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The Atrocity Archives (A Laundry Files Novel) Mass Market Paperback – December 30, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 188 customer reviews
Book 1 of 5 in the Laundry Files Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lovecraft's Cthulhu meets Len Deighton's spies in Stross's latest, as the Scottish author explains in his afterword to this offbeat book offering two related long novellas, "The Atrocity Archive" and "The Concrete Jungle" (the latter previously unpublished). With often hilarious results, the author mixes the occult and the mundane, the truly weird and the petty. In "Atrocity," Bob, a low-level computer fix-it guy for the Laundry, a supersecret British agency that defends the world from occult happenings, finds himself promoted to fieldwork after he bravely saves the day during a routine demonstration gone awry. With his Palm, aka his Hand of Glory (a severed hand that, when ignited, renders the holder invisible), and his smarts, he saves the world from a powerful external force seeking to enter our universe to suck it dry. In "Jungle," Bob teams up with a cop, Josephine, to save the Laundry from a powermonger who seeks to stage an internal coup by using zombies as her minions. Amid all the bizarre happenings are the everyday trappings of a British bureaucracy. Bob gets called on the carpet by his bosses because he requested backup during an emergency without first getting his supervisor's okay and filling out the requisite forms. Though the characters all tend to sound the same, and Stross resorts to lengthy summary explanations to dispel confusion, the world he creates is wonderful fun.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


""Stross has gene-spliced H. P. Lovecraft and Len Deighton to produce a SF thriller that is both witty and unsettling."

Product Details

  • Series: A Laundry Files Novel (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ace; Reprint edition (December 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441016685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441016686
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Stross, 50, is a full-time science fiction writer and resident of Edinburgh, Scotland. The author of six Hugo-nominated novels and winner of the 2005, 2010, and 2015 Hugo awards for best novella, Stross's works have been translated into over twelve languages.

Like many writers, Stross has had a variety of careers, occupations, and job-shaped-catastrophes in the past, from pharmacist (he quit after the second police stake-out) to first code monkey on the team of a successful dot-com startup (with brilliant timing he tried to change employer just as the bubble burst).

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What if Alan Turing solved one more problem and completed one last theorem? And suddenly higher mathematics was awash in spells, summonings, and alternate dimensions where forces lived that would like nothing better than to munch on your brain. Thanks to the Turing-Lovecraft theorem magic happens, almost inevitably for the worst.

The British Secret Service (MI-6, the anti-spell branch) has a unique way of dealing with theoreticians who trip over the right formulae - they hire them into The Laundry and retire them to meaningless desk jobs. Bob Howard, however, is a little to itchy for the passive life. After a lot of trying he manages to get into field work. Now, as a relief from an irritating boss who counts paperclips and takes regular attendance, Bob gets to deal with dark forces and demonic possession.

There are two tales in this book. The first is The Atrocity Archives, which was Charles Stross's initial effort. Told as one long computer geek in-joke, the story introduces us to Bob and follows him through his first set of assignments and nervous breakdowns, while a series of ever more peculiar administrators keep telling him what a good job he's doing.

And he is doing a good job. Spotting mathematicians who have crossed the line, saving workshop attendees from being munched, and getting thrown out of the States for poking too far into the badness on what should have been a routine extraction. But even good agents have bad days and our wisecracking hero finds himself going through a portal to rescue a very attractive scientist from a very dead earth.

The second story Concrete Jungle mixes interdepartmental politics, electronic basilisks, and fears about the end of the world in a story of one too many cows.

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Format: Hardcover
Charlie Stross has been making a name for himself over recent years for his extraordinary "Accelerando" stories, chronicling human and post-human civilisation towards and past the Singularity event at which technology becomes sentient and near-godlike. Another future world is being explored in the novel Singularity Sky and sundry short stories/future novels - also post-Singularity, and imbued with a pervading humour even through some quite horrifying passages.
The Atrocity Archives is best read with this in mind: despite looking a bit like horror, this is really hard science fiction with a lot of humour and a very weird Lovecraftian twist regarding the nature of the world. It's geeky but cool, a clever take on the spy thriller, and the only connection it has with "A Colder War" is that it's Lovecraft-inspired spy fiction by the same author. (Indeed, other even sillier Lovecraft homages appear in his short story collection "Toast").
The one-star review below should be taken with a grain of salt: don't come to any book with brittle expectations and then complain that it's the book's fault when your expectations are dashed!
The Atrocity Archives is quite unlike anything else out there at the moment, but those familiar with Stross, Cory Doctorow, or various other contemporary sf authors' up-to-the-minute genre-busting fiction will eat it up with gusto.
And the beginning passage, in which a succession of everyday events (such a pager going off in our hero's pocket) are made ominous by horror-inflected prose, is pure gold.
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Format: Hardcover
These two droll, amazing and entertaining stories hopefully herald the start of a cycle of "Laundry" tales. Stross' obsession with science, computers, internet technology, office management structures (!), occult history and HP Lovecraft meshes into a dizzyingly fun reading experience. Somehow, massive exposure to all this information - cleverly turned on its head to meet the demands of the stories - causes synapses to sizzle and crackle, giving rise to an illusory boost of one's own intelligence. Yes, Virginia, reading Stross makes you feel smarter, as others have observed....
This is Must Read stuff for Lovecraft fans, but if you like the work of Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, or Grant Morrison's THE INVISIBLES, then this is more or less guaranteed to flip your wig.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm about halfway through the book and totally disagree with Mayhew's review. He panned the book because it's not a sequel to another story he read.
Since I never particularly got into Lovecraft, or horror, I'm enjoying the book even more than I expected to. I find it a wonderful twist on the whole cyberpunk genre. The protagonist is a geek that talks and acts like a real geek. He even gets the slang right.
As I said in my title, the book is a fun read.
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Format: Hardcover
It's difficult to review this book without comparing it to other authors, simply because they share certain common moods. The actual story concept is original, a fusion of espionage, horror, and SF that won't necessarily appeal to readers who are purists in any one of these genres, but is hugely enjoyable if you can take it all in.
Briefly, the story revolves around agents for a British intelligence organisation tasked with suppressing certain mathematical concepts; the ones that are the keys to other dimensions, most of them containing entities implacably hostile to mankind. The trouble is that they happen to be very interesting mathematical concepts, the ones that are close to the cutting edge of computer research, and there are a lot of people out there that are working on them. In the past it took thousands of man-hours to screw up reality, today a laptop can do it in sceonds. This can result in horrific accidents and is potentially the ultimate terrorist weapon. There is an uneasy peace between the world's intelligence agencies, which pool resources to counter this threat, but things haven't always been that way. The ultimate threat of the book is a remnant of Nazi research from the second world war, and turns out to be much nastier than expected.
I enjoyed everything in this book, from the home-life of the hacker/agent hero to its final apocalyptic scenes on a dying alien world. Thoroughly recommended.
I wrote this before seeing the publisher's description, and it's interesting to see how similar it is. That possibly means it's unnecessary, but that's life...
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