Charlie Stross – Happy Soul
I’ve just finished reading Wireless, the latest short story collection from Charles Stross, which I am reviewing for Vector. It won’t be a particularly positive review; my pleasure in some of the individual stories was outweighed by my issues with the collection as a whole. However, one problem I didn’t have was that it was all doom and gloom. Such was Andrew Wheeler’s diagnosis:
Stross is without a doubt one of the most inventive and thoughtful writers in the modern SF idiom, and that makes it doubly unfortunate that his output so consistently takes the tone of battling to ever-so-slightly slow down the inevitable fall of night. Wireless collects some of the very best stories in modern SF, by one of the most important writers in the field — but, collectively, they form a singularity of depression and bleakness from which no optimism can escape.
My review, by necessity, won’t go into too much detail about the individual stories so I thought it might be helpful to go through the table of contents here and provide a different perspective to Wheeler:
1) Missile Gap – Ape shall always lose to ant. Negative
2) Rogue Farm – After the inevitable collapse of society a man can still have a wife, a dog, a plot of land and the nous to run troublesome posthumans off said land. Positive
3) A Colder War – Everyone has their soul eaten. Negative
4) MAXOS – Aliens are all Nigerian. Neutral
5) Down On The Farm – Life’s a riot with spy versus spy versus shoggoth. Positive
6) Unwirer – “Hi, I’m a journalist, I can fix the American government.” Positive
7) Snowball’s Chance – Even an itinerant Scotsman can outsmart the Devil. Positive
8) Trunk And Disorderly – PG Wodehouse is immortal. Positive
9) Palimpsest – Human civilisation either outlasts the galaxy or outlasts the galaxy and colonises known space. Positive
Two thirds positive! I think that counts as a sunny outlook on the future.