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Charles Stross – ToastToast is Charles Stross' first published work of fiction. He wrote the introduction in 2000, it hit the shelves in 2002; and in 2006 it was released into the wilds of the Interwebs on a Creative Commons license as it was out of print, and no-one was interested in re-printing it. This is a review of the electronic version – get your own, the link is below the review! And of course go buy his other books.

Toast is a collection of short stories, and it obviously is older than the current collection, Wireless, (yes, I'm reading things out of sequence yet again). It contains an introduction by the author, 10 stories (each with a short introduction, too), and a 2005 update/afterword for the re-release.

The introduction in itself is very interesting – it talks about the acceleration of the rate of change (and the associated socio-technological developments), and what this means for us, as well as for the poor SF writer: Change destroys Science Fictional futures. And accelerating change destroys futures even faster. Welcome to the brave 1st decate of the 21st Century, a decade which will destroy more SF futures than any ten year span that preceded it.

Otherwise we get:
Antibodies – the Copenhagen Interpretation is wrong, we're living in an EWG universe. The story follows 'Geoff Smith' and his associates from a group of people from another time line, trying to allow the universe of the story to survive. You see, mathematics is dangerous, and a critical proof has just been published. And bootstrapped Artificial Intelligence aka a runaway informational transcendence is not a good thing, not that early in the history of the universe...
The story reminds me strongly of a lot of his later output, especially in topic. Neat, and engaging.

Bear Trap – A man and his Company AI (this doesn't seem to be a problem here...) are on the run after messing up during a Galaxy-wide economic crash....
Reminiscent of Schismatrix-are Sterling. Fun, if a tad vapid.

Extracts from the Club Diary – these are snapshots from the annals of a secretive/secret club and society, spanning from 1889 to the future on the moon. The society are coffee addicts, always on the lookout for the perfect brew...
This made me giggle, repeatedly. And yes, I do/did drink coffee.

A Colder War
– Lovecrafts 'At the Mountains of Madness' meets Oliver North. This is available on the web on its own, which is where I read it previously. It's written like a documentary, with film set instructions, pseudo-multi-media inserts etc. The fact that he makes this work is amazing in itself, such attempts frequently fall flat in my experience.
It's a fun pastiche, and a precursor, in spirit, of the Laundry series. Except, maybe, for the very bleak ending which changes the story, in a very Frederik Brown way.

Toast: A Con Report – Old Hackers never die, they just sprout more grey hair, their t-shirts fade, and they move on to stranger and more obscure toys. Toast-9 is the annual conference of the Association for Retrocomputing Meta-Machinery. The story plays on the topics of being Human vs being Post-Human. People wear smart clothes, which expose them to continuous information burn. Humans without augmentation are on the verge of becoming obsolete, cannot hack it anymore – 'the cutting edge is not amenable to humans'.
It's somehow sad, rather realistic, and moderately scary.

Ship of Fools – a 93/94 Y2K spoof, following a group of techies et al on a low-tech cruise over the fateful date and 'the end of civilization as we know it'. There are echoes of A C Clarke's 'The 9 Million Names of God' in there, too...
Very early take on the topic, and it made me giggle. Yes, I was responsible for Y2K for a multinational consultancy.

Dechlorinating the Moderator – This is another pseudo-Con Report, and a terrible pun to boot. It reports, briefly, on Particulate, the con for Entropians, Roboticists, and Hard Physics geeks.
Fun to read, and somehow reminiscent of a Warren Ellis 'Brain Haemorrhage' rant.

Yellow Snow – A future drug dealer modifies his system to piss Heroin-precursors, which are easily converted into the real thing; then uses an experimental time machine to jump back into the 20th century to make a fortune. He lands in a time line where drugs have been de-criminalized and are freely (and very cheaply) available...
Er, this didn't do much for me. It's kinda Cyberpunk, and contains some classic Stross language, but that's about all I can say in its favour.

Big Brother Iron – A novella-length story (I think). Dystopian, disillusioned, even with revolutions, and decidedly Orwellian. Jim O'Brien is an OverStaffCommander on the Computer, working for the Party (note the Capitals...). Kenny, one of his SysAdmins, has just been hanged for 'casting doubt on the integrity of Party-validated information systems'. You see – the party cannot be wrong.
There are machinations, wheels within wheels. It makes for compulsive reading – this could have been a Novel (but would it have worked as well at that length?). Good stuff, either way.

Lobsters – This is what turned into the 1st chapter of the marvellous Accelerando, or at least a version very close to it. Given how much has been said on that topic (including by myself) I only want to point out that this is Top Stuff, and Go Get It And Read It. Ok?

Title: Toast
Author: Charles Stross
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL:
Publisher:  Cosmos Books
Publication Date: 2002/2006
Review Date: 100506
ISBN: 0809556030
Price: free
Book URL:
Author URL:
Pages: depends on how you print it, eh?
Format: HTML, ePub, MobiPocket, Aportis, RTF
Topic: SF
Topic: Short Stories

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