If you’ve spent any time rootling through these posts, you’ll know I’m a solid Charles Stross fan – last year I reviewed Glasshouse and his wonderful alternate historical science fiction book The Family Trade was one of my Outstanding Reads of 2011. I also reviewed The Fuller Memorandum, Book 3 of The Laundry Files – so was delighted when I came across the next slice of Bob’s adventures…
For outstanding heroism in the field (despite himself), computational demonologist Bob Howard is on a career fast-track within the Laundry, the branch of the Secret Service that fights otherworldly threats. But when he is called to investigate a miracle-working American televangelist who seems suspiciously interested in the Prime Minister, Bob finds an occult mess that even the Laundry may be unable to clean up.
That’s the blurb. For those of you who have not yet encountered the doings of Bob and the Laundry, my firm advice is not to start with The Apocalypse Codex – instead track down the first book in the series, The Atrocity Archives. Stross hasn’t written the books such that you would be completely adrift if you did start with The Apocalypse Codex, but this is such a solidly good reading experience it seems a real pity to compromise it by plunging in at the wrong point.
Bob is wholly believable as a slightly cynical, often bored administrator. His first person narrative is a joy, with the shafts of humour throughout. However, Bob’s career is progressing – and this time around, instead of being paired with his wife, Bob is sent on a fact-finding mission with two operatives to oversee, the gloriously named Persephone Hazard and Johnny McTavish.
This does mean that the book isn’t fully in first person narrative – there were times when we needed to know what Persephone and Johnny were up to, and the viewpoint lapses into third person, sometimes Persephone and sometimes Johnny. Stross, being Stross, makes this work – but I did at times miss Bob’s biting humour during some of these passages. I liked the fact that there is a definite story arc, so that there is a sense this series is moving towards a climax. The darker, Lovecraftian feel that helps make this series distinctive became a lot more to the fore in this book, where we are all headed hellwards towards a nasty end wherein a lot of tentacles and swivelling eye stalks will be involved…
Stross knows how to reel in his readers and keep them engrossed until the end – I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and although there is an occasional unevenness in the narrative that means this isn’t his best work – this talented author is always worth reading.