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Missile Gap by Charles Stross

Published by Subterranean Press

Illustrated by J. K. Potter

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Charles Stross has gained a considerable reputation as a writer of mind-bending works that border on the surreal. In this slender volume he pulls out all the stops, creating a strange world in which 1960's Earth has been mysteriously moved to the far future and spread out on a sort of cosmic disk, rather like a phonograph record with its "sun" bobbing up and down in the hole in the middle. A disk so huge that it could contain hundreds or thousands of such replications of the Earth's surface, with an escape velocity so high rockets and satellites come crashing back down again.

But humanity's monkey-reflex curiosity refuses to be contained, and both the United States and the Soviet Union are sending missions out to explore beyond the bounds of what once was the surface of the Earth. What they find there will shake all their comfortable certainties.

For such a small book, it packs a surprising punch. There is the not-so-subtle play upon Star Trek themes in the titles of the chapters dealing with Yuri Gagarin's mission, which is even more ironic because Gene Roddenbury intended the Federation to be America writ large, and the Klingons were not so subtle analogs to the Soviet Union. And the scientific revelations about What Is Really Going On will take a reader by surprise -- yet will hardly be surprising to anyone who has more than a passing familiarity with entomology.

Unfortunately it has slipped out of print, and as a result may well be difficult to locate. But for someone who is willing to pay the price, it'll be well worth it.

Review posted January 4, 2009

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