Missile Gap

13.07.2013 20:58

Recently I read Missile Gap by Charles Stross (first 9 chapters seem to be freely available on the web). It's a fascinating little hard-science fiction story that mixes Earth from the cold war era and a completely outrageous premise that the world has suddenly become a flat disc.

I can just imagine this started as a crazy idea in the form of "well, I wonder what would happen if the Earth was flat" and then brought to the logical conclusion, with the politics of the 70s thrown in to make for a more captivating story. I think Missile Gap shows in the best possible way how a science fiction story can start with a completely unbelievable event and then build a world and extrapolate a line of believable events around it that makes for an enjoyable read that doesn't force you to suspend the rational part of your mind. Many stories I come across these days have less outrageous plot devices, but then continue to break known laws of physics like crazy during their course.

What also kept me turning pages is the inclusion and logical continuation of quite real, but obscure research projects that both superpowers were working on at that time. For someone like me who has spent too many hours reading up on canceled concepts of nuclear powered airplanes and rockets this was like icing on a cake.

Visualization of Missile Gap by Charles Stross

Anyway, the other day I needed something to occupy my mind and having the book handy on my Kindle and an idle Python interpreter on my laptop, I drew the visualization above. It shows Missile Gap's 17 chapters in three colors, to show three separate personal stories the book revolves around. The length of the boxes is proportional to the number of words while the accumulative number of words is shown on the scale on the right (click on the image for a larger version).

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Life

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