Missile Gap (2006)

Imagine someone took the whole surface of Earth after the Cuba crisis and stuck it onto an Alderson Disk in another galaxy. Imagine that what humans see of the milky way shows visible signs of megascale engineering. This is the starting point of Stross’s novella. Humanity is at a loss to explain what happened, trying to cope with their situation, still in the throes of the Cold War. The first move on both sides is to play the old game of superpowers. But the game has changed.

Missile Gap has the same attraction his earlier story A Colder War had, and a bit of the same style. The more you read, the more hopeless the whole situation looks. You know something bad will happen to humanity, but you still want to know: How, Why and When. Funnily, Missile Gap doesn’t have much new ideas, some of the scary content can be found in countless other horror or SF novels, but the way Stross mixes the stuff with some new ideas makes for an astonishingly fresh read. This is chilling stuff, and in the tradition of SF that reaches back to Well’s War of the Worlds, humanity isn’t at the top of the foot chain and there’s no chance it can close the gap.