Wireless: The Essential Collection

By Charles Stross

Rating: 4 stars

This is a very enjoyable collection of shorts from Stross, a writer I usually enjoy anyway. Of the two longer pieces in the book, Missile Gap and Palimpsest, I probably enjoyed the latter more than the former, with its rather interesting ideas of time travel which seemed to resonate at times with Asimov’s ‘Eternity’ (as in The End of Eternity). Mind you, the Big Dumb Object of the former (a vast disc in space upon which the Earth was ‘peeled’ and deposited by unknown aliens) was pretty mind-blowing. My favourite story in the collection is probably the Wodehouse pastiche Trunk and Disorderly which Stross later mined for ideas that fed into his novel Saturn’s Children. As he says in his afterword to the story, doing humour, especially humour in SF, can be tricky, but he nails his Jeeves and Wooster story almost perfectly here. I also liked the ultra-short MAXOS, about which it’s difficult to say much without spoilers, but suffice to say that it’s a terrifying spin on first contact by radio.

Rogue Farm is a story I originally encountered in audio form on the SF podcast Escape Pod and I still enjoyed it here. The Laundry-universe set Down on the Farm is another story I’ve read before, but can’t remember where and is fun, as is Snowball’s Chance, which I first read in the anthology Nova Scotia (an SF collection themed around Scotland).

The story that I enjoyed least was probably the Lovecraft-themed A Colder War, due to its unrelenting bleakness. But then, I’m not a huge Lovecraft fan anyway.

Stross is a great ideas man and he’s great at forming stories around those ideas as well. This is both a great introduction to his work and great stuff for established fans as well.

Book details

ISBN: 9781841497723
Publisher: Orbit
Year of publication: 2009

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