Saturday, September 12, 2015

Book Review: The Rhesus Chart, by Charles Stross

Everyone knows that vampires don’t exist, right?

So what happens when you’re Bob Howard, who is a middle manager at the Laundry, the so-secret-it’s-ultraviolet British agency dedicated against defending the masses against Things that go Bump in the Night and find you find that vampires actually do exist?

Of course, our hero Bob is more than just a middle manager; he is also a specialist in Applied Computational Demonology, and an Apprentice Eater of Souls, both of which come in handy over the course of his career, which has been chronicled in Stross’s earlier Laundry Files novels. 

Interesting things always seem to happen to Bob. For example, the start of The Rhesus Chart finds him working through a paper exercise, which accidentally exposes a clan of vampires working in a major bank. Things get even more interesting when he finds out that one of the vampires happens to be an ex-girlfriend (which complicates things with his wife Mo). But by the time is happening, the plot is already unfolding at a breakneck pace to its shattering conclusion.

It’s definitely worthwhile reading.  If you’re not familiar with the Laundry Files series, this is a good place to start and work back. Stross writes with his customary deft mix of Lovecraftian eldritch horror-meets-Len-Dieghton’s Harry Palmer with a dose of dark humour thrown in.  It’s very readable stuff.  

And over the course of the series, and the especially in The Rhesus Chart, Stross has continued the development of his already well fleshed-out characters, most specifically Bob, who is still stinging from the events of the previous novel, The Apocalypse Codex (reviewed earlier in this blog), which in-series, occurred only the month pervious.

Think of this book as a small diversion from the main Laundry Files narrative, the ongoing cold war against the extradimensional horrors who, when the stars are right, will emerge through the walls of our reality to suck on our brains. However, as I just said, it is a small diversion: In this book we get the bad news that the Grand Alignment has begun and the stars have at last become right, setting the stage for CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, which is the final extinction-level showdown.

Hang on to your brains.

What’s next?
I’m just starting to read Theatre of the Gods, by M. Suddain.  I like it so far. Already I can tell you it comes off as a crazy mash-up of Douglas Adams-meets-William-S. -Burroughs-meets-Jules-Verne.  I hope to have it reviewed for you next month.

Meanwhile, you can help out a poor unemployed writer by purchasing Elvis Saves JFK! for just 99 cents and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History, for $2.99 and now The Key to My Heart, also $2.99 (all are free to preview). All books -- which are already on Smashword's premium distribution list -- are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Sony, Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.   (And don't forget me on Twitter @mcnudde!) Thanks