Hugo Award-winning author Charles Stross presents the next case in The Laundry Files. Dominique O'Brien - her friends call her Mo - lives a curious double life with her husband, Bob Howard. To the average civilian, they're boring middle-aged civil servants. But within the labyrinthian secret circles of Her Majesty's government, they're operatives working for the nation's occult security service known as the Laundry, charged with defending Britain against dark supernatural forces threatening humanity.
Mo's latest assignment is assisting the police in containing an unusual outbreak: ordinary citizens suddenly imbued with extraordinary abilities of the superpowered kind. Unfortunately these people prefer playing superpranks instead of superheroics. The mayor of London being levitated by a dumpy man in Trafalgar Square would normally be a source of shared amusement for Mo and Bob, but they're currently separated because something's come between them - something evil. An antique violin, an Erich Zann original, made of human white bone, was designed to produce music capable of slaughtering demons. Mo is the custodian of this unholy instrument. It invades her dreams and yearns for the blood of her colleagues - and her husband. And despite Mo's proficiency as a world-class violinist, it cannot be controlled....
©2015 Charles Stross (P)2015 Recorded Books
"A weirdly alluring blend of super-spy thriller, deadpan comic fantasy, and Lovecraftian horror." (Kirkus Reviews)
On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through
I am a huge Stross, and Laundry, fan, but this is the weakest entry in the series so far. I really appreciate what Stross is trying to do - introduce us to a different viewpoint, make a middle age female character the hero, and start giving us a more well-rounded view of the relationships in the book. Unfortunately, none of it really works as well as I hoped, though the reading is excellent. Mainly this is because the book seems to constantly focus on the least interesting aspects of its plot and characters.
Major things are happening in the Laundry universe, and we are missing them as listeners. For example, if the rest of the series was about hiding the terrible truth of Case Nightmare Green from the world, this book features a sudden switch where everyone is suddenly aware that supernatural stuff is happening, yet we see nothing of the implications of this. As another example, Stross introduces his own twist on superheroes, but then never does anything very interesting with it. Or the fact that the tension between Mo's violin and her love for Bob should be a big issue, but it never really feels motivated. Even the major overarching plot seems mostly to focus on minutiae (like setting up desks in an office), while giant events happen elsewhere.
It was the least satisfying Laundry book, and is a lot grimmer than previous novels. Overall, I think it is probably skippable, though I am still looking forward to the next in the series.
I would not recommend this book to a friend. While a tolerably book in its own right, it is a disappointment when put into the context of the series. It lack the joy and irreverence of the earlier books despite the absurdist plot elements. Beyond that Mo, who had been a likable if not particularly well developed character, takes center stage and becomes both significantly less likeable and less interesting. There are also some of the cringe worth moments due to the author writing from the point of view of a woman and not quite getting it right. I would recommend reading the series but skipping this book.
Definitely my least favorite of this series.
Larry & Cheryl. Truck Driver/retired military and Dental Hygenist, respectively. Interests: action, sci-fi, urban fantasy, & historical fict
Adequate but disappointing. I love the Laundry series and have been anxiously waiting to get my eldritch fix for what seems like forever, but Annihilation Score didn't quite satisfy. The main reason for this is, as the other reviews here point out, is Mo, the protagonist in this story is very unlikable, especially if you are a fan of the series (and, thereby, a fan of Bob).
To be fair to the author, he has been consistent throughout the series in his portrayal of Mo and she has always been self-centered but it was never so obvious because Bob is a nice guy and doesn't dwell on it. But with Mo being the central character, it is really hard (impossible) to cheer her on to victory.
The only redeeming quality to this book, imo, is Mr Stross' continuing stellar (and humorous) job at portraying a Dilbert-esque nightmare bureaucracy in action. Masterful and the only reason I give this one any stars at all.
Having said all of the above, unfortunately, if you are a Laundry fan, you can't skip this book cuz it does advance the overall story arc dramatically. Hopefully the next one will return to Bob's viewpoint and we can see him mature as he manages to get a handle on his new "stuff"...
Can only imagine this was intended as a bridge to a new series, which would explain why it isn't listed as a Laundry Files novel. Major characters are flung aside with barely any explanation and virtually the entire story is devoted to cynical, if occasionally amusing, explanations of how bureaucracies operate. Painful to slog through.
This is not a Bob Howard story. This is a Mo story.
The character perspective and voice are very different from the rest of the series (which is probably also why Gideon Emory is not narrating) so if you are a Bob fan rather than a Laundry fan or a Stross fan you may need to manage your expectations.
That said, it is still a good listen. And I think the change of perspective was needed after the events concluding The Rhesus Chart.
I'm a big fan of Stross and the Laundry Files books but I found this one frustrating and boring. First of all Bob is basically gone and the novel is told from his wife Mo's perspective. She's neither very insightful, empathic, or interesting. Following her starting a new governmental office in a vast bureaucracy is as thrilling as it sounds even if it is to start a superhero office. Which also feels like a break with the Laundry Files mythos and not a welcome one. There's plenty of superhero stories out there and this doesn't need to be one of them.
I'm afraid that Stross might be traveling down a similar path to what happened in the Clan Corporate books. The first books were great and had very interesting ideas and then devolved to schlocky thrillers near the end. If he's bored writing in the world and characters of the Laundry I wish he'd leave it be and move on.
I'd suggest you leave this one be.
if the authors aim in writing this book was to make the audience dislike or even hate Mo then he did his job very well. what little sympathy i had for her (and it was already worn very thin by the end of book 5) was completely ripped away by this installment.
the narrator wasn't terrible but i couldn't differentiate any of her characters. they all had a mixed up accent that was sometimes irish, scottish or british, but none of it was consistent so it was hard to tell who was saying what. her voice put me to sleep on three different occasions and i have never fallen asleep while listening to a book before.
on another note, changing main characters when your already five novels into the series is not always the best way to go. its gives the reader mental and emotional whip-lash. we spend five novels building up an understanding and growing with the main character and then suddenly your supposed to care about someone else. and the mc you actually do care about is nowhere to be seen.
please bring back bob.
reading a laundry files novel without bob is like reading the hellequin chronicles without nathan garrett, or the tomb of bill without bill.
I'm a huge fan of The Laundry Files, and this book is no disappointment. With the most outlandish plot yet, and Case Nightmare Green on the horizon, The Annihilation Score out does all of the previous novels.
Some say Mo, who is the main character of this novel, is "bitchy" and selfish, often whining about other women or complaining about feeling ugly, and they complain how horrible of a character she is. I disagree. The rest of the series features Bob doing much the same thing, but he gets a pass because he is a man. Don't let them convince not to get this book.
However, the performance leaves much to be desired. Unlike Gideon Emery, who was a master of accents and voices, this book's narrator is scarcely capable of performing different female voices, let alone those of men. With the exception of The White Violin, who's voice style is a hamfest, the other voice work is indistinct and the actress has a terrible habit of pausing between words, even in the middle of thoughts.
All in all, an excellent work, who's amazing story manages to rescue the mediocre performance.
He took a strong female character and presented her as weak, whiny, and contradictory to the confidant and capable character from the previous books. It's fine if she has doubts and it's fine if she's struggling with things, but it's not fine for her to be utterly without a spine through most of the book.
Talked to an actual strong woman who has been through trauma and told a story that shows actual struggle and strength in the face of adversity. Showed us more of the strength that goes along with doubt, show her faking it even. Showed us that she has the strength to deal with things, even though it's dreadfully hard (not because everyone can, but because we know Mo can based on her past performance). If you need to break her, then break her, then show her coming out of it.
Also he could have shown Mo actually understanding that not being able to live with her spouse because they have incompatible powers isn't the same as being separated by choice. She seemed to act as if they were separated entirely by choice, when nothing in the narrative that i recall reading backs that up in the slightest. "We have to live apart because our powers may kill each other" isn't the same thing as "We aren't getting along together, so we are going to break up for a bit." By Mo's reasoning in this book, if Bob (or Mo) had been hurt and had to go to the hospital for a month, that would have been the same as being separated by choice.
Mo's interactions with Ramona on the oil platform were interesting.
Just about everything between the first and last chapters. In fact, I recommend anyone interested in the story go to the library and read the first chapter (or perhaps two) and then read the last chapter and never return to the book again.
I'v e read on the author's blog that he seems to think the people who don't like this book, but love the rest of the series, aren't getting it. I'm sorry, but it's not that we don't get it, it's that we don't think you did a very good job of selling it to us. You are a fantastic writer, but you dropped the ball on this one and given how many people haven't liked it, I'd strongly recommend figuring out some way to explain it better. Like perhaps a new edition of the story or a short story better explaining her uncharacteristic behavior.
"Not what I expect from Stross "
Sadly Stross's female protagonist is less believable than her male counterpart has been in previous Laundry books. There are fewer signature-Stross devices in it although there's a nice little twist towards the end. Even given the background and history of previous books the story itself feels less grounded, so here's hoping the next Laundry book pulls back into Stross's normal great form.
Everything I expect from a Stross novel. Well written, gripping, clever, full of detail and a dark sense of humor. Wonderfully read, too. Great stuff.
It's basically the setting up of a new office, with marital discord, told in real time. I really like the other books but this is just tedious. Detailed descriptions of endless meetings, tedious retelling of conversations about HR issues. It's like actually being at work.
There's a small amount of the usual Laundry Files plot that could probably be a short novella. It's disappointing that the first of the Laundry Files to really feature women in anything other than very minor roles is so boring with very little action.
"Bridget Jones Diary meets Xmen"
Personally not a fan of Sci Fi mixed with love story. Might be something for someone that likes the worries of woman trying to juggle a career managing superheroes with her dating/lovelife.
I think the idea behind the book was good but I think it could have been focused on what would happen if superheroes started to appear and how to deal with villains, rather than the personal problems of the main character's love life.
It was a hard one, think that some of the voices sounded a bit weird.
I think this might be a great book but personally not my cup of tea which is a shame as liked his first two books.
"It's a Marvelous Universe"
It's a comic-book renaissance at the moment, and Charles Stross does love weaving the twists and turns of popular SciFi/Fantasy into his Laundry novels. I've just ripped my way through all of his books (why are the middle ones not on Audible ?!?) in the past few weeks, and I love his spy-thriller-Lovecraft pastiche. In this book we learn how the engine of the British state (bureaucracy) will combat super-villains and manage super-heroes? Answer: create a branch of the Home Office, of course!
I would say to anyone who has only read the audible-available books to pick up written copies of the intervening ones (or at least the Fuller Memorandum and the Rhesus Chart). Bob and Mo have been on a real journey between Jennifer Morgue and here, and I don't think this book would be as enjoyable without learning about that journey.
That is also quite a telling remark on the plot, as the aforementioned books would have stood alone. I liked that Stross changed the protagonist rather than have Mo be the centre of the story but only learn about it through her husband. I found it interesting to learn that what she thinks of her husband is wildly different than what I think of him, and what I thought she thought of him, from the view that I've had from inside Bob's head.
The upshot is that super-hero stories just aren't as meaty as cold-war spy thrillers and I think I'm a little-bit hero saturated. The humour didn't flow as easily and I didn't quite get some of the character's motivations behind their actions, when comparing their actions in the previous books.
My main criticism is that the protagonist is from Aberdeen and the narrator's accent is thoroughly Edinburgh/Central belt, which would be absolutely fine if I hadn't been applying my local accent to her character for the previous books. Otherwise, the narrator is fine.. honest!
In conclusion: better than Apocalypse Codex; worse that Fuller Memorandum and Rhesus Chart. It's a great series though - and I've recommended it to all my civil-service friends!
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