February 24th, 2012

_Wireless_, Charles Stross (kindle)

I've been characterizing myself for the last few years, at least internally, as an ex-sf fan. I like the stuff I used to like (except where I don't). I follow some series. But it's not a go-to genre and I haven't tried to follow awards (beyond a brief foray into the Eppies, which wasn't sf specific anyway).

A librarian friend of mine was commenting that she was having trouble finding science fiction to buy: specifically not series and not fantasy. She remembered that I had once read it and asked if I could recommend anything and I disclaimed knowledge. I said I'd quit reading it because it had started to feel whiter-maler-straighter-more conservative than I preferred when I was looking for entertainment. She'd just finished reading something by Jack McDevitt and agreed with me.

But I got to thinking. I had no mortal clue who was showing up on Hugo lists these years. Maybe I should find out.

In 2010, Stross' "Palimpsest" won a Huge for Best Novella. Sounded like a good place to start to me. I picked up _Wireless_ and started at the introduction (my sense has been that I actually like his introductions/forewords/afterwords at least as much as I like his fiction). I made it all the way through the book without once being tempted to give up entirely (altho I rolled my eyes a lot during "Unwirer"). One of the nice side effects of reading this particular collection was that it contains "A Colder War", which the friend who bought me _Atrocity Archives_ loves even more than The Laundry stories. "A Colder War" and "Snowball's Chance" both have spectacularly hateful protagonists (even by Stross standards), but I did get a chuckle out of the latter, which is more than I can say about the former.

I don't like Wodehouse, so "Trunk and Disorderly" did nothing for me, altho I will grant that it felt very Wodehouse-y to me. "MAXOS" was a teeny, tiny bit too long for the gimmick (I have been a massive fan of the ultra short in the past and MAXOS almost qualified).

"Palimpsest" is odd, tho. There were moments when I felt like I was reading Kage Baker -- and I just cannot get into Kage Baker, altho I have friends who adore those books. There were also, however, moments where I felt like I was reading Zelazny's _Roadmarks_, which is probably in my most-beloved top 20 novels. It gave me warm, happy feelings about Stross that he specifically addressed the kill-great-grandpa atrocity he started the story with. There were aspects to the Branch Library and Final Library that struck me as truly novel in time-travel stories -- and that's saying something.

I've picked up some other Hugo nominees and winners from the last couple years. But the latest in The Hollows series is out, so I'll probably read that first. If you're looking for speculative fiction, and you're okay with Stross' pastiche-y style, these are generally well-constructed, thought provoking stories.


"Missile Gap" would have worked better for me if I had actually enjoyed either _Ringworld_ (or its sequels/ancillary stories) and/or Martin's "Sandkings". You would not believe how much trouble I had remembering the name of that short story and googling it was hard because all you find googling Martin these days is Game of Thrones.