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3.0 out of 5 starsSome of the magic has left the Laundry universe
Reviewed in the United States on October 28, 2020
When I say the magic has left, I don't mean the magic of the elder gods (of which this. novel is chock full of)—rather I'm talking about that manic ironic writing magic that infused Stross's early Laundry novels. Mr Stross should have ended the series long ago, because it's lost its mojo. Half the fun of the early novels was the bureaucracy of Her Majesty's Occult Services, and the McGuffin of a clueless IT worker becoming a DSS (Deeply Scary Sorcerer). IMHO, Laundry novels' quality started dropping off beginning with the Apocalypse Codex, and he should ended the series with the Case Nightmare Green climax at book five. That said, Dead Lies Dreaming isn't bad—it's just not as interesting or memorable as the first four in series. Stross's writing is tight, and he moves the plot along with alacrity right up until the finale. No spoilers, but I found the ending weak and unsatisfying. And the final explanations given to tie up the loose ends don't quite explain. Not his best work.
1.0 out of 5 starsThe decline of the series accelerates
Reviewed in the United States on November 6, 2020
The first few Laundry Files were pretty good. Bob Howard was a great narrator on our journey through his strange world. The books were inventive and had a great deadpan humor. The stakes were generally pretty high, and the action carried through the entire story. The last few books, however, have been sloppy and uninteresting. Thin plots, no humor. Poor choices in POV characters. Stross has begun to suffer the fate of many series authors before him: after investing time in establishing the bad guys, he's reluctant to allow the good guys to actually vanquish them. The "bad guys" follow the "good guys" back home like strays and become the good guys in the next book. This lowers the stakes considerably. The Laundry Files universe features a high level of ambient ambiguity, consequently the stories need to be larger-than-life. Recent outings have been underwhelming, and this is the lowest-energy entry so far.
No story. There's a macguffin, and we look for it. Kinda. There's no rush. We don't really care. It's not even vital to the end of the story. It's just the thinnest pretext to drape the real story over: the introduction of Stross' new fully-woke SJW Avengers. First they're the criminals our nominal cop protagonist is pursuing, then they're the protagonists and the cop is along for the ride. What little story line we get is short-circuited by a Deus Ex Machina and it turns out that the entire second half of the book was completely unnecessary, as were our shiny new woke characters. Oops.
No stakes. Not only is the macguffin optional, the Big Baddie who sets the whole chain of events in motion doesn't really seem to care if the thing is found. There's no sense of urgency, there are no consequences for failure. In the completely ambivalent world of the New Management, all of the rules about good/bad and right/wrong are set aside, which makes for an exceedingly dull book. There's the nucleus of a much more interesting story contained in Eve's flashback than the one that the book's actually about, sadly.
This is in theory a Laundry Files book, but other than being set in the same universe, it doesn't involve the Laundry at all, and doesn't move the larger plot along anywhere. The book's modelled on Peter Pan and loves to refer back to it, but other than some in-jokes and callbacks, it doesn't have any real ground between the two.
Initially, the focus is on the thief-taker Wendy Deere, but it quickly moves to Imp and Eve, and she doesn't factor in to the last third of the book. Imp and Eve don't really grow or change in the story, and they spend surprisingly little time together, given their backstory and their shared trauma. It's rote, it's by the numbers, it frankly shouldn't have been written.
There is one part of the book that stands out very clearly, and it's the loss of their parents. That story cuts through the rest of the book like a knife through cardboard. But it's too little and too disconnected from the Macguffin quest to make a difference.
There's a McGuffin. There are people who chase the McGuffin. There are people who carry the McGuffin and live. There are people who carry the McGuffin and die. London real estate is involved. Said real estate is expensive. Otherwise it's pretty boring. Wossname has lost the edge, IMHO. This makes his books expensive and unrewarding, I'm afraid to say.
Reviewed in the United States on November 10, 2020
First of all. FWIW, when your review of a novel on Amazon discusses in a disparaging way "SJW" characters I know you're a flaming pile of delicate manly fee fees hurt by the idea that not everyone is a CIS white guy
Now, the novel. While supposedly a Laundry Files book it has none of the characters we've seen before. It's more properly a novel set in the Laundry Files universe. This universe is particularly bleak with the New Management in charge.
It's a decentish one off and seems to be set up for a series which is too bad. It didn't engage me like the first 5 of the series did and frankly some of the scenes are disturbing (not inchoate horror disturbing, I kinda like that, but in a creepy sexual writing disturbing but maybe that's just me)
Had a difficult time engaging for the first half of the book.
If'n I had to do over I'd wait till is was cheaper on Amazon. The reviews over there are all over the place, but I'd agree with the gist of the 2, 3 and 4 star reviews.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 29, 2020
It's clear from the outset that we're not going to be meeting Bob, or any of the other characters from the previous Laundry Files, with the exception of the the celestial Prime Minister who still holds sway in Downing Street.
It's pleasing that The Black Pharaoh has finally managed to install his Tzompantli above Marble Arch and that various vital and necessary reforms are being quickly implemented.
That is the only familiar landmark one will find in this book. I was sad that we wouldn't be meeting our normal characters, to start with, but as I continued through the book I think its actually a blessing. The Laundry Files series was beginning to get a little bit stale, I got the impression Charles had hit a bit of a brick wall in the last 2 books.
This book is a shot in the arm, it's set in the Laundry Files world, against a backdrop of ever increasing magic and unpleasantness. We follow a new set of characters as they become in engaged in a heist to acquire a lost spell book, the better to hasten the return of the Elder God, The Mute Poet.
The characters are not as immediately likeable, or as effectively fleshed out as Bob et al and a lot of the original humour of the series has gone missing. I think it's been gradually ebbing away over the last couple of novels to be honest.
However, it is fast paced, exciting and I haven't been able to put it down since I started reading it yesterday. So in its self it's a very enjoyable read. It has been nice to a take a break from the series in general and I hope in the next book Charles is able to retain the energy and freshness of this novel as he, hopefully, addresses the problem of the Black Pharaoh.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 28, 2020
Stross is an accomplished and imaginative author - I've enjoyed almost all the Laundry Files, even the later vampire & elf descants. But this one, though set in the Laundry's world, now under the "New Management" (aka Nyarlathotep), isn't a Laundry File: criminal greed and sadistic porn seems to dominate the world, and I don't find any character appealing. I skipped most of the book, and returned it. Sorry.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 2, 2020
Having pre-ordered and then read (within weeks of receipt) the previous 5-or-so Laundry Files novels, upon completing The Labyrinth Index I was keeping a keen eye on Amazon for the appearance of the next instalment.
Unfortunately this book is not it.
Whether this book was ever intended to be the next, but real world events required a return to the drawing board or not (the Author's own blog hints as much) so instead we got a 'Laundry Files: The New Class' -type scenario, don't pick this up with any hopes of finding out what happened in the immediate aftermath of the hectic ending to The Labyrinth Index, or indeed any of the characters you've grown attached to over the previous 9 books.
Not a bad book per se, just not the one I was hoping for or expecting after two years of waiting - maybe that's on me for not regularly checking back on the Amazon synopsis after I pre-ordered it!
5.0 out of 5 starsAnother superb adventure set in the Laundry Files Universe
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 28, 2020
Okay, first of all I've religiously collected every single one of the books in the Laundry Files series and I never thought I'd like any characters more than Robert (Bob) Howard. Well how wrong I was!
This book, the first in a planned series in the Laundry Files universe, features a story that is both compelling, amusing, and disturbing in equal amounts, with characters that bring the story to life.
3.0 out of 5 starsIt's okay but it isn't classic Stross
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 31, 2020
Although this is set in the world of the Laundry, it is clear fairly quickly that this is not a continuation of the series (as if the 'Book 1 of the New Management' series blurb didn't give it away). As with all Stross' writing, there is a decent storyline underlying the book but it is let down by none of the characters being particularly engaging. It reads rather more like a script for a Hollywood film, with all the shallow character interaction interspersed with action sequences that that implies rather than the engaging people that usually develop in Stross' tales. Was it readable ? Yes. Was it re-readable in the way the Laundry books are ? Sadly not.