Tag Archives: Charles Stross

Housekeeping: First Quarter Roundup

This quarter saw the usual discussions of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology and sociology.  There are an increasing amount of academic studies of this technology (finally!), which are producing important findings.  Not that the enthusiasts are paying attention.

There is also a constant stream of discoveries and studies of dinosaurs and ancient birds, which I enjoy reading.


And, as usual, I regularly review books I have recently read.

Fiction

The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell
Good Guys by Steven Brust
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
The Cackle of Cthulhu edited by Alex Shvartsman
A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
The Pope of Palm Beach by Tim Dorsey
The Man From The Diogenes Club by Kim Newman
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
Dark State by Charles Stross
The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry
Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams
Celestial Mechanics by William Least Heat-Moon

Non fiction

How To Plan A Crusade by Christopher Tyerman
The Earth is Weeping by Peter Cozzens
Ada’s Algorithm by James Essinger


The ongoing list of great names for a band continues, inspired by Dave Barry. Here are a bunch, mostly taken from real scientific or technical papers.

The Adversarial Patches
Psychedelic toasters (this one has probably has already been used)
Judicious Design of Nanofins
        (or perhaps, Righteous Design of Nanofins or just Nanofins)
Rapid genome downsizing
Diffusivity of Water in Air
The Gymnosperms
SETI-XNAV
Pulsar Positioning System
Galactic Positioning System
Mushroom Body
A Spritz of Octopamine
Hebbian Learning
Neuromodulator
The Possible Ecologies of Mars
Ornament Evolution

 

 

Book Review: “Dark State” by Charles Stross

Dark State by Charles Stross

Perennial favorite Stross gives us the next installment in the return of the ‘Merchants’ series.  He does not disappoint.

Empire Games (2016) introduced the intense geopolitical (and para-temporal-political) situation that followed the mutual discovery of the parallel time lines in the Merchant Family books.  The latest story works along multiple complex plots in multiple interconnected time lines.

Cold war tensions are crazy and dangerous on one planet.  Adding in world walkers bumps up the paranoia exponentially. Stross has obviously enjoyed developing these alternate histories, and has taken the opportunity to deploy every kind of trade craft you can imagine.  Suck it, James Bond!

The plots and intrigue ratchet up and up, with a full tilt nuclear exchange a real possibility. It’s hard to tell who is who, let alone who might be the “good guys”.

The main exception seems to be a couple of plucky young Disney princesses from different time lines (we have to get these two together). Rita and Elizabeth and a lot of other little people have been sucked into the Empire Games. Can they survive and save the ones they love, not to mention help avoid nuclear war?

And, by the way, we still don’t really understand world walking and the more mysterious time lines.  It’s easy to get absorbed in all the drama on a couple of time lines, but there is a heck of a lot of paratime out there. Humans are pretty small potatoes, and we really don’t know what might be out there.

At the end of this book, we are left hanging off a gigantic, paratime  cliff.  The next book is due in a year.  Arg!

Like I said.  This is what we have come to expect from Master Charlie.


  1. Charles Stross, Dark State, New York, Tom Doherty Associates, 2017.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

2017 Roundup and list of Books Reviewed

This year I continued daily posts, which I have done for just under four years now.  Overall, traffic to the blog was up about 18% over 2016.

As always, the coverage is mainly review and commentary on topics of interest to me, including “the new way of work”, robots, dinosaurs, cryptocurrency/blockchain, quantum cryptography, internet of too Many things, computer software in general, and so on.

This year I continued weekly posts noting and commenting on books I have read.  Most of the books were recently published, with a few older ones.   (Listed below.)

Throughout the year, I offered a number of “great names for a band”, in tribute to Dave Barry who pioneered the genre.  Most of these are “sciency”, inspired by technical articles I read and commented on.

Countershading
Banded tail
Dinosaur bandit mask
Paleocoloration
Beryllium hydride
Biomimetic Robotic Zebrafish
Chicxulub    [Note:  pronounced ( /ˈtʃiːkʃʊluːb/; Mayan: [tʃʼikʃuluɓ])]
The Chicxulub Event
We Are Children of Chicxulub
Thanks to Chicxulub
Brought to You By Chicxulub
Service Office Industry
Comfortable edgy fit outs
As Greenland Darkens
Recent Mass Loss
Larsen C
My Raptor Posse
A Rip of Raptors
Personal Raptor
The Robot Raptor Revue
Final Five Orbits
Kuiper Belt & Braces
A Belt of Kuiper
The Grand Finale Toolkit
Fog World Congress
Penguin Guano

Adelie Census
Fog Orchestra
Shape Changing Fog Screen
The Fog and the Eye
First Ringplane Crossing
Grand Finale Dive #2
The Grand Finale Toolkit
Last View of Earth
Final – and Fateful – Titan Flyby
Robots On Europa
Gay Robots on Europa


Books Reviewed in 2017

Overall I posted 79 book reviews, 58 fiction and 21 non-fiction.

In fiction, these include old favorites (Donna Leon, Charles Stross, Thomas Perry, Tim Dorsey, Ian McDonald, Gregory Maguire, Tom Holt).

Some new favorites include Richard Kadrey,  Viet Thanh Nguyen, Emma Straub.

I really liked Robin Sloan’s Sourdough, and Touch by Courtney Maum, but my best reads for the year have to be

Joe Ide,  IQ and Righteious.  <<links>> Righteous by Joe Ide

In non-fiction, I liked Weird Dinosaurs by John Pickrell and Eugenia Chengs Beyond InfinityHow America Lost Its Secrets by Edward Jay Epstein is both good and important.

<<links>>

But at the top, I’d probably pick

The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness by Paula Poundstone

List of Books Reviewed

Q4

Fiction

First Person Singularities by Robert Silverberg
The Adventurist by J. Bradford Hipps
Artemis by Andy Weir
Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire
Willful Behavior by Donna Leon
A Selfie As Big As The Ritz by Lara Williams
Righteous by Joe Ide
Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson
The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson
Border Child by Michel Stone
Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
The Muse by Jessie Burton
Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Non-fiction

Napoleon in Egypt by Paul Strathern
After Piketty edited by Heather Boushey, J. Bradford DeLong, and Marshall Steinbaum

Books Reviewed In Q3 2017

Fiction

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
The Answers by Catherine Lacey
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
The Management Style of Supreme Beings by Tom Holt
The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross
Shiver Hitch by Linda Greenlaw
Dichronauts by Greg Egan
Killing is My Business by Adam Christopher
The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess
Standard Hollywood Depravity by Adam Christopher
Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher
Will Save Galaxy For Food by Yahtzee Croshaw
Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
Arlington Park by Rachael Cusk
Transition by Rachael Cusk
Death at La Fenece by Donna Leon
A Sea of Troubles by Donna Leon

Non Fiction

Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
Weird Dinosaurs by John Pickrell
Made With Creative Commons by Paul Stacey and Sarah Hinchli Pearson
How Not To Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg
Beyond Infinity by Eugenia Cheng

Books Reviewed Second Quarter

Fiction

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier
The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente
Touch by Courtney Maum
Mother Land by Paul Theroux
Walkaway by Cory Doctorow
Startup by Doree Shafrir
Off Rock by Kieran Shea
The Wrong Dead Guy by Richard Kadrey
Earthly Remains by Donna Leon
The Underwriting by Michelle Miller
Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald
Huck Out West by Robert Coover

Non-Fiction

Half-Earth by Edward O. Wilson
The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams
Solve For Happy by Mo Gawdat
The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness by Paula Poundstone
Lenin on the Train by Catherine Merridale
The Spider Network by David Enright
Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Giles Milton

Books Reviewed Q1 2017

Fiction

Revenger by Alistair Reynolds
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Girls by Emma Cline
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
The People’s Police by Norman Spinrad
IQ by Joe Ide
Clownfish Blues by Tim Dorsey
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Empire Games by Charles Stross
The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
The Golden Gate by Robert Buettner
The Old Man by Thomas Perry
Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson

Non Fiction

The Caliphate by Hugh Kennedy
The New Better Off or Reinventing the American Dream by Courtney E. Martin
How America Lost Its Secrets by Edward Jay Epstein
Valley of the Gods by Alexandra Wolfe
Wonderland by Steven Johnson
Measure for Measure by Thomas Levenson


That’s all for 2017!  Happy New Year!

 

Roundup: Books Reviewed In Q3 2017

This quarter saw a few interesting ideas about coworking, ever weirder computer security threats, and the rapid approach of Quantum Computing and Quantum Cryptography.

Dinosaurs and birds remain interesting.

There was a never ending drum of dubious Blockchain technology, dubious Internet of Things technology.

And, as usual regular book reviews.

Fiction

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
The Answers by Catherine Lacey
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
The Management Style of Supreme Beings by Tom Holt
The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross
Shiver Hitch by Linda Greenlaw
Dichronauts by Greg Egan
Killing is My Business by Adam Christopher
The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess
Standard Hollywood Depravity by Adam Christopher
Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher
Will Save Galaxy For Food by Yahtzee Croshaw
Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
Arlington Park by Rachael Cusk
Transition by Rachael Cusk
Death at La Fenece by Donna Leon
A Sea of Troubles by Donna Leon

Non Fiction

Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
Weird Dinosaurs by John Pickrell
Made With Creative Commons by Paul Stacey and Sarah Hinchli Pearson
How Not To Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg
Beyond Infinity by Eugenia Cheng

Finally, I suggests a bunch of “great names for a band”.

“Service Office Industry”
Comfortable edgy fit outs”
As Greenland Darkens
Recent Mass Loss
Larsen C
My Raptor Posse
A Rip of Raptors
Personal Raptor
The Robot Raptor Revue
Final Five Orbits
“Kuiper Belt & Braces”

“A Belt of Kuiper

“The Grand Finale Toolkit”
“Fog World Congress”

Book Review: “The Delirium Brief” by Charles Stross

The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross

And another fantasy from Britain…

As regular readers know, the Laundry Files are far from over.  Dark forces are gathering, and breaking through into everyday reality.  The defense forces are overstretched and beleaguered.

The Delirium Brief continues the story, starting from the fallout of the events recounted n The Nightmare Stacks. You can’t level half of Leeds without the public noticing, so there are many consequences.

This latest file is pretty dark and desperate.  It gave me nightmares.

This book is every bit as good as we expect from Charlie, with lots of witty banter and clever technology jokes.  The cast of characters is outstanding, and the catastrophe binds people deeply and brings out the best in even the little guys.

Stross works in his own brand of political satire, as well, though it isn’t really very funny in this case.  It’s one thing to joke about demonic forces taking over the government, it’s another thing when demonic forces actually are taking over.

But the events are so grim, as grim as grim gets.  Losses are heavy, and evil seems certain to win.  All seems lost.

But the story is not over.

One thing is for sure:  the Laundry Files put our own little troubles in perspective.  It could be worse.  A lot worse.

Get it. Read it.  But maybe not just before bedtime.


1. Charles Stross, The Delirium Brief, New York, Tom Doherty Association, 2017.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

 

Housekeeping: Books Reviewed Q1 2017

As I generally do, I have collected all the books I reviewed in the first quarter of 2017, in no particular order.

The week of February 20 was “book week”, with a book review every day, including longer reviews of five non-fiction books (starred).

Fiction

Revenger by Alistair Reynolds
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Girls by Emma Cline
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
The People’s Police by Norman Spinrad
IQ by Joe Ide
Clownfish Blues by Tim Dorsey
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Empire Games by Charles Stross
The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
The Golden Gate by Robert Buettner
The Old Man by Thomas Perry
Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson

Non Fiction

The Caliphate by Hugh Kennedy
* The New Better Off or Reinventing the American Dream by Courtney E. Martin
* How America Lost Its Secrets by Edward Jay Epstein
* Valley of the Gods by Alexandra Wolfe
* Wonderland by Steven Johnson
* Measure for Measure by Thomas Levenson

 

Book Reviews

 

 

Book Review: “Empire Games” by Charles Stross

Empire Games by Charles Stross

This is a new story set in the multi-timeline universe of the Clan. This exhausting geopolitical six book saga was last heard from with “The Trade of Queens” (2009), and seemed pretty thoroughly over. Massive thermonuclear war is a huge downer and generally considered the end of the story.

But, of course, with an infinite number of timelines, and the ability to travel between them, Stross has given himself a really big piece of paper to write on. Merely wiping out a planet or two is scarcely a blip in the big picture.

Empire Games picks up the story more than a decade later and the many political factions are still jockeying for power and survival.

With everyone geared up with nukes—and cross time delivery systems—a tense espionage game is underway. The worlds are teetering blindly on the brink of mutual destruction.

The original refugees and survivors are aging, so now it will be up to the kids to get us out of this mess.

I was not sure I wanted to pick this story up again, with the earlier series ending so depressing. But here he manages to create both hope and agonizing suspense.

The main downside is that this is “book 1”—there is so much more to come, and we have to wait.  “Cliff hangers” doesn’t even begin to describe the current state.

This is the stuff we expect from Mr. Stross!  He’s still one of the best writers today.


  1. Charles Stross, Empire Games, New York, TOR, 2017.

 

Sunday Book Reviews