Tag Archives: Charles Stross

Short Fiction Friday: Equoid: A Laundry Novella by Charles Stross

REVIEW SUMMARY: Holy Unicorns, Batman! This novella, set in Charles Stross’ Laundry universe, will leave you sleeping with one eye open anytime a young girl mentions a penchant for the mythical horned beast.


BRIEF SUMMARY: What agent Bob Howard hopes to be a bogus assignment fueled by surviving death-bed letters written by H.P. Lovecraft, turns out to be a true eldritch nightmare. The mythical one-horned horse and its magical connotations are pushed through a Lovecraftian meat grinder with results both comical and frightening.

PROS: Stross channels Lovecraft masterfully; story is short enough to be read in one long sitting while not skimping on plot; works well as an introduction to the Laundry universe; balances wry humor with suspenseful elements.
CONS: Those familiar with Bob Howard and his adventures may find themselves skimming past introductory material, despite its brevity; in-jokes abound that will not have the same impact for new readers.
BOTTOM LINE: This is not my first experience with the writing of Charles Stross, but was my first foray into the world of his Laundry novels. I was encouraged to read the novella after seeing mentions of it on Hugo nominations lists and wanted to read it for consideration as I compile my own list. Given Stross’ ability to channel Lovecraft so well, it is a strong contender for a nomination. This is fun, funny and chock-full of the rich horror atmosphere that has helped the stories of H.P. Lovecraft remain popular to this day.

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Cover & Synopsis: THE RHESUS CHART by Charles Stross (Plus: A LAUNDRY FILES Cover Gallery)

Here is the the synopsis for the 5th Laundry Files novel by Charles Stross, The Rhesus Chart, coming July 1, 2014.
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VIDEO: Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross Talk Cyberpunk

Here’s an interesting video of the panel “Cyberpunk: The Dystopian Prism” held at the Nine Worlds Geekfest in London. The panel includes Rafel Praszczalek, Antoni Strzalkowski, Jan Wagner, Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, Dr. Demis Hassabis, Kieron Gillen, and Helen Keen (moderating).

Panel description:

Technology is advancing at a huge rate and with it are the moral and social questions it brings. Is Cyberpunk culture’s immune response to this advancement, engulfing the issues within stories, films and games to flag these issues in advance or has it become a self-fulfilling prophecy with the inevitable end where we’ll be reading a DRM-locked copy of Neuromancer in Google Glass as the irony passes us by. Join us and some of the top creators in this field to talk, cyber, punk, tech, specs and crashes together.

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Cover & Synopsis: “Neptune’s Brood” by Charles Stross

Upcoming4.me has posted the cover art and synopsis of the upcoming novel Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross, sequel to Saturn’s Children:
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MIND MELD: Optimistic Scenarios for Our Future World

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

You hear new stories every day: humans are ruining the planet. If we don’t do something now, we’ll certainly destroy the world for our children. Dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction is wildly popular, and for good reason! These scenarios, while bleak, are also exciting and offer the opportunities for lots of what-ifs. However, in the spirit of optimism, I wanted to explore some future scenarios that offer hope and a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: It’s not unusual to hear negative things about what the future might bring for the Earth and humankind, and dystopian narrative certainly makes for entertaining futuristic sci-fi scenarios (environmental disaster, overuse of technology, etc). In the spirit of optimism and hope, what are a few of your far future scenarios that speak to the possible positive aspects of our evolving relationship with our world?

Here’s what they said…

Brenda Cooper
Brenda Cooper is a technology professional, a science fiction writer and a futurist. She is the author of The Silver Ship and the Sea, Reading the Wind, Wings of Creation, Mayan December, and her newest novel, The Creative Fire, was just released by Pyr.

We are backing into Eden. I’ll actually be delivering a talk about this at the next World Future Society meeting in Chicago in the summer of 2013.

I have always been an optimist. It IS a little tough to pull that off right now, but there is still reason for hope. I know that climate change is a common topic, and you’ll get more than this post on it. But I do think we can get better at taking care of our world than we are now. The just-past election is one example. President Barak Obama mentioned climate change in his acceptance speech (after it had been off the radar all election). Here in Washington State, we just elected a rabidly pro-environment Governor, Jay Inslee. In fast, the US elected five people who are expected to drive change in this area. In addition to Jay, there are two new senators and two new congressional representatives who get it. Our city just passed a levy that funds, among other things, a program called Green Kirkland that is about support for our beautiful local environment. Katrina was a knock on the door. Sandy was a louder wake-up call.

The trick is that we are past the first tipping point – the climate is going to keep on warming even if we shut off all of the carbon spigots tomorrow. Success now looks like slowing and eventually stopping or even (maybe!) reversing the trends that are putting us in mortal danger right now. We caused a lot of this problem, and as ill-equipped as we are, we will have to help mitigate it. In addition to gaining at least some of the policymakers that we need, there is significant progress being made on important fronts: Electric cars, higher emission standards, more efficient buildings, green energy, better batteries. We are also gaining deeper understanding the world through big data modeling. We have the Internet. We have increasingly specific and high quality mapping and sensor nets. We can intervene on some levels, and we’re going to have to.

We have the communication tools to support what we’re going to need to do. If we could turn these tools to unseat bad governments all over the world last spring, and to occupy our own ill-behaved banking system, we can use the power of the Internet to spread ideas and action on climate. All we need is focus. Hurricane Sandy was a focus point. The heat waves were focusers. There will be more on the way. It will take some pain, some death, and a lot of action, but we can transform our relationship with the planet. That may leave us as the tenders of the garden in more ways than we want, but it is a path to success.

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VIDEO: Cory Doctorow & Charles Stross on “The Rapture of Nerds”

Authors Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross visited Google HQ to talk about their latest collaboration, The Rapture of the Nerds.

Here’s what the book is about:

Welcome to the fractured future, at the dusk of the twenty-first century.

Earth has a population of roughly a billion hominids. For the most part, they are happy with their lot, living in a preserve at the bottom of a gravity well. Those who are unhappy have emigrated, joining one or another of the swarming densethinker clades that fog the inner solar system with a dust of molecular machinery so thick that it obscures the sun.

The splintery metaconsciousness of the solar-system has largely sworn off its pre-post-human cousins dirtside, but its minds sometimes wander…and when that happens, it casually spams Earth’s networks with plans for cataclysmically disruptive technologies that emulsify whole industries, cultures, and spiritual systems. A sane species would ignore these get-evolved-quick schemes, but there’s always someone who’ll take a bite from the forbidden apple.

So until the overminds bore of stirring Earth’s anthill, there’s Tech Jury Service: random humans, selected arbitrarily, charged with assessing dozens of new inventions and ruling on whether to let them loose. Young Huw, a technophobic, misanthropic Welshman, has been selected for the latest jury, a task he does his best to perform despite an itchy technovirus, the apathy of the proletariat, and a couple of truly awful moments on bathroom floors.

And here’s the video of their talk…
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[GUEST REVIEW] Lawrence Person on “Rule 34″ by Charles Stross


PROS: Spammers being killed in horrible and imaginative ways, some nifty, close-to-the-coalface extrapolation of near-future trends in networks, police procedures, and a Panopticon society, some fascinating Big Ideas near the end of the novel.
CONS: Generally unlikable and unengaging characters suffering career burnout, a plot that becomes less interesting as the novel progresses, a second-person, present-tense voice that doesn’t work nearly as well as it did in Halting State.
VERDICT: A rare misfire from an otherwise leading writer.

I was inclined to like this novel from the get-go. Charles Stross is on a very short list indeed of the best science fiction writers to start publishing books within the last decade. His Laundry series of geek Cthulhu Mythos spy thrillers (The Atrocity Archive, The Jennifer Morgue and The Fuller Memorandum) are among my personal favorites for the same period. I also enjoyed Halting State, the novel to which Rule 34 is a loose sequel. And Rule 34 has an intriguing premise: a murder investigation of spammers being killed in imaginative, gruesome and compromising ways. (Certainly any veteran of the Spam Wars has had similarly gruesome (if somewhat less elaborate) revenge fantasies…)

Surprisingly, Rule 34 actually ended up being quite a slog to get through. I wasn’t quite halfway through when I felt my interest waning, and eventually put it down and read several other books before picking it up again.
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Book Cover Smackdown! ‘The Gildar Rift’ vs. ‘God’s War’ vs. ‘Scratch Monkey’

Don your Power Armour, folks! It’s time for another Book Cover Smackdown!

Here are the contenders…

Your Mission (should you choose to accept it): Tell us which cover you like best and why.

Books shown here:

NOTE: Bigger, better cover art images are available by clicking the images or title links.

VIDEO: Alastair Reynolds, Vernor Vinge, Karl Schroeder, and Charles Stross discuss the Singularity

Recorded at Boskone…

[via Singularity Hub]

MIND MELD: Anime Film Favorites (+ The Top 14 Anime Films of All Time!)

This week’s topic comes from Madeline Ashby:

What Are Your Top 5 Anime Films of All Time?

Read on to see the picks of this week’s illustrious panelists.

[Note: Following the responses will be a completely unscientific (but fun) list of The Top 14 Anime Films of All Time!]

Charles Stross
Charles Stross‘ first novel, Singularity Sky burst onto the science fiction scene in 2003 and earning Stross a Hugo nomination. Since then he has earned several awards for his novels, and his works Missile Gap and Accelerando are available online. His other novels include Glasshouse, Halting State, Saturn’s Children, Wireless, the books in The Merchant Princes series and the books in The Laundry series. In addition to writing, Stross has worked as a technical author, freelance journalist, programmer, and pharmacist. He holds degrees in Pharmacy and Computer Science, and some of the creatures he created for his Dungeons and Dragons adventures, the Death Knight and Githyanki, were published by TSR in the Fiend Folio.

I’ll peg my faves as being:

  1. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (Asks some interesting questions about identity that pick up where the first GITS movie left off. Honourable mention also goes to GITS and GITS: Stand Alone Compex.)
  2. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki can do no wrong. It was this, or Princess Mononoke, or Howl’s Moving Castle, or …)
  3. Haibane Renmei (Haunting, weird exploration of self-discovery, death, and the loss of innocence via allegory)
  4. Akira (Just Because. Okay?)
  5. Serial Experiment Lain (More on identity and communication — you’re probably detecting a theme here, right?)

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REVIEW: Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross

REVIEW SUMMARY: Overall a book I enjoyed, but I’m not sure it’s for everybody.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Freya is contemplating ending it all. She’s an android built to pleasure humans, with no humans to pleasure. The species died out, but it’s creations still live, truly sentient but bound by the restrictions put in to ensure they stayed subservient. Before she can follow through, she gets caught up in the politics of the new robotic slavemasters and finds a reason to thrive.


PROS: Very interesting premise, ingenious plot, highly interesting characters.

CONS: Lots of robot sex, plot is sometimes hard to decipher, characters aren’t necessarily easy to empathize with.

BOTTOM LINE: Imaginative book with lots of plot twists, fun characters, and an intricate plot. I recommend it if you have an open mind, don’t mind android erotica, and want to read something pretty unique.

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REVIEW: The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

REVIEW SUMMARY: Very fun pair of stories by one of the new stars of science fiction.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Bob Howard is a h4x0r who stumbles upon secrets man was not meant to know. Well, it turns out men do know it, but the knowledge is restricted and protected in order to keep people from opening a doorway that lets in the elder gods to feed upon us all. So Bob is press-ganged into a super-secret branch of the SAS and the fun begins.


PROS: Awesome combination of the bureaucracy of government agencies and incursions from the planes by evil entities.

CONS: Starts out a little rough and enjoys asides a little too much.

BOTTOM LINE: A really enjoyable book that I read very quickly. I recommend it if you enjoy a little occult science fiction.

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SF Tidbits for 8/10/09

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REVIEW: Wireless by Charles Stross

REVIEW SUMMARY: A good collection of Stross’ short fiction.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A collection of 9 stories by Charles Stross.


PROS: Stross tosses around imaginative concepts with comfortable regularity.

CONS: His affinity for politics and economics weighed down some of the stories.

BOTTOM LINE: This is good representative sampling of Stross’ fiction; a must-have for any Stross fan and a fine introduction for the uninitiated.

Wireless, a short fiction collection by Charles Stross, collects eight previously-released stories and one story new for this collection (the time travel story “Palimpsest”). Readers who are familiar with Stross work know that his writing often includes politics and economics – two subjects that, for me, are story-killers more often than not; they’re just not the reason I read science fiction. So it’s probably no surprise that the more enjoyable stories in this collection dialed those particular knobs down. The only standout story in the bunch is the excellent “Down on the Farm”, but that didn’t stop many others from winning awards and generally being well-received.

Individual story reviews follow…

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