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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.
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.
He's ignoring the instant messenger boxes, enjoying some low-bandwidth, high-sensation time with his beer and the pigeons, when a woman walks up to him, and says his name: "Manfred Macx? The courier is an Effective Cyclist, all wind-burned smooth-running muscles clad in a paean to polymer technology: electric blue lycra and wasp yellow carbonate with a light speckling of anti collision LEDs and tight-packed air bags. He pauses a moment, struck by the degree to which she resembles Pam, his ex-fiance. She dumps the box in his lap, then she's back over the low wall and onto her bicycle with her phone already chirping, disappearing in a cloud of spread-spectrum emissions. "Are you saying you taught yourself the language just so you could talk to me?
The square smells of water and dirt and hot metal and the fart-laden exhaust fumes of cold catalytic converters; the bells of trams ding in the background, and birds flock overhead.
He glances up and grabs a pigeon, crops the shot, and squirts it at his weblog to show he's arrived.
He leans against a shop front, massaging his forehead and eyeballing a display of antique brass doorknockers. "Well, if you hadn't shafted them during the late noughties ...
" Manfred taps his left heel on the pavement, looking round for a way out of this conversation. They're all zero-sum cannibals." A thought occurs to him.