So, it's a trilogy for which the third book will never be written.
    • The notion of the "Space Pirates of KPMG" eventually resurfaced in 'Neptune's Brood'', in a slightly modified form.
  • United Nations Is a Superpower: In a very peculiar way. It mostly leaves local governments on Earth alone, but it has scores of agents tasked with enforcing the laws of the Eschaton. It also a lot of pull in backwards worlds (like the New Republic) for the mythical association with Earth That Was (which they usually can't distinguish from Earth-That-Still-Is).
    • It should be noted that this UN is not the same organization, but rather a development of the Internet Engineering Task Force (yes) that took on the responsibilities and form of the UN after the post-Singularity Earth had settled down (i.e. suitably modified for a world of tens of thousands of polities and millions to billions of sovereign individuals, rather than 193 nation-states).
  • You Have Failed Me: In Iron Sunrise, Portia Hoechst strangles a subordinate who bungled his assignment to abduct Wednesday as soon as she gets him back on the ship.

Alternative Title(s): Singularity Sky, Iron Sunrise