Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

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Big ideas in small doses: Toast - A Book Report

Ok, first, I'd better declare a vested interest. Charlie Stross is an old friend of mine, I've beta tested many of his stories (including several that are in this book), we've spent many hours just brain storming, and, well, I just love his gonzo style and hi-tech on speed imagery. So you're unlikely to see a bad review here...

Toast (And Other Rusted Futures) is Charlie's first short story collection. It's a slice through several years of writing, and includes some of his earliest work alongside some of the latest. You may have seen the Manfred stories in Asimov's and thought that Charlie is a new writer, but he's been published in the UK since the early 90s, writing everything from dark fantasies to radical hard SF.

You'll find a bit of everything here. Some stories haven't aged well, especially "Ship of Fools", a Y2K story. Others are timeless, and deeply chilling, like the alternate history "A Colder War", where the dark paranoia of the 1950's military-industrial complex meets H.P. Lovecraft underneath the ice of Lake Vostok in the middle of the 1980s.

One of the standouts is original to this collection, "Big Brother Iron". Ingsoc has been computerised, and the computer is your friend (Trust The Computer). Charlie's many years in the IT industry pay off here, as he shows the flaws at the heart of Orwell's dystopia go to the heart of everything, even the mathematical cleanliness of computer code.

However, my two favourite stories skirt the edges of the Spike. "Toast: A Con Report" and "Dechlorinating The Moderator" are magazine articles from the future. Both send their reporter characters to fringe events, to indulge in a little gonzo reportage. It's a great way to show the larger changes, reflecting them in the eyes of nerds and geeks as they explore their hobbies.

Buy Toast from or (using Charlie's own referral accounts)
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