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The Atrocity Archives Hardcover – May 1, 2004
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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book offering two related long novellas, "The Atrocity Archive" and "The Concrete Jungle" (the latter previously unpublished).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.
""Stross has gene-spliced H. P. Lovecraft and Len Deighton to produce a SF thriller that is both witty and unsettling." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
Chicago Nerds discussion notes: [...]
This book is a mixture of hard scifi, bureaucratic satire, alternative history, spy genre and a touch of romance. It's very enjoyable, but I found myself blipping over the detailed mathematics of it all (hence the four star review). Don't let this put you off the book, however. Bob is a very likable character and makes an excellent narrator. We are introduced to other characters who will play parts in future Laundry Files stories, most notably Angleton, Bob's scary and mysterious manager. He's my favorite character and he and Bob make a memorable team.
"Atrocity Archives" is rather short and is paired with an excellent short story which serves as a follow up, "The Concrete Jungle." The short story form is very well suited to Laundry adventures and I hope Mr. Stross gives us more of them in the future. I'm a fan of this entire series and highly recommend that you start here and move on sequentially in order to get the most out of the series.
Stross has also added a sense of humor that Deighton's books didn't have, and a delightfully Kafkaesque take on a government bureaucracy under siege by the true believers in Total Quality Management, with all of its buzzwords, not to mention the paperwork and hoop-jumping that comes with ISO-9001 certification.
There's also a romance, although it's not a primary focus of the novel (unlike the many "paranormal romances" on Kindle, where the story usually hinges on "girl meets guy, guy seduces girl, lots of sex described in the sort of loving detail that would have been illegal in a number of states 30 years ago, and oh, guy is a werewolf or a vampire or something").
This isn't a book which can be easily described without giving too much away. Better that you should read it yourself.
Fun read! I've done this one as an Audible narration and I've got 4 more books from the library on my table waiting to get devoured.
The Laundry is a rogue intelligence agency battling to prevent infestations of extradimensional horrors. Bob Howard is our hero, a computer geek working in the IT department who is drafted into field duty. However, while Bob is out saving the world from who knows what horrors, his boss in the IT department is constantly on his case for everything from missing meetings to not filling out his time sheet. This struck me as humorous and all to real when considering a government institution. The Laundry brings to mind the spy world of "Get Smart" as the facility itself is accessed through a toilet stall.
"The Atrocity Archives" is the most unusual spy novel I believe I have ever read, and the Laundry the most unusual organization. Guardians of the dark secrets that threaten to drown us in nightmare, the lips of the Laundry employees are sealed as tight as their archives. To get even the vaguest outline of their activities takes a privileged hacker like Bob, nosy enough to worm his way in where he isn't supposed to and smart enough to explain his way out of trouble.
Bob Howard is about as far away from the James Bond stereotype as he can get. He is, at heart, a geek. He is not suave, debonair, or particularly charismatic. He is not a ladies man, and in fact is trying to get rid of his psycho ex-girlfriend. But Bob does have his strengths, most notably his intellect, and is able to handle himself ably enough in the field. If the ultimate grade of a spy is results, then Bob Howard represents his craft well.