Charles Stross

J-Sun

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Not really. He made what was perhaps his earliest-biggest bang in Asimov's with a series of stories (or chunks of a novel) that eventually took the form of Accelerando, so that might not be a bad place to start. If you go to his website you may be able to read some stuff from his collection Toast and maybe some other things if those are still up. That'd be a low-risk way to get your toes wet.
 

icowdave

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I really enjoyed Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise quite a bit and would not hesitate to recomend them. They were my first Stross books and are a weird and wonderful ride.

I did not care for Accelerando or Glasshouse though. Just could not get into them. They have made me a little skittish about reading his other stuff. Saturn's Children sounds interesting though... if I can get the UK edition I'll give it a try. :eek:
 

Ian Whates

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The problem with offering advice on where to start with Charlie is that his work is so varied.

Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise are both high-concept almost hard SF.

The Merchant Princes series starts out looking like alternate world-hopping fantasy (the books were undeservedly compared to Zelazny's Amber when the first volumes came out) but is getting more SF-nal as the series progresses.

The Laundry books are intentionally humourous espionage novels with a British (highly) secret service operation pitted against Lovecraftian monsters.

Halting State is a techno-thriller which, much to Charlie's surprise, sold like hot cakes when it came out and narrowly missed the New York Times best seller list

Saturn's Children is him having fun with the tropes of space opera while paying deliberate homage to Robert Heinlein -- it features a sex robot created solely to bring sexual pleasure to humans which rolls off the production line shortly after the last human in the universe goes extinct...

And Accelerando is something else entirely.

So, where to start... you tell me! :confused:

The short stories might be a good way in, but I'm not really sure they're especially representative of his work, though they might give you an idea of whether or not you enjoy his writing style.

Good luck, in any case. :)
 

Rodders

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I've not read any of Stross' work but i have heard a lot of positive things about him. He is definately on my "to read" list.
 

Hypnos164

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His work is varied, but I think he does have something of a signature (to me, at least):

- There is a certain infectious exuberance ... his work always feels like he had a lot of fun writing it
- His books are usually packed with ideas and work on multiple levels - usually more than they actually need, occasionally more than the story can cope with
- He clearly does his research and tries to extrapolate from real science, technology (or economics in the Merchant Princess). You don't usually get to see the "working out" but you can tell it’s been done.

I really liked Glasshouse - as a story, a social satire and an extrapolation on our current governments love of CCTV, tracking and surveillance.

I'd have voted for it in the Hugo that year (I took all the nominated novells on holiday an read them back to back)
 

Ursa major

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I've only read a few books of his - Singularity Sky, The Atrocity Archives**, The Jennifer Morgue**, Accelerando, and Iron Sunrise - in that order.

And Ian Whates is right: the books are different in tone and content.

Singularity Sky tries to pack in too much, and suffers a little bit for it; its sequel, Iron Sunrise, is far better. The Laundry books are great fun. Accelerando is fine, but I found the early chapters a bit hard going; it settles down after that.




** - These are the "Laundry" books mentioned by Ian; as well as the various stories, there are a couple of interesting essays by Stross.
 

Ady Hall

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I tried 'The Family Trade' but could not rate it (tho it's the start of a series) - which has coloured me apathetic as I have his highly regarded 'Halting State' unread on the bookshelf.

Though may pick up one of the recommendeds from above! Give the man another go :)
 

Nikitta

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I really enjoyed Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise quite a bit and would not hesitate to recomend them. They were my first Stross books and are a weird and wonderful ride.

I did not care for Accelerando or Glasshouse though. Just could not get into them. They have made me a little skittish about reading his other stuff. Saturn's Children sounds interesting though... if I can get the UK edition I'll give it a try. :eek:
It's the other way around for me: I enjoyed Glasshouse a lot, but couldn't for the life of me get into Singularity Sky, which I ended up tossing aside without finishing it.
 

Jojo999

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I just finished reading Singularity Sky a few weeks ago, followed by the sequel, Iron Sunrise.

I really enjoyed SS very much! There was some really interesting science like the cornucopia machine, black hole star drive, etc. He was very creative with all the components of the "Festival" thingy.

Iron Sunrise flowed better but it left some hanging ends. And I didn't think the young girl hero had the chops to do some of the things he had her do.

Since the books were from 2004 & 2005, I was hoping that he would have written additions to the series. But no so far. From at least these 2 books, he does seem to have some kind of fixation with German/Russian names and politics. Not sure what is up with that.

I intend to try and check out some of his other books.
 

williamjm

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Since the books were from 2004 & 2005, I was hoping that he would have written additions to the series. But no so far. From at least these 2 books, he does seem to have some kind of fixation with German/Russian names and politics. Not sure what is up with that.
There's at least one short story in the same setting, in his Toast anthology.
 

Brian G Turner

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Stross is a name I keep seeing, but haven't read anything by. Sounds like I should consider looking at Singularity Sky or Iron Sunrise as they may better match my interests - based on comments in this thread.

However, the thread was originally started a few years ago - has Charles Stross released any particular gems since then?
 

M Harold Page

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Stross is a name I keep seeing, but haven't read anything by. Sounds like I should consider looking at Singularity Sky or Iron Sunrise as they may better match my interests - based on comments in this thread.

However, the thread was originally started a few years ago - has Charles Stross released any particular gems since then?
Lots. He has a wild mundane far future space opera involving an android civilisation, for example.
 

J-Sun

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Since the books were from 2004 & 2005, I was hoping that he would have written additions to the series. But no so far.
Sounds like I should consider looking at Singularity Sky or Iron Sunrise as they may better match my interests - based on comments in this thread.
It's my understanding that he's kind of disowned the duo as it was supposed to be a trilogy and he abandoned it. I actually had picked up the two books but threw them into the depths of the Pile - I didn't really want to read a trilogy but was willing to try, but I certainly don't want to read 2/3 of one. While some things (relativity, at this point) are practically irrefutable, I disagree with a lot of his assumptions, but he explains why he quit here.

However, the thread was originally started a few years ago - has Charles Stross released any particular gems since then?
He doesn't seem to have had a huge amount of buzz lately, with Rule 34 (2011) or Rapture of the Nerds (2012) probably getting the most, but not seeming interesting to me. The only post-2009 I've read was Neptune's Brood (2013), which is a sequel to Saturn's Children (2008). They could possibly be viewed as "Charlie Stross' Space Opera v2.0" and they're not bad but they seem to really not understand simple things that I'm sure Stross does understand like the economies of scale and the adaptability of humanity and the progression of medical science and so on. So, again, this is some of the stuff I'm disagreeing with him about. He basically takes the attitude that King Charlie would tell Columbus to take a hike because humans weren't meant to cross oceans, ships are too expensive, it takes too long and is uncomfortable, and new worlds just really aren't worth it. Humanity doesn't need to expand. (Fittingly, the Saturn/Neptune books take place in a universe in which humanity has died off multiple times.)

Maybe I'm misinterpreting him but, as a New World science fiction fan who believes in space, I've become kind of disenchanted with the idea of reading more Stross. That said, they were reasonably well done and interesting reads in ways (though his economic infodumps strain even my tolerance for wonkiness) and, if you don't have ideological problems with him, you might like him. I just figure that, as a living series, maybe that would be the one to go for and a heads up about the dead "Eschaton" sequence was in order. :)

(And Accelerando (2005) is still probably his "if you can only read one" book.)
 

Ursa major

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It's my understanding that he's kind of disowned the duo as it was supposed to be a trilogy and he abandoned it.
He's certainly dead against writing a third book, as he has real problems with how the physics underlying the first two books works (or doesn't work). In September 2010, he wrote a blogpost about this (and has mentioned it in other blogposts); here's a short paragraph from that first blogpost:
Having broken the Eschaton universe, there's no way to go forward (which is why any future space opera you see from me will feature a new setting — I have plans). However, here's a neat idea I was going to shoe-horn into the third Eschaton novel before I realized the universe was broken ...
 

Caledfwlch

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I havent really made an effort with his Sci Fi books, im not into all that high concept metahuman stuff which they seemed to be.

Rule 34 is actually a pretty fun book, it's supposed to be the start of a trilogy, and book 2 has been published but he has cancelled the 3rd book - and I think he is quite peeved about it, as if he had written it a couple of years ago, he would very soon have become famous as a visionary writer who managed to predict future events bang on - basically all the stuff that has happened with Mark Snowdon was the plot of book 3, but if he writes and publishes it now, he just looks like he is nicking the Mark Snowdon story. The Books are set in a near future Independent Scotland. In Rule 34, a Detective Inspector is called in to investigate a vault robbery at a local gaming firm, easy job as it was all filmed, and even shows the perpetrators!!. And watches in bafflement as a small group of CGI dwarves and Orcs carry out a robbery of a bank in a World of Warcraft style game. Except, the "Robbery" is genuine, as the game like WOW trades in real currency, and the "bank" in the game is on the main financial server, and they somehow hack in and transfer the real money to anonymous accounts.....

The Laundry series is absolutely fantastic - I will disagree with Ian Whates slightly though - the early Laundry books are essentially cold war espionage novels, but set in the current timeframe, in a reality where all the horrors of Lovecraft exist, but they are slowly evolving away from that as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is fast approaching, and I think the last book in the series is basically going to be a mental War Epic, as the Computational Daemonologists of the Laundry, fight in the towns, the cities and the streets, with the army and police, and tech like SCORPION STARE as CNG causes all the crazy stuff to start happening.

To anyone unfamiliar with the series, "Magic" is not supernatural, or needs candles or wands, if you want to call up a "Demon", its just using computer generated fractals and Lazers to make a summoning grid, opening a portal to another reality, as all the "demons" are just creatures from the multiverse.
 

Randy M.

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Haven't read anything else by him yet, but his novelette, "A Colder War" is one of the most frightening Lovecraftian stories I've come across.


Randy M.
 

Caledfwlch

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Haven't read anything else by him yet, but his novelette, "A Colder War" is one of the most frightening Lovecraftian stories I've come across.


Randy M.
For those who haven't read A colder War, the following contains spoilers.

IIRC A Colder War is very much in the spirit and vein of the Laundry Books, but they do also contain humour to lighten things up. Like when Bob is sent to a meeting in a "real" Civil Service building (ie not connected to the ultra top secret Laundry, or the other intelligence agencies) that is about some obscure IT mumbo jumbo to do with "certification processes" and "best standards, of". As well as being a Computational Daemonologist Bob is also as his day job, the main bod responsible for the IT Network in the Laundry HQ, so has to go to such things. Whilst waiting for it to start, he meets a lovely chap called Allan, does something Civil Service IT related too as his day job, but says something along the lines of, "I belong to a little London Gun club called the Artist's Rifles, and Bob thinks nothing more.

Later, Bob is getting suited up - an attack in Amsterdam has ripped open a portal to another reality, featuring an empty plain with a large fortress like building in the near distance, nobody is quite sure where this is, or who opened the portal, and then someone looking through, looks up, this world has a nice very large Moon. And is has been Carved into a Mount Rushmore type bust of Adolph Hitler. His military support then arrives, dressed as firemen, as the portal is in a hotel, and they can't exactly shout "Keep back, someones ripped open a portal into another reality" so are making it look like a gas leak. To Bob's shock, Allan is leading his support unit. The Artist's Rifles are in fact the SAS's Territorial Army/Reserve Force. It just boggles the mind that in order to partially give them something to do when nowt's going on, assist their cover as Civil Servants and because even in the Laundry, Britains Front Line in Defending the Earth from the Scum of the Multiverse, Budget's, are just as viciously guarded, argued about and fought over as in the real/main Civil Service, and it just wouldn't do having these people just sat around, twiddling their thumbs doing nothing and sucking up budget resources that they have to attend meetings about obscure gubbins. Plenty of fun had in the series around those themes. The Laundry is a place where Heads of HR regularly attempt power games, and manoeuvres designed to get them "noticed" by "The Board" and secure further Promotion, and in the process end up endangering the secrecy of the Laundry, or actively murdering staff/causing them to be killed by whatever scheme they are running. Of course, in the Laundry such things are not... dealt with lightly when they fail or are exposed. Bob's Boss, Angleton has the Heads of HR caught behaving in that way in his Office. Literally. Disciplinary procedures tend to be somewhat firmer than demotion or dismissal, the heads of HR literally end up as Heads on Angleton's desk, shrunken "cannibal" style heads.

I say Boss, The Laundry operates a "Matrix Management Style" which means that day to day, Bob reports to the current Head of HR (at least whilst she or he is in possession of said head) but is also Angletons PA, and carries a much higher security rating than his nominal HR Manager, despite that Manager being, in terms of promotion several rungs up the ladder above him. So they get peed off, since he wont discuss any of his work outside of his IT duties. Seriously, the books delve deep into all that labyrinthine way and general insanity that tends to exist in Civil Service Departments, and yet it stays funny, and does not draw or bore you out of the main plot. They also operate a strict non negotiable policy that nobody outside the Laundry can know about what they are defending the Kingdom, and the Earth from, which means that when "Civvies" get involved, witnessing the stuff, whether it's witnessing a Terror from another Plane, someone in the know and idiotic enough to attempt to summon a being, but don't pay attention to either preparing the containment "circuitry" or breach it once the being is summoned, and immediately get turned into a zombie with horrid wiggly green worms in their eyes. So, when that happens to you, you get 1 offer, like I say non negotiable, you have to go and work in the Laundry, even if it's just as a filing clerk or admin assistant.

Bob got his Job offer not long after graduating at Wolverhampton University. He was sat in his student flat, playing with Fractals, when he noticed something odd, thankfully soon after, Angleton kicked down the door and stopped him from clicking Run on the realtime rendering algorithm he had written after noticing the odd thing, which turned out to be an open and ungrounded summoning grid that would have summoned a being which would have levelled Wolverhampton.

I absolutely love these books and try to get everyone into them (I wonder if it shows) its bloody hard to try and give a feel of how awesome they are, without revealing genuine Spoilers, so I have to carefully restrain myself. I am not sure how the general "not we" public view them, as you certainly benefit the most if you are a geek with an interest in horror, science fiction, fantasy, and some interest in espionage thrillers and computers - Charles is a Software Engineer, with a Comp Sci Degree which shows sometimes, when Bob will, especially if talking to his flat mates and co workers "Pinky and the Brain" who are in a civil partnership, and are Bob's technical support, in the vein of James Bond's Q, except half the devices they build or jury rig for Bob would put Q in almost sexual ecstasy at such toys, and the other half would scare the living sh*t out of him, and give him nightmares for life. It's certainly the first Book or Series I have read where the reason for the rapid expansion of private and public CCTV in Britain is not the stated reasons of crime prevention etc, but is in fact a weapon system being banged together, in this case ready for CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is of course the Series Arc, I can't remember where in the series, the actual specific information of what Green is, comes into play, or even if it would count as a Spoiler since its the main Arc/point of the series. But if anyone would like to know rather than treading upon various Wiki's and groups and risking stumbling on more spoilers, then send me a PM and I will let you know - knowing what it is doesn't imo spoil enjoyment of the books, for me personally the constant referring to it, without knowing what is is was actually quite frustrating. Sort of like, knowing that last year's Doctor Who Arc involved Gallifrey and the recklessness of the Doctor and Clara and how they feed and bounce that recklessness off each other doesn't particularly spoil the journey to Hell Bent. My Green Theory from early mentions was fairly bang on, in terms of what it is about, its just the details or logistics of how it comes into play that was lacking.

The Conceit of the series is that the books are Bob Howard's Memoirs, but each instalment is being written immediately after each Case or Mission the book involves, rather than as an old man - he has been ordered to do this by Angleton, as they don't have many Computational Daemonologists, its not something you can easily recruit for whilst under extreme secrecy - since it involves a large degree of Software & hardware engineering knowledge, combined with having a personality that means, the first time a candidate meets or even sees one of the many and varied representatives of the "Scum of the Multiverse" wont drop dead of shock & horror, crap themselves, turn into a gibbering wreck (very common) and clearly are unable to perform the role, or worse, crap themselves, turn into a gibbering wreck, and require supervised care in a Laundry mental health ward for the rest of your life. So, if Bob dies, especially during the later books, there would be a dramatic and perhaps even catastrophic Loss of Institutional Knowledge at the Laundry. Equally, when the warning signs show that Green is imminent, in terms of months, at most a year or two, the Laundry is no longer going to be able to function as a Secret Operation, they will by necessity have to come out into the open, as they are going to be Britain's first, and frankly only Line of Defence, ahead of the rest of the Security Forces, whether Army, MI5, MI6 or the Police, none of whom, not even the other Intelligence Agencies know of the Laundrys existnce, and people are going to notice Laundry Agents and the SAS scrapping in their streets, not to mention notice the effects of Green itself, and the Laundry operation is very small, like I said, especially in terms of people with Bob's Skill sets, so when Green is imminent, as well as coming out into the Light, they are going to need to begin recruiting as many Volunteers to be trained as Agents as possible, and the ability to read Bob's Memoirs, and learn from the mistakes he has made in more forgiving times and situations will literally be a mater of life or death for the new agents, and of course, if Bob dies before the recruitment begins, without those memoirs, training and learning becomes even harder due to the knowledge loss.

So Go Forth, Read, Enjoy, Laugh and Cringe - in the Parallel Alternate Reality of the Laundry, the Holocaust was done for a very different, and perhaps much nastier reason - mechanised mass death due to people being brainwashed and whipped into blind hatred is sort of an understandable motivation, but in the Laundryverse that is not why it happens.... :(
 
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