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Wireless by Charles Stross
  • Author: Charles Stross
  • Title: Wireless
  • Size PDF ver: 1266 kb
  • Size ePUB ver: 1682 kb
  • Size Fb2 ver: 1135 kb
  • ISBN: 0441018939
  • ISBN13: 978-0441018932
  • Other formats: azw mobi lrf doc
  • Category: Literature & Fiction
  • Subcat: Short Stories and Anthologies
  • Language: English
  • Rating: 4.6 of 5
  • Votes: 531
  • Publisher: Ace (June 29, 2010)
  • Hardcover: Here
Wireless

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“Stross’s work offers a potent reminder of why short stories used to be the preferred delivery method for science fiction.” – The A.V. Club                This selection of speculative fiction runs the gamut—from “Palimpsest,” a decidedly nontraditional time-travel novella, to “Dawn on the Farm,” an adventure of hapless secret agent Bob Howard (star of the Laundry novels: The Atrocity Archives, The Jennifer Morgue, and The Fuller Memorandum). Also included are “MAXOS,” a stunning example of the new flash-fiction form; his Locus Award-winning novella, “Missile Gap”; and “Unwirer,” a collaboration with Cory Doctorow. Rounding out the contents are “A Colder War,” “Rogue Farm,” “Trunk and Disorderly,” and “Snowball’s Chance,” four unique, genre-bending tales that could only come from the limitless imagination of one of the twenty-first century’s most daring visionaries, Charles Stross.


Reviews num: (7)

Ariseym
Disclosure - I am a Charlie Stross fan. Read this review with that in mind.

This is a collection of 9 short stories and novellas. Of the stories there are 3 standouts;

"Missile Gap" - which should be made into a novel. Earth's crust is laid out on a huge disc orbiting another star by aliens who watch how we manage with the changed circumstances as we explore and find evidence of other planets and intelligences similarly placed.

"Palimpsest" - ditto. This is a modern rendering of Asimov's "The End of Eternity" and much better and richer by far. This tale alone is worth the price of the book.

"Unwirer" - a collaboration with Cory Doctorow which is a bitter sweet, almost poignant tale about a US dystopia due to corporate interests controlling how the internet infrastructure is developed. This is a wonderful cautionary tale populated with believable characters.

The weakest stories are:

"Snowball's Chance" - a comedy based on beating the devil
"Trunk and Disorderly" - a comedic precursor idea to the novel Saturn's Children, but which doesn't really work that well.

This is a worthy successor to his collection "Toast" and affirms for me why Stross is one of the few great contemporary SF writers. His imagination roams far and wide and treads ground where few others have gone.

Highly recommended.
Erienan
I've been a fan of Charles Stross writing ever since I encountered his homage to Lovecraft in _A Colder War_. This volume reprints that story together with eight others of varying lengths. If you prefer novel-length stories you should be aware that two of the titles (_Missile Gap_ and _Palimpsest_) are substantial enough to hold their own with much longer works.

The first story, _Missile Gap_, is set on an Earth that has been translated to a giant flat disk and set in an ocean with many other translated worlds. It's a little bleak - don't expect a bunch of plucky humans to triumph because of their native can-do-it-ness. The vast godlike forces that could do something like this would be practically oblivious to the survival of species, let alone individuals.

The second is _Rogue Farm_: A farmer has to deal with a post-human entity that wants to use his farm as a launching site. It's a very short (and light) work and I didn't really care for it.

_A Colder War_ is one of my favorite stories. Charles Stross uses Lovecraft's stories as the basis for an alternate history Cold War thriller. It's *very* bleak - the best possible outcome is the annihilation of humanity. I'd love to see this as a graphic novel.

_Maxos_ is a vignette originally published in _Nature_. It's quite funny and deserves more elaboration.

_Down on the Farm_ is set in Stross's Laundry universe (_The Atrocity Archives_, _The Jennifer Morgue_) which use Lovecraftian horror as their background (they're related but not connected to _A Colder War_ which also appears in this collection). The Laundry stories seem to follow a standard pattern - the narrator is thrust into a crisis where things are not what they appear and he has to save the day through improvisation, facing eldritch horrors which are often less frightening than the nightmare that is government work. I liked this story, but it doesn't really stand alone. I'd recommend reading Stross's _The Atrocity Archives_ first.

_Unwirer_ was written with Cory Doctorow. The hero is part of a team that sets up wireless networks against government and MPAA interference. It's surprising how well the two authors' styles merge but it's not a very deep story.

_Sonwball's Chance_ is a deal-with-the-de'il story (I once read that every author has to do one of these) that taps into Stross's interest in planetary engineering and government bureaucracy. It's short and slight but worth the read.

_Trunk and Disorderly_ is a Wodehouse pastiche. I used to like Wodehouse but I just couldn't get into this story. The author notes its relationship to _Saturn's Children_: if you were a big fan of the latter you might appreciate this more.

The last story, _Palimpsest_ is nearly worth the price of admission by itself. It's more than a little reminiscent of a famous story by Isaac Asimov but so, so much better. The key to time travel is held by an organisation that wants to stop humanity going extinct. To do this it periodically re-seeds Earth with populations taken from earlier iterations of humanity and, between epochs, does things like re-ignite ths sun (which ought to have burned out within a few billion years). This story has it all - deep time, stellar engineering, time travel, paradoxes, the Singulaity and more. The author notes that it's a novella that wanted to be a novel, and I think it feels a little constrained. None the less, it's an amazing read and highly recommended.

I gave this book five stars. There were a few stories I didn't care for, but that's true of any collection. The gems of this collection would be worth buying on their own and justify the ranking.
BlackHaze
I am liking Stross more and more, but my favorite of this collection was On The Farm, a Laundry story, which has spurred me to want to read much more about the Laundry. A Colder War was spectacular as well, with its interesting 'what if' scenario spun off of Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness. I also liked some of the far flung timescape of Palimpsest, which could have been a more gritty version of the Time Lords of Dr. Who fame. I didn't like Trunk And Disorderly. Just not my thing mixing overt humor into sci-fi (Douglas Adams not withstanding). My four star rating comes from the first two stories mentioned; the lack of the fifth comes from the last.
Bine
I wish more authors took the time to consolidate their attempts in mini-stories and "trials" in writing into anthologies like this (and their editors and publishers supported the efforts). These used to be so common in the past, and I think we are much poorer for the loss as we miss many attempts by some of the greats in trying their hands at both novel ideas and approaches to writing. This one by Stross is very good in both forms of writing presented and novel thought provoking stories. Enjoyed it greatly.
Naril
I'm a big fan of the Bob Howard material, adored Halting State and Saturn's Children, loved most of Accelerando, enjoy the Merchant Princes...

This is some of his best stuff. There is a lot here for the modern scifi reader, and a lot of variety, and it is paced well.

I'm not usually a fan of short stories, or short story collections, but this stuff is great.

Once I've made sure there isn't any surprise buttsex, I'm likely to buy a couple copies for co-workers.

(This review was written on the strength of the 3/4ths of the material I've read so far.)
Fecage
This is worth the price to read the novella Palimpsest. The other stories were not as well written, in my opinion.

Most jarring was the fact that the Kindle edition has typos, about one every five pages. It looks like the book was scanned and hyphenated words were recognized incorrectly. There are lots of extra spaces in long words, like "under standing". Most amusing was the use of "time-subjunctive" instead of "time-subjective" in one spot -- good thing time travelers have great grammar!

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