The Laundry Files' "fast-paced blend of espionage thrills, mundane office comedy and Lovecraftian horror" (SFX) continues as Hugo Award-winning author Charles Stross assigns a day trader to a permanent position on the night shift....
After stumbling upon the algorithm that turned him and his fellow merchant bankers into vampires, Alex Schwartz was drafted by The Laundry, Britain's secret counter-occult agency that's humanity's first line of defense against the forces of darkness. Dependent on his new employers for his continued existence - as Alex has no stomach for predatory bloodsucking - he has little choice but to accept his new role as an operative in training.
Dispatched to Leeds, Alex's first assignment is to help assess the costs of renovating a 1950s Cold War bunker into The Laundry's new headquarters. Unfortunately Leeds is Alex's hometown, and the thought of breaking the news to his parents that he's left banking for civil service, while hiding his undead condition, is causing more anxiety than learning how to live as a vampire secret agent preparing to confront multiple apocalypses.
Alex's only saving grace is Cassie Brewer, a drama student appearing in the local Goth Festival who is inexplicably attracted to him despite his awkward personality and massive amounts of sunblock.
But Cassie has secrets of her own - secrets that make Alex's nightlife behaviors seem positively normal....
©2016 Charles Stross (P)2016 Recorded Books
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
The last three Laundry novels have been very uneven, as Stross seems to have run out of steam with his increasingly damaged, increasingly powerful main characters. What was once a series that managed to, oddly, combine real humor with spycraft and supernatural horror had become a slog rather than a delight. I barely got through the last book.
All of that changes with the Nightmare Stacks. By switching to a new character who is essentially a relaunch of Bob, his original protagonist, Stross escapes the problems that dogged the previous books. Once again, we have geek humor (references to everything from Baldur's Gate to software licensing terms), witty banter, and dark ritual magic. There is even an amazing dinner party scene that is genuinely hilarious.
In addition to recapturing the old magic, two things make this new book stand out. First, Stross has finally let the timeline of his books move forward into Case Nightmare Green territory, as the first inklings of the end of the world reach the population at large. The result is that we are moving from spy novels to war novels - and Stross writes some amazing Tom Clancy-esque miltiary action scenes.
The second thing that makes this book a stand out is that I think it is accessible to new readers. A short Wikipedia recap of the first book is all you likely need to get up to speed. You can certainly skip Book 6 and lose very little.
Overall, this was great - well read as always, and tight and well written. I am happy that one of my favorite series has found its (dark, eldritch) magic again.
Action-packed, hilarious, and just plain fun. After the (not unenjoyable, just different) detour that was The Annihilation Score, Stross has come back to what makes this series so enjoyable. Alex really comes into his own in this novel after the introduction he had in The Rhesus Chart, and though you might think coming into this that you will be lamenting Bob's absence in this and the previous book, that is not the case at all.
This is a tough question, as I know there are several candidates floating around my head, I just can't put a name to them right now save for books I've read recently. Certain books of the Dresden series come to mind, because of how the endgame of the novel plays out. In that regard this book is also similar to the first entry in Stephen Moss' Fear saga.
Emery has narrated most of the books in the series, with the exception of The Annihilation Score which has Mo as the viewpoint character. He's back to do Alex, and does an outstanding job. Like there was ever any doubt.
Stross has a penchant for expertly blending geek humour and sardonic irony with this series, and that's back in full force as Alex is basically a younger version of Bob in this novel (and the inherent stereotypes of his character are exploited mercilessly with hilarious results on more than one occasion). I should also mention that, as with the previous entry, the CASE NIGHTMARE scenario takes center stage (with a twist) which Stross unravels marvelously.
I hesitate to call this a return to form, as there was nothing really wrong with the previous novel, it just wasn't what I was expecting. For all intents and purposes, this book mirrors the earlier entries in the series, and is a joy to experience.
Larry & Cheryl. Truck Driver/retired military and Dental Hygenist, respectively. Interests: action, sci-fi, urban fantasy, & historical fict
I have to admit from the git-go that The Laundry Files series by Mr Stross is one of my top 5 series I have been following the past 5 yrs. I relisten to various books in the series often and am always amused at the absurdness of the bureaucracy that our intrepid hero, Bob Howard, has to deal with. In short, I am a big fan of Bob. Having said that, Bob is barely even mentioned in The Nightmare Stacks, the 7th novel of the series so I was inclined to dislike The Nightmare Stacks before I had downloaded it. But the series is so unique and the author so skilled at his craft that I still pre-ordered it.
The Nightmare Stacks’ protagonist is Alex Schwartz, a likable character we first meet in book 5 of the series, The Rhesus Chart. He is a “victim” of PHANG syndrome and still trying to wrap his morals around being a PHANG (not PC to use the “V” word) and struggling with how to break the news to his parents that he left his high paying job as an analyst at a bank for a civil service job. Meanwhile, series-wise, events have been rushing to bring Case Nightmare Green ever closer (as evidenced in book 6 of the series, The Annihilation Score). Well, in this book, Alex, a newbie to the magical world, is smack dab in the middle of another Case Nightmare scenario coming to a head before a shocked Britain. And that’s all for the synopsis because any more involves spoilers…
So, did I enjoy the book without Bob? Surprisingly, YES! This was a much better book than book 6 because the characters were more likable (to me, at least). We do not get to deal with the Dilbert-esque bureaucracy hell that gets so many chuckles from me usually, but Mr Stross makes up for it with action and mayhem. I do have some criticisms of the book:
1. The ending was wwwaaayyy too abrupt. Should have had a 10min epilogue to tie things up…
2. No Bob at all. He was mentioned in the second half of the book to be in Japan. That’s it.
3. No Mahogany Row action. As the series has progressed, we have been allowed to peek behind the curtains more and more to see the invisible hands guiding the Laundry. That is lacking here, even though we have a situation that drastically alters Britain, if not the world…
4. No “superpowered” players. As introduced in book 6, “superpowered” are now in the public eye. However, in this situation, not even one makes an appearance.
These criticisms are from a huge fan of the series. If you have read/listened to the series and are not an avid fan of the Laundry, then the above points may not be an issue for you.
Gideon Emery’s performance as narrator was stellar as always. If you need a British narrator/performer of your projected-to-be NYTimes bestseller, Mr Emery is your man: distinct male/female voices, nuanced performances portraying emotion and feelings combined with a master’s sense of timing and cadence, and skill at delivering that unique British sense of humor that I, as an American, will always love but never quite understand.
If you are a fan of the Laundry Files, you will enjoy The Nightmare Stacks. Action and tension are the hallmarks of this latest installment and it further advances the Case Nightmare plotline dramatically. Just don’t be expecting Bob to be making an appearance.
Story (plot) :4
Production Quality :3
Attention Holding. :4
This is an excellent addition to the Laundry Files. I was bummed at first that Bob wasn't back in the picture yet, but Stross transformed a character I wasn't too fond of, into a hero. Bravo.
Over the Laundry series I have become a big fan of Bob and Mo. They are not in this book. I almost did not buy it. But it turns out that Alex socially inept Phang geek is a compelling character, and pulled, nay pushed, the story along at high speed. Watch for other fun characters to play a big role.
I had my doubts that the Laundry Files could maintain it's quality and momentum with out the character of Bob Howard (a doubt fed by the just okay previous novel in the series).
I was wrong. The sly humor is still there. The grand otherworldly threats still threaten. Entertaining.
Wonderfully narrated by Mr. Emery.
Alex, or Bob 2.0, is a far more intriguing and empathetic character here. The supporting cast of characters and entertaining and earn their places in the narrative. As ever lots of humour, references and some top action. Definite entertainment value for multiple listens.
"Poor narration spoiled it for me"
This was a great story - although I couldn`t finish it due to the narrator. I forgave the mispronounciations, I could live with the fact he sounded half asleep... but to make every woman sound like Daffy Duck and every `Northerner` a wannabe Scouser` was insupportable. I`ll return it and buy the book.
The first half. Before the women played an important part and the fact they all sounded like a mentally stunted platypus dragged it down.
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