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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bob is Back
I was not a big fan of the previous novel in The Laundry Files series (The Fuller Memorandum) because I thought it was too dark and grim, and lacked all the wonderful touches of satire and whimsy that Stross normally brings to these stories. I am pleased to report that this latest novel is much less dark (though of course the subject is darkness and the Lovecraftian...
Published on July 19, 2012 by Nicholas Sanders

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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Narrative Cleverness" gone wild...
First and foremost, let me get it out of the way that the ONLY reason I'm feeling like Mr. Stross and the "The Laundry" series seems to be "slipping" a bit is because he (and it) have been so stratospherically good in the past... You would be hard-pressed to find a better author than Mr. Stross or a series with more originality than "The Laundry"...

and now...
Published on July 10, 2012 by Kindle Customer


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bob is Back, July 19, 2012
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I was not a big fan of the previous novel in The Laundry Files series (The Fuller Memorandum) because I thought it was too dark and grim, and lacked all the wonderful touches of satire and whimsy that Stross normally brings to these stories. I am pleased to report that this latest novel is much less dark (though of course the subject is darkness and the Lovecraftian entities that lay beyond the darkness), and that Stross seems to be back in fine form.

Bob is back with a new mission, to be undertaken only reluctantly and without a full appreciation for what's *REALLY* going on (as usual). This time, he's accompanied by two new "External Assets" who give him an opportunity to practice his recently learned management skills. (The Laundry has finally come to appreciate his true potential, and is grooming him for promotion. Thus, offical training in the arts of management and leadership.) And Bob discovers, through the usual trials (and errors) that he does indeed possess management and leadership skills--as well as other skills that The Laundry appreciates perhaps more than the more traditional bureaucracy of HMG would.

Stross does a great job with plot, creating a credible threat that demands our hero's best efforts (plus a little more). The "External Assets" are great characters, apparently an homage to a comic strip of which I'm only vaguely aware (sorry about that). But even without an appreciation of the characters' relationship to the comic strip, I was still able to care about them and their fates.

If I have a quibble, it's that Bob's wife, Mo, who is an effective and capable agent herself, is not featured in this episode. It's pretty much all about Bob and his two "Assets" -- and Angleton, of course. And the Auditors. And the Black Chamber. And the horrors that lurk in the darkness outside our reality, hungry to come visit our dimension. But not enough Mo--especially at the end of the story, where her reaction to Bob's travails would (I think) have been very important to show.

At least one other reviewer has said Stross was too preachy, in preaching about the threat posed by an ostensible Christian sect and said sect's charismatic leader. I didn't get that. Sure, the sect was evil and Stross explained the implications of that evilness. But I didn't feel that he was indicting all Christianity--or even any particular Christian belief system. I thought his points could have been applied to any religion-based extremism. But maybe that's just me.

I really do think you need to start at the beginning of the series to truly appreciate who Bob is and how he got to the situation in which we now find him--and to appreciate his evolution as a man and agent of HMG. I would not recommend starting with this book as your first foray into The Laundry Files. That said, Stross does a fine job of giving the reader enough backstory so that a first-time Laundry File reader will not feel lost. So there's that.

All in all, a great story with a plot that moves right along. Populated by a character we've come to care about, and others we've come to fear. The book ends on a clear "be careful what you wish for" note ... but it is a very satisfying conclusion that promises more to come.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The last and best Lovecraftian technothriller we get before the world ends, July 5, 2012
In this excellent supernatural technothriller, John Shirley's Demons meets Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. A British programmer turned demonologist works for the top-secret British organization called the Laundry. His superior is an embodied "Soul Eater." It's all the modern state's way of making sure that supernatural conflicts between good and evil don't end up swinging the wrong way. The current conflict? A strange, perhaps demonically involved American televangelist is getting a little too cozy with the Prime Minister. Problem: the PM can't be investigated by the Laundry. So it's necessary to exploit external channels.

So, is it any good? If you like hard-boiled narration, score one point. If you enjoy plots where the integrity of the fabric of the universe is hanging in the balance, score another point. If you enjoy plenty of hinted-at, but never fully-explained technologies that knit together the spiritual-demonic with modern electronics, score yet again. And if you enjoy a constantly unfolding, ever accelerating plot that drives toward a multi-dimensional apocalypse, score another point. And if you enjoy story elements that cause you to wonder if reality is a dim reflection in glass of a far stranger, and more twisted truth... then you really ought to just run out and buy this book.

For reality-bending that is more "literary," including infinite libraries and the end of the world, check out Borges' Labyrinths (New Directions Paperbook). For a scholar's playful word-bending, check out THE Book of Word Games: Parlett's Guide to 150 Great and Quick-to-Learn Word Games.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful series development, a little short on satire and horror, July 5, 2012
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Another good Laundry novel, better in some ways than its predecessor, in others a bit flatter. The core drawback is, to write good satire or good horror, you have to write from inside the system. Stross was spot-on with bureaucratic IT departments and the Lovecraft and Bond mythos. Here he takes on American evangelism, and it falls a bit flat: Stross' knowledge isn't nearly as immediate, and at core, he clearly lacks the visceral reaction that makes for first rate comedy or horror: the British-atheist condescension pulls its fangs.

That said, there are some deeply creepy moments ("quiverfull," shudder), but the book's strengths are in plot and characterization, which rank this among Stross's best. We're introduced to a new, and new sort of agent, an off-the-books intuitive mage, in contrast to Bob's paperclipped computational demonology, and the contrast is fun. The mythos of the Laundry and the larger paranormal operations community is built out convincingly, as the scope of Bob's actions widens.

And, finally, Stross has figured out how to nail an ending: gone is (most of) the abrupt infodump that severed and packaged complex plotlines. Here we're almost brought in for a smooth landing, explanations are organic and tantalizingly open, and the coda is absolutely hilarious, leaving me wishing I could start the next volume right now.

I just hope that Stross chooses a subject next time out that *he* finds truly horrifying.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The End Gets Nearer, July 9, 2012
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A new Charles Stross Laundry novel is always a cause for celebration, and this one keeps up with its predecessors in quality but diverges from them by introducing a new principal character to accompany Bob Howard, the beautiful adrenalin junkie Duchess Persephone Hazard (undoubtedly a pseudonym of Modesty Blaise) and her stoic companion Johnny MacTavish. Persephone is a fun character, more like something from Marvel Comics than from the dark world of the Laundry, and I suspect we will be seeing more of her in the future. An opening sequence in which the two burgle Schoss Neuschwanstein (from the air, no less) and it is implied that King Ludwig II of Bavaria was mad in more ways than one, is more James Bond than Laundry. Those who enjoy following the chronicle of Bob and his beloved Mo, however, may find the amount of space devoted to two new characters instead of to Bob's doings a bit irritating.

The other factor in this book that may cause some controversy is that the villains who Bob confronts this time are from the ranks of American anti-abortion evangelical megachurches, a group that may get irritable and reach for the nearest lawyer when they are mocked (and for those not familiar with Colorado, yes, the New Life Church of Colorado Springs does indeed exist, and is almost as influential as Stross implies). And Stross leaves some loose ends here (some of which will undoubtedly be unravelled later): what happened to those innocents caught in the final mass "conversion"? Did the bad guy really die? Did the Sleeper in the Pyramid turn him into something else? (On the other hand, Charlie still hasn't told us what happened to Jonquil the Sloane Ranger and her boyfriend from "The Fuller Memorandum," unless we are to assume that they were rounded up with the rest of the Wandsworth Coven.)

More disorientingly, for those who play Chaosium's Laundry game as well as reading Stross's books, we learn more about Mahogany Row and that the Laundry is actually only the public face (as much as a black intelligence organization can be public) of something much larger, older and deeper, of which the dreaded Auditors are just the tip of the iceberg. We also learn more about the U.S. black intelligence organization known as the Black Chamber, a spook organization some of whose members are literally spooks, and while it is always tricky to guess where Charlie's active imagination will go next, a few throw-away lines in Angleton's final meeting with them suggests that a head-on collision between the two organizations may be in the future. Finally, as Bob adjusts to the realities of his new status, one wonders exactly how much he will now be able to tell his wife, since his new co-workers are not even supposed to exist! All in all this is good fun, and not quite as dark as the previous novel, but the time when "the stars are right" is still inexorably approaching, something for which Bob and his friends are not at all yet fully prepared.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Narrative Cleverness" gone wild..., July 10, 2012
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This review is from: The Apocalypse Codex (Laundry Files Book 4) (Kindle Edition)
First and foremost, let me get it out of the way that the ONLY reason I'm feeling like Mr. Stross and the "The Laundry" series seems to be "slipping" a bit is because he (and it) have been so stratospherically good in the past... You would be hard-pressed to find a better author than Mr. Stross or a series with more originality than "The Laundry"...

and now for the down-side...

The first books in the series relied on a nearly endless string of inside references from the IT community and popular horror lore... not to mention the descriptions of government bureacracy that often left me in tears from laughing and my neck sore from nodding in agreement with his dead-on (no pun intended) characterizations of governmental idiocy.

However... those obscure references were always explained in due time through the course of each book... and even the EXTREMELY idiosyncratic "Brit-speak" was normally cleared up via the characters actions. Mr. Stross would throw a phrase or reference at you and you could then look forward to finding out "what he meant by that" later in the book... and THAT was one of the great things about the series!

But... that endearing trait seems to have taken over his writing style and festered into something that is now starting to alienate all but the most rabid and fanatical readers (which I considered myself to be until this last book). It has gotten to the point that his characters are now often nearly unintelligable to even fairly "hip" readers who know many of the "in" jokes and British cultural references.

I have little doubt that this approach seems like a natural progression for Mr. Stross and his editors... "Hey, if the fans say that they like that about the series, let's give them even MORE of it... right?", but even though the technique was already wearing thin in the last book in the series, his characters internal and external dialogs have now devolved into increasingly cumbersome and distrating little diatribes that slow down the action and make the plot seem like a secondary consideration to the "clever narrative"... in short, the "cleverness" seems forced.

So... if you are an experienced "The Laundry" fan... I'm sure you will still like this latest book far more than most of the sad tripe that is out there because Mr. Stross is still a great writer and the series may still have some life left in it... if it will just move along a little faster, (as it did beautifully in the first books).

And... if you are new to Mr. Stross or "The Laundry" series... take the time to go back to the first book and read them in order... (which you pretty much have to do now to be able to follow anything that happens in the later books).

And most of all... enjoy the richness of Mr. Stross's writing in his other books as well... they are all worth a read!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This continues to be the series I'm most enjoying by Stross, July 5, 2012
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I've continued to enjoy Stross's Laundry series as Bob Howard, computational demonaloigist finds himself learning more of the Laundry's dirty secrets with each book. Bob has been changed after the events in The Fuller Memorandum (A Laundry Files Novel) and his new boss has decided to give him a field "stress test" by putting him in charge of two "external assets".

I have to say I didn't enjoy this book quite as much as the previous books in the series because a large section of the book moves away from the first person narrative of the earlier novels and is written from the point of view of two new characters. While these points of view make sense in the context of the story I nevertheless found them distracting as I kept on wanting to get back to my favorite character - Bob - for his story. This is always the risk that writers run when they split stories up over various characters...there's always one you want to know more about than the others and this happened to me with this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars James Bond meets Lara Croft, August 12, 2012
Charles Stross is a writer who grabbed me with the first thing of his I read: `A Colder War', easily and still one of the creepiest things I've ever encountered, also still a favourite by anyone and pretty much responsible for me reading everything the man has written since (as well as some of the before). While the premise is fantastical - the Cold War played out in a Lovecraftian universe - it's disturbing because of its underlying truths: that blind dogmatism in the exercise of power will lead some people to consider, and do, monstrous things.

The same idea underpins The Apocalypse Codex, Stross' latest and the fourth book in his Laundry series. Like the first Laundry novel, The Atrocity Archives, it's disturbing despite its fantastical premises because alongside the out-there elements - parasite dimensions, dead gods - there's the weird shit that people actually believe. In The Atrocity Archives it was the strange mysticism of the Nazi party; in The Apocalypse Codex it's millenialist Christianity, quiverfull sects and the notion that the End Times are worth hastening along.

Bob Howard is a computer programmer and reluctant public servant, drafted into a secret UK government after accidentally discovering a fundamental truth: that we share the universe with entities who believe humanity is barely worth picking out of their teeth. (Let me admit now that I seem to have a Thing for books that involve a secret government agency responsible for defending Britain against supernatural threats. If so, guilty, but it's all Charles Stross' fault. And maybe Fox Mulder's.) Howard has learned, through bitter experience, to fear certain things: Human Resources, the Auditors, corporate training programs and the `One True Religion'. He knows Management has an eye on him, and he knows the End is Coming; he's just not sure which is going to do for him first.

At the beginning of The Apocalypse Codex, Howard has barely recovered from his misadventures in The Fuller Memorandum. His reward for a job well done and barely survived is pretty much what he doesn't want: a promotion, more responsibility and an even better understanding of what's really going on. Unfortunately for him, a megachurch televangelist seems to be getting to close to the Prime Minister and various other notables. Howard is told to investigate, but the Laundry needs total deniability: if he's caught he won't get disavowed, but he might get demonised. And so he's sent off to Colorado with a freelance supernatural security specialist who makes Lara Croft look like Barbie, and a partner with a good religious upbringing and two hungry knives. Waiting for them are a plateau, a pyramid, Fimbulwinter and fish parasites.

The Laundry novels are hugely entertaining: a mix of spy thriller, horror story and Yes Minister. Stross stiches together obscure theologies and half-forgotten ideas with an arcane knowledge of the workings of British government that makes one suspect a traumatic public service experience somewhere in his past. Like his other books, there's a rich subtexture of themes and idea that might have you hunting through Wikipedia and occasionally shaking your head in disbelief, but unlike many of Stross' other books, The Apocalypse Codex doesn't get weighed down by computing in-jokes, references to obscure EU regulations, or relativistic physics. It's an entertaining and creepy read.

fractallogic.wordpress.com
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Old Ones attempt to Rise., July 8, 2012
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This review is from: The Apocalypse Codex (Laundry Files Book 4) (Kindle Edition)
Really enjoyed this visit with the Laundry and glad to see that the Old Sleeper is . . ..
Okay, no spoilers. I will say it took me only one page and one "Duchess" to recognize the classic UK heroine - Modesty Blaze. Once I knew who it was I enjoyed his Homage. I also believe, completely believe, that an American Evangelist would help the ancient evil ones. Those guys scare me. So, definitely you should read this book as a warning but you have to read this series in order. As a stand alone you would be confused. Fun. Clever. Well constructed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great Lovecraftian horror story, spy thriller, and critique of fundamentalist Christianity in one, June 20, 2014
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CT Phipps (Ashland, Ky USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Apocalypse Codex (Laundry Files Book 4) (Kindle Edition)
The Apocalypse Codex is the fourth novel in the projected nine-book The Laundry series by Charles Stross. This doesn't include the novels and short-stories which he has been prone to writing and I have enjoyed tremendously. I wasn't too big of a fan of The Jennifer Morgue but I was glad I gave the series a pass on this.

So what is the premise of The Apocalypse Codex?

Bob Howard is recovering from the events of The Fuller Memorandum, having taken a serious hit to his sanity score in the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying-game sense. He is still somewhat twitchy from the events of that book but has returned to normal enough that he's able to resume his duties. Fans of the Mo and Bob romance will also note their marriage has recovered off-screen, which I was rather disappointed by.

Sorry, not a Mo fan.

No sooner does Bob return to his job duties than he is recruited by a secret branch of the already uber-secret Laundry to do a mission which potentially compromises the entire org-chart. A Christian-themed Great Old Ones cult has potentially compromised the Prime Minister and they need to bring in "outside contractors" to deal with them. Bob isn't allowed to involve himself on any mission where the PM may be compromised but he can monitor the outside contractors who are deniable assets.

Yes, this is as confusing to Bob as it is to you and me and that's the point. Actually, it was probably less confusing to me than Bob since I'm used to the belief the government does all sorts of duplicitous self-justifying things that disregard the rule of law in favor of raw power. Bob, despite working for the Laundry, seems to assume their rules actually mean something--probably because they're the last bastion of defense against Cthulhu.

What follows is divided into two distinct parts which surprised me. The first is the book becomes a stinging satire on Dominionist Christianity. The second is that it becomes a Modesty Blaise pastiche which uses a lawyer-friendly magical version of the character and her partner to do a send-up of her. I'll comment on both but, as you can imagine, the former interests me far more than the latter.

Dominionist Christianity is, for those unaware of the fine distinctions of religion, those branches of of my faith which believe everyone who isn't a Christian is going to Hell. This excludes, btw, branches of Christianity they don't like (typically Catholicism and Mormonism--I imagine it would contain more if Dominionist branches knew about the Eastern Orthodox Church). Dominionist Christianity typically believes Jesus is coming back very soon and that if they don't convert everyone in the world to their cause, this will be a tragedy of epic proportions.

I do not hold with Dominionist theology (to say the least).

Charles Stross gives the Dominionist branches of theology both barrels by explicitly comparing it to a cult of Cthulhu (or, technically, the Gatekeeper Great Old One introduced in previous books). Given I'm a proponent of the theory that H.P. Lovecraft created much of his mythos to satirize religion, I believe Charles Stross is following in well-trodden footsteps.

Given some Dominionist branches actively look forward to the end of the world and believe in training their members for the coming in Armageddon, the satire feels especially biting. The scary thing is some of the main villain's doctrines and actions aren't that far from real-life branches of my faith I've met. Despite this, Charles Stross is not hostile to the religion as a whole. He makes a surprisingly sympathetic Vicar character who provides vital help against the forces threatening the world.

The Modesty Blaise elements involve a Italian socialite turned spy (and witch) named Persephone and her partner Jonathan, who are transparently thin analogues for Modesty and Willie Gavin. The characters are delightfully effective and far more respectful than the Bond pastie of The Jennifer Morgue. I liked them both and hope they show up in future books as they draw a nice contrast against the IT-guy style spywork of Bob Howard.

The plot moves at a brisk place and never becomes preachy. The book can be read as satire but also as a straight Lovecraftian cult versus investigators as well. The plot moves at a brisk pace and sets up a lot of future events for the series to capitalize later. The secrets revealed about the Laundry and how magic works are also intriguing. There's not much development in the Mo and Bob relationship but since they're married, I'm not sure how much there should be. I do miss her serving as a field agent, however.

In conclusion, probably my favorite book in the Laundry series so far. I congratulate Charles Stross for winning me back fully.

10/10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A laundry list of excellent reading, December 28, 2013
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C. Keane (Deer Park, WA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Apocalypse Codex (Laundry Files Book 4) (Kindle Edition)
Stross has hit the jackpot with The Laundry. What an excellent concept, one that is utterly engaging for geeks of all ages. The Apocalypse Codex is no exception although I could understand how fundamentalist Christians in the US could be less than warm about the book since it's pretty savage on that front (although in the pursuit of the story, justifiably so!)

It felt a little weird reading this book while on a plane heading to Denver. Errr, would you mind dropping me off here?
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