Tag Archives: Bob Howard

Review of The Rhesus Chart – Book 5 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

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I have enjoyed Bob Howard’s adventures and was a bit shaken to realise that since I’d read The Apocalypse Codex, two more had been released in the series. Would this fifth book once more tick all the boxes?

therhesuschartBob Howard is an intelligence agent working his way through the ranks of the top secret government agency known as ‘the Laundry’. When occult powers threaten the realm, they’ll be there to clean up the mess – and deal with the witnesses. There’s one kind of threat that the Laundry has never come across in its many decades, and that’s vampires. Mention them to a seasoned agent and you’ll be laughed out of the room. But when a small team of investment bankers at one of Canary Wharf’s most distinguished financial institutions discovers an arcane algorithm that leaves them fearing daylight and craving O positive, someone doesn’t want the Laundry to know. And Bob gets caught right in the middle.

I really enjoy Bob’s snarky commentary on his job with The Laundry, a Government-backed agency created to deal with the more arcane threats facing the country. Stross has clearly worked in an office during a previous career – and he has nailed some of the dafter activities that go on in admin-heavy organisations. What sets these books apart is that Bob’s first person narration is juxtaposed with his encounters with Lovecraftian beings who are waiting to break into our dimension and turn us all into snackfood.

This latest adventure, however, features more familiar monsters – with a unique Stross spin on them, of course… I love the fact that the infection causing vampirism is a prion disease that infects the brain, similar to mad cow disease. If vampires don’t get regular amounts of human blood, the parasite in their blood that makes them long-lived, allergic to sunlight and very strong, will also attack their brain. However, the same disease also attacks their donors’ brains. Although it takes a while for anyone to take this seriously, after all, EVERYONE within The Laundry knows that vampires don’t exist.

Once more I was swept up in the Stross magic, as this fantasy adventure whipped along at a satisfying clip. I particularly like the fact that Bob isn’t ever some invulnerable magic-user, even though he can pack a punch, but instead comes across as a more than slightly burned-out operative, who manages to prevail due to out-thinking his enemies while sitting at a desk and painstakingly preparing in advance. Though the devastating climax at the end of the book may change that… It was certainly a jaw-dropper – and whatever you do, don’t start your Bob Howard experience with The Rhesus Chart, but instead, go back to the start of it all in The Atrocity Archives. This is a series that deserves to be read in order.
10/10

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Weekly Wrap-Up – 10th April 2016

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This is where I join in the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where bloggers can share what they’re reading and what they’re writing about.

For the second week in a row I completed reading five books, and will be reviewing all of them, although I haven’t yet written them all, as my grannying duties this week have got in the way of my blogging. Again, a couple of these books I completed while reading them to the grandchildren. I have already posted a couple reviews as they were published this week, but the others are still waiting to see the light of day.

 

Desolation – Book 2 of The Demon Road trilogy by Derek LandyDesolation
This children’s horror is all about a couple on the run from a demon. I’m impressed at how well written and entertaining it is, with plenty of action and plot twists – and how it all kicks off when they end up in a town called Desolation… This review was posted on Thursday.

 

burnedBurned – Book 7 of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka
This is the latest instalment in the adventures of the divination mage Alex Verus. A foot-to-the-floor, adrenaline-fuelled novel with a shocking conclusion. As this book was published on Thursday, I posted my review on Saturday.

 

The Witches Revenge – Book 2 of Beaver Towers by Nigel Hintonwitchesrevenge
The Easter holidays has given me the opportunity to continue reading this enjoyable children’s fantasy adventure to my grandson. This book is far scarier than the first in the series and enthralled us both, so I read far later into the night than I’d intended. The review will appear in due course.

 

therhesuschartThe Rhesus Chart – Book 5 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
Arcane British agent, Bob Howard, is confronted once more with beings with paranormal powers, meaning that the Government agency The Laundry has to swing into action. This supernatural whodunit is distinguished by the sharp, snarky first person commentary by Bob.

 

Space Hostages – Book 2 of the Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougallspacehostages
This hugely enjoyable science fiction adventure is for children, apparently, but we were all giggling in some places and enthralled in others. I will be posting the review of this in due course.

 

My posts last week were:-
Weekly Wrap-Up – 3rd April
*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuirre
Teaser Tuesday – Desolation – Book 2 of The Demon Road by Derek Landy
*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Last Gasp by Trevor Hoyle
* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Desolation – Book 2 of The Demon Road by Derek Landy
Friday Faceoff – UK vs US books covers of Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Burned – Book 7 of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka

It’s been a busy week with grannying, so the blog and writing have taken a back seat, somewhat. My most popular post was last Sunday’s Weekly Wrap Up, closely followed by my Tuesday Teaser.

I’d like to thank everyone who swung by, particularly those of you who went to the trouble of leaving a comment. Take care and have a great week, now that the trees are finally starting to burst into leaf – yay!

Review of The Apocalypse Codex – Book 4 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

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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…

apocalypse codexFor 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.
8/10

Review of The Fuller Memorandum – Book 3 of The Laundry series by Charles Stross

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This account is narrated as a debrief by the longsuffering Bob Howard, who works for the undercover British agency known as The Laundry. They are a down-at-heel, typically Brit-bodge version of the Men in Black, busy battling with nasty occult occurrences and alien incursions. Bob is trying to come to terms with the emotional fallout after his latest hair-raising adventure.

fullermemorandumA top secret dossier goes missing. At the same time, Angleton, Bob’s boss disappears. No one is saying very much at The Laundry but suspicion, like mud, sticks. While struggling to clear his own name and Angleton’s tarnished reputation, Bob also has to cope with over-helpful Russian agents, worries about an apocalyptic cult targeting his wife – and the trail of dead bodies. What is so important about the missing Fuller Memorandum and why is everyone who knows dying…?

Told in first person viewpoint, this spy horror clips along with all the zest and ink-black humour of the previous books in the series. Poor old Bob has to put up with a lot, and his world-weary, humorous commentary gives this book an extra twist of enjoyment. Stross evidently has great affection for Bond films and H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction, because he borrows elements from both these influences and mixes them in a neat combination that has you chuckling while your skin pimples… It is a uniquely disturbing and memorable reading experience.

The world works wonderfully well and Stross skilfully plays with the tedium of Bob’s everyday office life set against the dangerous nature of his job. So the knowledge that we are on the verge of being invaded by some ghastly alien power vies with the notion that all paperclip movement needs to be strictly monitored because they become imprinted with traces of the documents they fasten… The book teeters on the edge of farce and horror all the way to the suitably horrific climax.

Stross is no slouch at characterisation, either. Mo, Bob’s intrepid and very accomplished wife, is beautifully drawn. But Angleton, Bob’s mysterious boss, is the true star of this tale and Bob’s viewpoint of him, along with his understandable resentment as a subordinate, is compelling enough to draw us in and make us care – very important in this story.

Any grizzles? Well… I’m being ultra-picky here – but in a genre where pace is everything, there were instances where I felt Bob’s doom-laden monologues could have done with being pruned back for the sake of keeping the tension wound sufficiently tight. But, overall, it is a trifling detail. I think this book is a triumph. If you’re feeling a bit jaded and looking for something truly different, then look no further. You won’t pick anything else off the shelves quite like this, I guarantee it.
4.5 stars