Charlie Stross writes great-to-excellent science fiction/fantasy in many sub-genres, but this novel (and its two sequels) is probably his most..Show More » 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.
The demon dimensions exist. Scary things from your nightmares are real. And Bob Howard- a computer geek - works for the Laundry. An MI-6/MI-5 type ..Show More »agency with all the bureaucratic ISO nightmares, created to control the demons and other horrible things that no one else believes really exist.
In 1975, the CIA used Howard Hughes's Glomar Explorer in a bungled attempt to raise a sunken Soviet submarine in order to access the Jennifer Morgue, an occult device that allows communication with the dead. Now a ruthless billionaire intends to try again, even if by doing so he awakens the Great Old Ones, who thwarted the earlier expedition. It's up to Bob to stop the bad guy and save the world, while getting receipts for all expenditures or else face the most dreaded menace of all: the Laundry's own auditors.
This third in the Laundry series move Bob along in his life, his relationship with his significant other- Mo, his next ina series of matrix management bosses, his father-son relationship with his true mentor in an entertaining story that makes Bob into the James Bond-like damsel in distress.
The snark factor has gone down as the Laundry series has continued. And we know that while Charles Stross has a problem with religion. What he really, really, really hates is American-style, pro-life, evangelical Christianity. However, you can get past this bias and just enjoy the story.
While _The Jennifer Morgue_ was a bit disappointing (though by no means bad) compared to _The Atrocity Archives_, this book was every bit as good as t..Show More »he first in the series. Not quite as exciting, since the concepts in it have already been well explored in previous two books, but this story is certainly more of an adventure than anything else in the series to date. If you liked _The Atrocity Archives_ even just a little, you should go out of your way to read / listen to this book.
The narrator, Gideon Emery, is PERFECT for this book (as he was for the other two) and does an excellent job with one exception: the mispronunciation of "rosin". It's hard for me to believe that even in British English, it's pronounced the way he said it; I assume he's not familiar with the substance and has therefore never heard it pronounced correctly. THAT was rather distracting.
I am a big fan of the Laundry series, and this book is still excellent, but, as the series moves on, it has matured, by necessity, in ways both good a..Show More »nd bad. In general, much like the Harry Dresden series, as the series has developed, it has become less lighthearted, losing the parody and many of the pop-nerd-culture references in favor of more spy- and Love-craft. The characters are now quite well developed, but that leaves less room for the cartoonish bad guys and bizarre plots that made the early books amusing. On the other hand, it means that the stakes feel more real, the plot more grounded in previous novels, and the action more engaging.
This trend is not the reason why I have slightly mixed feeling about the book (though I still strongly recommend it to anyone who has read the series so far). First off, the plot in this particular book is, in some ways, a little less inventive then Stross often is capable of - you are introduced almost immediately to an evangelical church leader with clearly ominous intent, which is a bit of an easy target. There are twists and turns, but perhaps the revelations are more expected in this novel then previous ones.
The second issue is that, as the series has gone on, the main character has shifted from regular schlub to a hero on a larger stage. This is fine, but, as the protagonist moves up the ranks, and as more of the secrets of the Laundry universe are revealed, it removes a little of the overarching cosmic horror that made the series some interesting. Again, this is natural for any ongoing series, but it, plus the slightly less surprising plot, makes the book Really Good rather than Amazing.
On the other hand, the reading is insanely good - many accents, from cosmic horrors to royalty, are covered beautifully. Overall, a really good choice, though this is clearly not where new readers should start.
The last Laundry novel was a bit disappointing - eschewing much of the office politics and humor and instead telling a straight-forward story where Bo..Show More »b Howard, IT guy/secret occult agent, has to defeat a church of (surprise!) evil evangelicals, an obvious target. At first, The Rhesus Chart looks like it is going to be the same, as we are quickly introduced to a nest of vampire high frequency traders with an scene-chewing bad guy at the helm.
However, just as a resign myself to the cliche, the plot twists, and thickens, in interesting and unexpected ways. Plot elements that seemed clumsy and obvious turn out to be cleverly re-purposed, and the whole book, while retaining the macabre, becomes a lot more fun. Helping this is a return to the sharp humor and office politics of earlier books, with a mix of LOTS of amusing geek references along with some fairly clever lines.
And, of course, the reader is amazing.
There are only a couple downsides, one of which is that the coming of Case Nightmare Green is again not deferred (clearly many more novels are ahead!), and that the story is a little flabby in the middle, slowing down a bit more than needed before speeding towards its conclusion.
So, if you are reading the Laundry novels, this is a must-buy. If you haven't, you really should (though you could skip the last one). I am really happy the magic is back in this excellent series!
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..Show More » 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.
The last three Laundry novels have been very uneven, as Stross seems to have run out of steam with his increasingly damaged, increasingly powerful mai..Show More »n 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.