Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross


     Bob Howard was your average hacker/math geek. That is, until his playing around with mathematics and computers nearly summoned Nyarlathotep.
     Enter the Laundry service. A secret organization within Britain’s government that fights all those horrid Lovecraftian beasties that think humans make great toys (or food…or both). Howard is put at a low-level job keeping the computers running, but his expertise (and dealing with his flat mates Pinky and Brains’ mad experiments) has him joining the field services-the spies that take care of the supernatural problems personally, not to mention his new boss Angleton is creepy as all get out despite his snark and Monty Python quotes. (Yes, Stross named a British intelligence officer “Angleton”. Troll.) And when Howard’s job leads him and a lovely red-headed professor right into the path of some crazy cultists, he will need all the math he can get to save themselves…and the world.
     This book was funny, in a droll British humor sort of way. Charles Stross keeps a snarky tone throughout, and it’s this that makes the book so readable. If someone tried to make a story like this completely serious, it simply wouldn't work. But tackling the spy genre and Lovecraftian horrors with tongue firmly planted in cheek overcomes even the technobabble. And trust me, there’s a lot of technobabble. Being a liberal arts kid (I…can read. A lot. That’s a skill, right?) most of the higher mathematics went straight over my head and out into the wild blue yonder, most likely to disturb Cthulhu’s well-deserved sleep. Still, being able to read a lot is a skill, because context clues helped me figure out what was going on.
     “Concrete Jungle” was included in the book, a novella in which Howard is woken in the middle of the night by Angleton to figure out if a cow spontaneously combusted due to a basilisk (yes, they have those), or if something more sinister is going on (yes, there are more sinister things than basilisks).
     Overall, it’s been…interesting. And I have a feeling it’s going to get even more interesting in the next few books.

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