Monday, December 12, 2016

Book Review: The Annihilation Score, by Charles Stross

The latest book in Charles Stross’s Laundry Files series, The Annihilation Score, takes place in the days and weeks following the events of the preceding novel, The Rhesus Chart, which ended with (here be spoilers!) with the apparent death of Angelton, the Eater of Souls and direct superior to Bob Howard. Bob, is of course, the decidedly put down upon spy in the best Len Deighton tradition and employee of a super-secret British occult agency tasked with defending the realm from against supernatural threats.

At the beginning of The Annihilation Score, the marriage between Bob and his wife, Moe, is coming unglued, while yet another threat emerges.  This time, it isn’t Bob who is answering the call, but Moe, who, in a deft piece of writing, is the main protagonist of this novel. As Agent Candid, she is the wielder of a sentient white-bone violin that deals destruction to demons and other assorted nasties. Always on the sidelines, this relationship is one of the many that Stross examines throughout the novel. She must also deal with two of Bob’s ex-girlfriends as she examines the meaning of her own relationship with her husband.

Stross also maintains his usual light touch as the central plot point unfolds: an upsurge in apparent “superpowers” and superheroes and villains – which are actually sourced in magic and driven by the early stages of the world-ending CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN and are therefore The Laundry’s business.  The book is actually a very clever examination – and satire – of the all superhero genre – with subtle dose of bureaucracy insanity thrown in.

The Annihilation Score ends in a hugely satisfying climax but leaves many questions unanswered, as is fitting, as despite the fantastic swirling around, it is still very much rooted in in reality. Both this book and its immediate predecessor, The Rhesus Chart, are not directly related to CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN – which is when the Stars Finally Become Right – and the Many Angled Ones begin to seep through the walls of our universe. With the next novel in the series, the main event should finally begin, and for that I am waiting for with great anticipation.

Regular readers of this space will know by now of my high opinion of both Stross and this series. If you haven’t started reading it by now, you most certainly should. You won’t regret it.

Up Next:

I’ll be exploring a trio of Robert Conroy books: 1882: Custer in Chains, Germanica, and Red Inferno: 1945.

Meanwhile, you can  purchase 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. Thanks.