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 world universe.

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.