Bob Howard is a computer-hacker desk jockey, who has more than enough trouble keeping up with the endless paperwork he has to do on a daily basis. He should never be called on to do anything remotely heroic. But for some reason, he is.
©2004 Charles Stross; (P)2010 Recorded Books, LLC
"In Atrocity, Bob, a low-level computer fix-it guy for the Laundry, a supersecret British agency that defends the world from occult happenings, finds himself promoted to fieldwork after he bravely saves the day during a routine demonstration gone awry. With his Palm, aka his Hand of Glory (a severed hand that, when ignited, renders the holder invisible), and his smarts, he saves the world from a powerful external force seeking to enter our universe to suck it dry....With often hilarious results, the author mixes the occult and the mundane, the truly weird and the petty." (Publishers Weekly)
Audible listener since the late 1990s. I mostly listen to science fiction, fantasy, history, and science.
Charlie Stross writes great-to-excellent science fiction/fantasy in many sub-genres, but this novel (and its two sequels) is probably his most original. Its hero is an IT support expert turned secret agent fighting against supernatural horror and organizational bureaucracy. The book is by turns satirical, scary, and action-packed, and generally succeeds admirably, especially for its target audience, for whom it is likely to be a home-run.
And boy does the target audience matter: the book is full of allusions and in-jokes, as well as many quickly listed references. You can (and will) miss a few, but if you aren't a nerd, that is, you aren't into IT and Lovecraft, then you may not be the target audience for this book, and may miss most of its cleverness. For example, expect quick, but important references to: Alan Turing, gorgons, Forward-Looking Infrared Scanners, Windows software licensing terms, Cthulu, John Dee, Mandelbrot Sets, The Great Old Ones, and much more. If the list intrigues you, definitely, definitely get this book. If it baffles you, this might still be a good listen, but will be confusing as well.
As for me, nerd that I am, I loved it, and look forward to seeing the sequel, and the new book coming out in July 2010. The reader, by the way, does a great job.
Overall this is an easy listen with a great reader/author combination. The second story drags at points (hence the star taken away from story and overall) but the first story carries it magnificently. Highly recommended if you liked the Dresden Files.
The author is a fan of the Dresden Files, and it shows in his writing. He translates the same quick wit, heavy action, and light mystery of the Dresden Files across the Atlantic to a tech geek in England. The magic has a comp sci/math twist that adds a whole new level of geekiness. Gideon Emery's amazing performance rivals James Marsters' performance of the Dresden Files. Get it and thank me later.
This is well read by Gideon Emery, and a great book! I'd describe it as a Science Fiction/Horror/Comedy. The back story for the Concrete Jungle (the 2nd book included after the Atrocity Archive) gets a little slow, but it has a great payoff. Makes me want more office toys!
Everything about this book should have appealed to me. It had lots of fantasy, Cthulhu and computer programming jokes, was fast paced and action packed, and you were never left scratching your heading trying to figure out what the author was trying to get you to realize.
But it didn't do it for me. I'm not sure if it's because the characters didn't take themselves seriously enough, or too seriously. If the plot wasn't serious enough, or too serious. But somehow it didn't connect to me.
After reading reviews and summaries for other books by Stross I don't think I'll be reading anymore of his. They seem fun and good natured but not in a way I appreciate. Which is a shame, because at first brush all his ideas are interesting and comical, yet are just executed wrong somehow.
Gideon Emery narration is absolutely perfect in this entire series. Right from the first chapter of this book, Bob Howard is brought to life by Emery's subtle inflections and understanding of this character.
The story itself is about as clever as anything I've listened to so far. Having spent over 20 years in the IT industry, I found myself chuckling at the anecdotes that were spot-on in the IT world. Aside from this pleasant diversion, the actual story and characters are outstanding. However, if you're not overly familiar with the IT universe, several of the "inside jokes" might be lost on you. My wife found a lot of the technical references in the book to be annoying, but still enjoyed the book.
James Bond has a license to kill, but the rest of us have to save the world and find love and happiness working for micromanagers who get in the way. Charlie Stross manages to make sorcery plausible and have wonderful characters in situations and organizations I recognize. These are characters I want for friends and to back me up. Sorry if I haven't made this as fun and exciting as I thought it was. I loved halting state and this brings back good people in fantastic situations , and it is an enjoyable ride.
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
I really should like this book more than I do, but I don't find it as funny as I think it's trying to be.
The first 1/2 of it was so slow that I wanted to put it down - several times - but kept telling myself that it would get better; it HAD to get better because there are so many good reviews of this book. That, and I had already paid good money for it and, by golly, I'm going to finish reading it.
But, man, it was hard. I liked the concept behind it - using mathematics as the underpinning/justification for "magic" is very original. And the theory behind it was so nicely explained (albeit in terms I didn't understand) that it had the feel that it could really be possible to use math (a.k.a magic) to open portals to other dimensions. This is the component of the story that I liked.
What I didn't like was all the... silliness... regarding his "real" job as a public servant, living with Pinkie and the Brain, and etc. I guess, looking back, it was the "humorous" parts of the book that I didn't like. Not my kind of humor - too slap-stick and not nearly dark and witty enough for me. The parts I did like were the sci-fi parts - where they make an excursion to an alternate dimension, the explanation of fictional scientific theories, etc.
I will probably read more books in the laundry series, but they're not a priority. The narration was good.
This book, and indeed this series, deeply explores the depths of two different neighborhoods of geekdom. You're going to need passing familiarity with one of them and fluency in the other to really enjoy the series. (It doesn't matter which one you're fluent in.) The first neighborhood is technology, especially programming. The second neighborhood is bureaucracy, especially business bureaucracy. If you work in an organization or industry has been bushwhacked by six Sigma or lean whatever-your-process-happens-to-be and other trendy efficiency systems that really should only apply manufacturing, you're going to think this is pretty funny. if you can also tell the difference between the different tech specs on a basic computer spec sheet without the row headers, and can distinguish between what the parts are (e.g. that's a graphic card that's the hard drive etc) based on the description, then you know enough to find this completely hilarious. Bonus laughs will be granted at various points for: Edward Tufte geeks, literature analysis geeks & Anglophiles.
Gideon Emery's performance is so perfect that you hardly notice that it's there because you're so immersed in the story. In fact, I enjoyed the first three books in this series so much that after I finished listening to the three of them back-to-back the first time, I immediately started the series over again. I knew I had missed some of the brilliant details on the first go around and it held up really well to relistening.
This is a simple story which is made victim of an unholy union with horrors from the inconceivable void, built up with either a genuine knowledge of advanced mathematics or a knack for smooth-flowing technobabble and then coated with all the dry jokes about government bureaucracy; all of them.
I recommend it.
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