Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Thunder's Mouth Press (11 Jan 2007)
This is a collection of stories by the author of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and other novels. And I have to say, it's pretty damned good. Judging by the declared copyright date, the stories herein were originally published in 2005 and 2006, though (like some other recent volumes I've read), the actual publication dates aren't explicitly given.
There are five stories in here, ranging nearly up to 80 pages, so they're not short stories, more novelette heading for novella. The first, When Sysadmins Ruled the World is a elegy to the people who keep this whole intaweb thingy running (if you know what nanae is, then there will be resonance). Anda's Game is a near future What If about MMORPG Gold Farmers. I, Robot and I, Row-boat are about (what else) robots, from two different views, with the latter being the purest fun in the book, and the final story, After the Siege, is a tough story inspired by the WWII sieges of Russian cities, yet set in an unspecified developing country.
In some ways, I prefer these to the novels. Doctorow can be preachy, but in the short forms, his messages can be better distilled. In each of these, he takes an idea and shows it, and the consequences, in a way that could be a bit bloated at novel length. The weakest, in my opinion, is probably the first, where the main character suffers sudden loss, and yet seem relatively unaffected: not totally so, but the character development one might expect from it isn't allowed space. But apart from that quibble, in general my verdict is excellent.