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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.
Central to this view is the observation that if there is anything out there in the stars it will surely defy our comprehension. To some extent, Stross is an atheist theologist. He draws equally from the various Abrahamic traditions as well as literary, pop, and tech culture and speculates on what an incomprehensible godlike intelligence could be like. When he isn't exploring Lovecraftian horrors or post-singularity strong-AI, we get a glimpse into the near future or alternative near-pasts.
From a content to volume perspective, Wireless is the anti-Baroque Cycle. While both Stephenson's and Stross' work cover a broad conceptual space, Stephenson does so in a single story that spans three volumes and thousands of pages. Stross delivers numerous stories that together fit within hundreds of pages.
Readers familiar with Stross' previously published works will enjoy the new explorations of familiar ideas presented in Wireless. Readers encountering Stross for the first time will have an opportunity to drink from the fire hose, one gulp at a time.
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.
I tried to read the stories in this book and found I didn't really like them, either. I think the grim lives and hard science mixed with Cold War politics in "Missile Gap" may have put me off the rest. After that everything tasted bitter.
And yet, I can see why others like his stuff. It's unusual and different. The science is there and thoughtfully fictionalized. He's got a good grasp of story and imagination.
This was my first Stross book and it's a mixed bag. I loved the world-building stories mentioned above, but felt left out of some others due to my utter lack of knowledge of Lovecraft. And one story, Trunk and Disorderly, never pulled me in at all - I finally just skipped over it.
Stross plays with some wonderful recurring themes - cold war angst, "meta" character names, slide presentations and terraforming - throughout the collection that kept me engaged and, sometimes, smiling. Other conventions, such as the Lovecraftian nature undergirding some of the stories, completely put me off. And his favorite words seem to be caul and lour.
Overall, I'd recommend this book. It's, as the cover blurb brags, "a lively collection" and makes me want to seek out more of his work. Though I'll definitely be skipping the "laundry" novels, if the story here is any indication of their general nature. Just not my cup of tea.
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