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A camera winks at him from atop a streetlight; he waves, wondering idly if it's the KGB or the traffic police. "If survival is what you're after, you could post your state vector on one of the p2p nets: Then nobody could delete you –" "Nyet! " "Then we probably have nothing to talk about." Manfred punches the hang-up button and throws the mobile phone out into a canal.He is waiting for directions to the party, which should arrive within the next half hour, and this Cold War retread Eliza-bot is bumming him out. " The artificial intelligence sounds as alarmed as it's possible to sound over a Voi P link. It hits the water, and there's a pop of deflagrating lithium cells.

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.

(If your name isn't on this list, blame my memory – my neural prostheses are off-line.) I mentioned several friendly editors earlier: I relied on the talented midwifery of Gardner Dozois, who edited Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine at the time, and Sheila Williams, who quietly and diligently kept the wheels rolling.

My agent Caitlin Blasdell had a hand in it too, and I'd like to thank my editors Ginjer Buchanan at Ace and Tim Holman at Orbit for their helpful comments and advice.

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.

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