Wireless Hardcover – July 7, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
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About the Author
- ASIN : 0441017193
- Publisher : Ace Hardcover; 1st edition (July 7, 2009)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780441017195
- ISBN-13 : 978-0441017195
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Item Weight : 1.3 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.64 x 1.21 x 9.32 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,620,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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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.
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.
There was not one story here I did not thoroughly enjoy, although Trunk and Disordely was amusing rather than hilarious. Fans of Wodehouse may like it better. Palimpsest has many similarities to Accelerando. It seems to me that Stross is just seething with clever ideas and short stories allows him to explore those that might not sustain a novel. If you have not sampled his compact and witty prose before, here's your chance.
Top reviews from other countries
Fish slice aardwolf.
The style is so similar, its sometimes confusing s to which background belongs to which story.
I don't normally buy short stories, I won't again.