The sub comes out of the water like a gigantic yellow bath toy, a cyborg whale designed by a god with a sense of humour.
Are you fucking kidding me.
One of the complaints sci fi writers generally have about sci fi is the fact that most sci fi fans tend to venerate The Old Gods and by The Old Gods I don't mean all things Lovecraftian I mean the guys who started writing before WWII started. But you know what? There's a reason for that.
Charlie Stross sat down at the computer and typed "the sub comes out of the water like a giant yellow bath toy." You know what we oughtta read next? So long as we're reading Mary Sue Lovecraftian fanfic? Who Goes There.
Yet somehow, through all that reek of human beings and their associates dogs, machines and cooking came another taint. It was a queer, neckruffling thing, a faintest suggestion of an odor alien among the smells of industry and life. And it was a lifesmell. But it came from the thing that lay bound with cord and tarpaulin on the table, dripping slowly, methodically onto the heavy planks, dank and gaunt under the unshielded glare of the electric light.
One of these authors gives a shit. The other does not.
The thing looks a bit like a weird fish -- a turbocharged, armoured hagfish with side-skirts and spoilers, or maybe a squid with not enough tentacles.
That's a Kindred Horror right there - "a turbocharged, armoured hagfish with side-skirts and spoilers." Stross had the whole of Lovecraft and the whole of batshit '60s nuclear projects to romp among and he can't quite get to the level of excitement of the Dyatlov Pass report.
The branches are broken off on the tree itself. Half burnt branches in a hole under the cedar are indicating a makeshift fire. Around the campfire are discovered charred sock and a checked shirt. In the shirt money - 8 rubles. Charred balaclava greenish color. To the north of the fire at a distance of one meter heads west, feet to the east two bodies lie next to each other. Identified by: Yuri Alekseevich Krivonischenko face up, wearing a checked shirt, torn pants. Head thrown back, eyes closed, mouth closed, lips pressed, right arm above his head, left arm bent, the wrist is raised to the chest. Right leg extended, left - slightly bent at the knee. Right foot barefoot on the left wearing a torn brown sock identical charred sock found in the fire. On the back of the left hand skin is missing. Blood between his fingers. Index finger is peeled. The skin on the left lower leg is torn off, blood present. Other bodily injury by external examination is not established.
Would I say that A Colder War uses the Cold War to make a statement about that era? I would say that it's an attempt to couch a story in the limits of bureaucracy but the story doesn't so much dwell in an era as it namechecks it. Stross somehow manages to take the Ctulhu mythos and the batshit nuclear era and combine them into something about as scary and interesting as Stephen Universe.
Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and Mr. Scott beamed down with Lt. Mary Sue to Rigel XXXVII. They were attacked by green androids and thrown into prison. In a moment of weakness Lt. Mary Sue revealed to Mr. Spock that she too was half Vulcan. Recovering quickly, she sprung the lock with her hairpin and they all got away back to the ship.
I would earnestly like to read some new, good scifi. Bacigalupi may get there. He may not. At least he's grappling with new ideas. Richard K Morgan is trying. He's had a couple bursts of inspiration. Hugh Howey is garbage. Ernest Cline is garbage - Ready Player One is Snow Crash for idiots. And Snow Crash wasn't that great and it was 30 years ago.
Bruce Sterling observed that Neuromancer made the impact it did because it was the first sci fi novel to presuppose a future that wasn't a clean-slate rewrite after a nuclear war. And ever since, we've devolved into bleak dystopias where the problems we're dealing with this very minute cause boring, predictable capers wrapped in sci fi capes. Yet somehow Andy Weir couldn't sell The Martian to agents.
Harry Potter started a virtual religion because it had wonder. How do you take an era where young men in white t-shirts wandered into cafes on Hollywood blvd to fly secret missions over the USSR in planes that didn't officially exist, cross it with the most evocative horror fiction of the past 100 years and come up with "gigantic yellow bath toy?"