Sneak look at the fifth volume of Karl Schroeder's triumphant Ashes of Candesce has a sneak peek at Ashes of Candesce, the fifth volume in Karl Schroeder's astounding, heroic Virga series, about a post-Singularity civilization mining a pocket solar-system where the last pocket of human-comprehensible engineering knowledge has been preserved. This is hard-sf-meets-space-opera, full of big ideas and exciting low-gee, kerosene-fuelled pirate ships made of stunted lumber grown under an artificial sun. It's just the perfect mix of philosophy and action.

The rope that their ship had been following through the weightless air of Virga ended at a beacon about a mile ahead. This was a heavy cement cylinder with flashing lamps on its ends. Right now their flickering light was highlighting the rounded shapes of clouds that would otherwise have been invisible in the permanent darkness. Without the rope and the beacon, it would have been impossible for any ship to find this particular spot in the thousands of cubic kilometers of darkness that made up Virga’s sunless reaches.

“We thank you all for coming with us today,” the young thing was saying breathily. “We know the rumors have been intense and widespread. There’ve been stories of monsters, of ancient powers awakened in the dark old corners of Virga. We’re here today to help put any anxieties you might have to rest.”

“There.” The man beside her raised one hand and pressed his index finger against the glass. For a second she was distracted by the halo of condensation that instantly fogged into existence around his fingertip. Then she looked past and into the blackness.

Ashes of Candesce (Excerpt)


  1. I’ve always thought that this series could be adapted into an absolutely incredible 3D movie franchise. 

  2. We read the first book as part of a book club and we all kind of agreed that world outside Virga sounded much more interesting than the one in it. We wanted to learn more about that and spend less time with zero-g steampunk pirates. Just how much do we learn about that stuff in the later books? Is it like Gene Wolfe’s excellent Book of The New Sun series that ramps up slowly but gets into the crazy quantum physics? Or is it just more zero-g steampunk pirates barely cognizant of the universe beyond their existence? I’ve liked other stuff by Kurt Schroeder (his contribution to Metatropolis stands out right now) and I mostly enjoyed Sun of Suns. I just wanted to know more about the universe beyond Virga, which is why I ended up reading and absolutely loving The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi rather than continuing through the rest of the Virga books.

    So, suggestions from people who have read the rest of Virga (so far): Is it for me? Or is it just more like Sun of Suns for the rest of the series, only hinting at the post-singularity stuff outside the bubble?

    1. It’s probably not for you. In later books you do get a stronger sense of the world outside of Virga, and glimpses of a larger, galaxy-wide conflict, but most of the action still takes place in a steam-punkish setting. 

    2. You had me at Gene Wolfe.  Unlike Caleb, I think it IS for you; Virga remains the primary center, but the whole post-post-Singularity world outside of Virga grows increasingly integral to the story & the world.  There are answers to your questions, yes.

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