Friday, September 27, 2019

The Fuller Memorandum

The Fuller Memorandum
by Charles Stross
Recommended Ages: 14+

In the third Laundry Files novel, British secret agent-slash-computational demonologist Bob Howard is sent insufficiently briefed (as usual) to what he thinks is just a minor exorcism of the residual mathemagical energies surrounding a mothballed spy plane. But thanks to a bit of bad luck, a slightly senile museum tea lady gets zapped to dust. If only Bob knew it, this is just the first act of an all-around disaster for the secret government agency he works for, the one that protects mankind (or at least, British subjects) from brain-eating horrors beyond spacetime.

Bob is on suspension, but at the same time, he is expected to pick up the slack of his immediate boss, the enigmatic Angleton. Also, he and his wife Mo (Dr. Dominique O’Brien, who wields an assault violin and is classified as a combat epistemologist) are repeatedly threatened by a series of attacks that suggest that the Laundry has a serious security leak. A cult, whose practices include baby blood drinking and preschool teacher face eating, is trying to trigger the end of the world ahead of schedule, and there are signs that it might be coming sooner than expected anyway. And somewhere – perhaps buried in the stacks of the Laundry’s deepest archives, which are guarded by zombies – there is a document that Bob isn’t cleared to know about, but that he needs in order to stop bad things from happening.

Before it’s all over, Bob will find himself in the clutches of a screwy group of cultists who intend to perform evil rites, so that an ancient soul-eating demon will take control of his body. The dead will rise. Secrets will be revealed. A traitor will step forward out of the shadows. Once again, Charles Stross weaves a distinctive counterpoint of subversive humor, cosmic horror, workplace satire, secret agent action and brainy hipness (or maybe culture-referencing nerdiness). It’s weird, funny, smart, spooky and not altogether unsexy, all wrapped up in a concept whose time is now – occult iPhone apps! In my opinion, the only false note in the piece is its excessively hostile treatment of religion, which may alienate a lot of readers who would otherwise enjoy Stross’s work.

This review is based on the audiobook narrated by Gideon Emery. The next installment is the Laundry Files The Apocalypse Codex; the ninth addition to the series, due to be released Oct. 30, 2019, is The Labyrinth Index. A few of Stross more intriguing titles include Iron Sunrise, Accelerando, The Revolution Business, Saturn’s Children, Ghost Engine, Scratch Monkey, a short story collection titled Toast and, in collaboration with Cory Doctorow, The Rapture of the Nerds.

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