A novel by Charles Stross Copyright © Charles Stross, 2005 Published by Ace Books, New York, July 2005, ISBN 0441012841 Orbit Books, London, August 2005, ISBN 1841493902 Copyright © Charles Stross, 2005.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivs 2.5 License.

Dijkstra Manfred's on the road again, making strangers rich.

It's a hot summer Tuesday, and he's standing in the plaza in front of the Centraal Station with his eyeballs powered up and the sunlight jangling off the canal, motor scooters and kamikaze cyclists whizzing past and tourists chattering on every side.

Portions of this book originally appeared in Asimov's SF Magazine as follows: "Lobsters" (June 2001), "Troubadour" (Oct/Nov 2001), "Tourist" (Feb 2002), "Halo" (June 2002), "Router" (Sept 2002), "Nightfall" (April 2003), "Curator" (Dec 2003), "Elector" (Oct/Nov 2004), "Survivor" (Dec 2004).

"The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim." – Edsger W.

A tourist boat putters by in the canal; the sails of the huge windmill overhead cast long, cool shadows across the road. "Am organization formerly known as KGB dot RU." "I think your translator's broken." He holds the phone to his ear carefully, as if it's made of smoke-thin aerogel, tenuous as the sanity of the being on the other end of the line. Am apologize for we not use commercial translation software.

The windmill is a machine for lifting water, turning wind power into dry land: trading energy for space, sixteenth-century style. Interpreters are ideologically suspect, mostly have capitalist semiotics and pay-per-use APIs. " Manfred drains his beer glass, sets it down, stands up, and begins to walk along the main road, phone glued to the side of his head.

Among the many people who read and commented on the early drafts are: Andrew J.

Wilson, Stef Pearson, Gav Inglis, Andrew Ferguson, Jack Deighton, Jane Mc Kie, Hannu Rajaniemi, Martin Page, Stephen Christian, Simon Bisson, Paul Fraser, Dave Clements, Ken Mac Leod, Damien Broderick, Damon Sicore, Cory Doctorow, Emmet O'Brien, Andrew Ducker, Warren Ellis, and Peter Hollo.

The bandwidth is good here, he realizes; and it's not just the bandwidth, it's the whole scene.

Amsterdam is making him feel wanted already, even though he's fresh off the train from Schiphol: He's infected with the dynamic optimism of another time zone, another city.

If the mood holds, someone out there is going to become very rich indeed. * * * Manfred sits on a stool out in the car park at the Brouwerij 't IJ, watching the articulated buses go by and drinking a third of a liter of lip-curlingly sour .