Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Book Review: Charles Stross’ The Laundry Files Series

I must apologize for my absence from this blog. Yes, I am still alive and well. So on with this month’s installment...

While not strictly in the domain of alternate history or of parallel universes, the series of books – The Atrocity Archives, The Jennifer Morgue, The Fuller Memorandum and now, most recently, The Apocalypse Codex – that comprises the Landry Files series by Charles Stross, details the workaday adventures of one Bob Howard.  Bob leads an average life. He has a loving girlfriend, Mo and a boss who has fast-tracked him for Bigger and Better Things. Did I mention he is a computational demonologist who works for a top secret British agency that defends the U.K. against those Things that Go Bump in the Night? Did I mention that Bob met Mo while fighting entities from another dimension? And that Bob’s boss… he’s oh wellumm.

It’s a very fun read. Much of the series’ universe is based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft’s delightfully nihilistic Cthulu Mythos and those who would bring about the time when the Old Ones would again return to walk the surface of the earth, known as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN (think of a really, really bad version of the Harmonic Convergence.).

Okay, I admit it here – in the interests of full disclosure – I have a deep interest in the Mythos. Many authors including myself (Truth, Justice and the 1962 War Against Evil) have taken their turns to romp around in what has inadvertently become a very large and very scary shared universe.  I'l also admit that I am also now working on a draft of a Lovecraft-inspired book.

But enough about me.  I happen to love Stross’ contribution to the Cthulu Mythos. Much of it is written in a deliciously paranoid tongue-in-cheek style with touches of sheer brilliance when it comes to workplace satire.  He also works in the style of famed British author Len Deighton, whose novels and movies featuring the decidedly low rent exploits of his bespectacled antihero spy Harry Palmer were the perfect counterpoint to that same era’s over the top exploits of a certain 007 (Deighton also happens to the author of the alternate-history classic, SS-GB.).

Bob Howard is cast in much of the same mold as Harry Palmer.  He wins just as often as he loses. And if he does win, it’s more likely he’s done so by just muddling through.  There’s a certain kind of realism there that’s refreshing.

And maybe that’s who we need defending us against The Old Ones and all the other horrors out there. Not some flash-in-the-pan 007 superspy, but a lowly computational demonologist with a knack for muddling through.

Do I recommend the series? Absolutely.  If you haven’t read any of the books, now’s the time.  While there’s still time…

Meanwhile, you can help out a poor unemployed writer by purchasing my books, 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 Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.  And if you’re looking for an experienced marketing communications guy, do me a favor and have a look here. Thanks.

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