Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wireless by Charles Stross

Wireless is a nice little collection of short stories by Charles Stross, good for keeping you entertained with his usual style when your attention span is too short for a novel. The first story in this book, Missile Gap, gives us a future world somewhat reminiscent of Niven's Ringworld or Chalker's Well of Souls universe, where some vast and near omnipotent power has whisked the population of Earth away to a discworld the size of a billion Earths. The story of how mankind continues to behave in the same ways as it always has, with petty rivalries and wars, in the face of this new challenge, is rather depressing.

Rogue Farm is a semi-serious tale about a future when people have gone rural once again, taking advantage of bioengineering and memory downloads to become, in some cases, more than human.

A Colder War is a perturbing tribute to Lovecraftian horror. It explores the question of what would have happened if the Soviets and the U.S. had gotten their hands on the eldritch horrors the old master described, and used them to wage a cold war instead of nuclear weapons.

Maxos is a short-short, with a semi-surprise ending only a Nigerian banker could love.

Down on the Farm is a novella set in the same world as The Atrocity Archives, The Fuller Memorandum, and The Jennifer Morgue. Agent Bob Howard of the Laundry is sent off to The Farm, to investigate complaints stemming from alleged maltreatment of medically retired Laundry agents, and has his hands full countering an intrusion from the Other side.

Unwirer envisions a world where the internet was not meant to be free, after all, and the U.S. government pursues those renegades who dare to attempt to get internet access to the masses with the zeal we now reserve for drug smugglers and terrorists.

Snowball's Chance is another satiric look at the results of global climate change. Two Irishmen are in a bar (I know, right?) when a satanic representative walks in. The story of how they match wits with the devil is most amusing.

Trunk and Disorderly is Stross' attempt to capture the essence of humorous writing, a la P.G. Wodehouse. Decadent aristocrat Ralphie McDonalds gets into deep kimchee at a betrothal party for one of his friends, and only the very competent efforts of his butler, Ms. Feng, can save the day.

The final story, Palimpsest, relates the story of a man who joins the Stasis, a super-secret time traveling group which is attempting to save man from extinction over the millenia....or are they?

A mixed bag of nuts here, but worth reading, as Stross usually is.

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