The Atrocity Archives, by Charles Stross
I’ve been wanting to check out Charles Stross‘ Laundry series for a while, and finally had time to read The Atrocity Archives [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]. The tagline is, “Saving the world is Bob Howard’s job. There are a surprising number of meetings involved.” That nicely captures the tone of the book, a blend of Lovecraftian threats from beyond with governmental bureaucracy, complete with budget meetings and petty managerial power struggles.
Bob is more of a hacker geek than a superhero, and it works well, giving us a reluctant hero who favors brains over brawn. (I have a fondness for that type.) There’s plenty of action, and there were times I found myself struggling to keep up with the plot twists and revelations … fortunately, Bob was struggling right along with me. He’s a sympathetic character, and a good introduction into the world of magic-wielding government spooks and computer-powered rituals.
As for the plot itself, well … Bob gets sent on his first field mission, seeking out a potential contact named “Mo” in the U.S. From there, we get magic terrorists, supernatural (and really nasty) Nazi technology, a bit of romance, and the impending end of the
It’s quick-paced, with lots of good historical background, a fun hero, and a dry sense of humor that works well to balance out the occasional horrific scenes.
The book also includes the Hugo Award-Winning novella “The Concrete Jungle,” which continues to blend magic and technology in creative and intelligent ways, talks about the real reason for all of those public cameras in London, and tosses Bob into the middle of another nightmare scenario. I wasn’t sure at first what I thought of the revelation of the true villains, but I decided I liked it. It fit well with the world Stross creates.
Also, Bob’s boss Angleton is a scary, scary man.
Short version – I’ve added The Jennifer Morgue, the second Laundry Files novel, to my wish list.
November 12, 2013 @ 2:19 pm
The Concrete Cows is, in some ways, the best of On Her Majesty’s Occult Service. While the novels don’t quite reach that height they’re way better than much of the field. I confess I can’t wait to see how he handles CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN
November 13, 2013 @ 12:37 am
I’m a long time fan of the Laundryverse (I’ve copies of all four of the extant novels, and I have the short stories which have shown up on Tor.com bookmarked) and I love it to bits and pieces. Then again, I’ve worked in tech support, and the public service (Australian version, not British, but much the same atmosphere) so I had a lot of sympathy for Bob. The stories get a bit darker as the series progresses, but there’s still the occasional giggle here and there (as well as occasional extravagant groans at some of the more punny techie inside-jokes which get thrown in). I’d recommend the Laundryverse (and Charlie’s writing in general) to any geeky or techy types who are looking for a writer who has a deft touch with language, and a way of getting the reader tangled up in the book and swept along in the excitement.
I’m waiting eagerly for the next Laundryverse novel (The Rhesus Chart) which is supposed to be coming out some time next year (I think).
November 13, 2013 @ 10:16 am
There’s a recent short Laundryverse story on tor.com that features unicorns, the lost correspondence of H.P. Lovecraft, and references to the only movie based on a Stella Gibbons novel that creeped me out almost as much as The Atrocity Archives: http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/09/equoid
November 13, 2013 @ 12:52 pm
And I came to this series when I stumbled across the pen-and-paper RPGs of it (the series is put out by Cubicle 7).
Let’s just say that a British flavored X-files meets Cthulu was fun…
November 13, 2013 @ 10:28 pm
Loved the Atrocity Archives. If you’re a fan of Bond movies, you’ll also love The Jennifer Morgue.