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Here are a fewCharles Stross - Wireless thoughts on Wireless, a collection of short stories by Charles Stross, a book a received from Little, Brown Books for review (thanks).

This is, like every other collection of short stories and novelettes that I've ever read a mixed bag, covering a wide scope of topics, writing styles, and quality of story. Overall it's entertaining if not terribly complex or deep; but then most short stories are written as test balloons, trials, and to play with ideas that didn't warrant full size novels, so that's par for the course, if not better given the case at hand.

The book contains stories written between 98 and 08; all of which (save Palimpset) were published previously, some in electronic form only. Given the above, here is a quick run through the contents:

Missile Gap: a cold-war story, with humanity and all of Earth removed into a huge flat plain world, in some kind of tank (?), in the Magellan cloud. Rather weak, in my opinion, this would have had more potential. Fun for Yuri Gagarin's desperation as pilot of a Soviet Ekranoplan (as space flight is not possible anymore).

Rogue Farm: slightly dystopian, slightly drug-induced nightmare, slightly styled after 'classic' SF short stories by the 'old masters'. Rather fun, IMHO.

A Colder War: a Laundry short story, and a rather neat take on the Oliver North affair (and it's all about K-Thulu...). Great fun, with a weak-ish and bleak end.

MAXOS: we've received alien radio signals, and we've just started to decipher them. The funniest thing Stross has written so far, in my opinion.

Down on the Farm: another Laundry short story, fun in a rather superficial way.

Unwirer: A collaboration with Cory Doctorow, containing ISPs, Film/Record execs, web access restrictions, and the people who rebel against them. Very topical, and with a lot of potential for something bigger (although this would not really be a Stross story, then, I suspect). It feels unfinished in its current form.

Snowball's Chance: 'Fool-the-Devil' in a Scottish Pub, in a world where global warming has killed off the Gulf Stream, plunging Scottland (and most likely England, too) into a much colder climate. Fun, if not very Stross, again (but isn't that what short stories are for? Try out new or different things?)

Trunk and Disorderly:
A Wodehouse pastiche. Charlie doesn't really do comedy, and this shows why. It feels forced, and less than joyful. Then again, I'm just not the type for stories like this, regardless of who wrote them.

Palimpset: the only story in the book which has not been published anywhere else before (take that, completists!). This is centred around Pierce, a new recruit to Stasis, which is the organization which guides humanity down the millennia. It contains time travel using wormholes, extinction events (external and self made, and rather regular in occurrence), and re-seeding of humanity by Stasis. There is internal intrigue, lots of play with standard time-travel paradoxes (most of which don't seem to apply to the scenario for some reasons – I'm not sure if the approach really adds up as it is presented). This was, according to Charlie, a story which really wanted to be a Novel. I think it should have been, it's rather good already; more, and more worked out story would be even better.

Each story is presented with a short post-script by the Author, providing some insights into the history and circumstances of how the story came to be, which frequently helps to shed a different, and more differentiated light on a story.

Overall a nice package, if not essential (despite the tag line on the cover...). I'm not sure if the one single new story really justifies buying the book, but if you haven't seen most of the stories, or want to own them on paper instead of in soft form then this might well be for you.

Title: Wireless
Author: Charles Stross
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL:
Publisher:  Orbit
Publisher URL:
Publication Date: 2009
Review Date: 100405
ISBN: 9781841497716
Price: UKP 14.99
Pages: 352
Format: Hardback
Topic: SF
Topic: Short Stories

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