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Sometimes when things get too weird...

...even the weird can't turn pro. This seems to happen a lot to the heroes of Charles Stross' fiction.
His short story collection Toast includes a fair sample of the short stories he did before Singularity Sky was published*, and includes stories related to both the aforementioned novel and the chilling Deighton/Lovecraft hybrid that is The Atrocity Archives. Which is going to have a sequel in print at the end of the year, calloo callay!



A pretty mixed bag, as you might expect from an anthology. The middle third of the collection, including the title story, "Ship of Fools", and "Dechlorinating the Moderator" are a little too far out on the fringes of hard science/techno-nerd Sf for me to really get most of the humor, and "Yellow Snow", while mordantly amusing, isn't really my cup of tea either. "Antibodies", "Bear Trap" and "Lobsters" -the latter of which wound up as part of Accelerando- are obviously forerunners of Singularity Sky and decent in their own right, while "A Colder War" is one step removed from Bob Howard's past as depicted in The Atrocity Archives. "Big Brother Iron" is an interesting look at where Orwell's Airstrip One from 1984 could have wound up two or three decades afterward - sort of a Brezhnevian Panopticon society, only far deadlier. Information wants to be free, but plenty of people in Ingsoc are willing to kill to keep it locked up - and even an O'Brien isn't safe in the 33rd month of Year 99. "Extracts from the Club Diary" is an odd look at progress through the eyes of a very idiosyncratic group of English addicts, and where that progress takes the rest of us; strange and interesting, it is.

If you enjoyed either of the Stross novels mentioned here, then Toast should definitely be on your shopping list, though maybe not in the trade pb edition. Recommended.

*The ones that didn't wind up being stitched into Accelerando, that is.

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