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The Fuller Memorandum (A Laundry Files Novel) Hardcover – July 6, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Stross's third Laundry novel (after 2006's The Jennifer Morgue) continues to describe the Kafkaesque absurdity of government bureaucracies, but the tone turns dark when series hero Bob Howard accidentally kills a civilian during a routine exorcism. Bob soon discovers that there's a mole loose in the Laundry, the ultrasecret British intelligence service that deals with the implications of magic being a branch of pure mathematics. At issue is a memo by the Laundry's founder that relates to something called the Eater of Souls. The only person who knows anything about this is Bob's enigmatic boss, Angleton, but when he inexplicably vanishes, Bob and his wife and fellow agent, Maureen, are left on their own to stop CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN: the end of the world. The satisfying ending should appeal to fans of gory horror while making them question the definition of humanity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Imagine a world where gnarly Lovecraftian demons are all too real yet are routinely neutralized with high-tech wizardry by a supersecret British spy agency, and you'll get an inkling of the genre-bending territory Stross explores in his Laundry Files novels. In the series' third installment, Stross' recurring protagonist, the underappreciated junior-level Laundry agent Bob Howard, confronts a horrifying new threat from the netherworld. His latest assignment begins innocently enough when his supervisor sends him to investigate a haunted airplane at an RAF museum. Then a botched exorcism accidentally kills a bystander, leaving Howard facing a Laundry internal inquiry, and things steadily get worse. After Howard's wife and fellow agent returns home traumatized from an overseas assignment and Howard narrowly survives a run-in with a zombie hit man, the Laundry puts every operative on alert with Case Nightmare Green, a code name for a potentially world-ending showdown with the forces of evil. Stross enthusiasts more accustomed to the author's cutting-edge sf will nevertheless delight in this edgy, semiserious spoof of cold war spy thrillers. --Carl Hays
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The premise is Bob screws up during a routine exorcism and things go from bad to worse in his professional life. Even worse, this is occurring when there's something happening with a long-buried secret of the Laundry's organizational life. Part of what I enjoyed about this novel is it remembers the terrifying forces the Laundry deals with are actually terrifying. The Atrocity Archives made a nice balance between humor and horror, never going too far into one area or another like The Jennifer Morgue. The humor is actually funny, too, which allows it to be enjoyed for its own sake.
The book deals with one of my favorite elements of H.P. Lovecraft's writings, specifically cultists. What does inspire a person to want to worship the Great Old Ones? The book gives the obvious answer and expands on it, horrifying Bob with its logic. It also does a nice parody of upper-class English life, highlighting the kind of secrets which can hide under seemingly respectable people with tongue-firmly-in-cheek.
I also enjoyed the story's emphasis on the 'secret history' of the world. Spy fiction depends on realistic politics or, at least, understandable ones. Here, there's nothing realistic about extra-dimensional monsters and creatures from the deep--but the books acts as if they are. I appreciated that as the incorporation of people in real-life political situations trying to use demons somehow "sells" the premise to me.
I enjoyed Bob's characterization this time around, the befuddled bureaucrat struggling with his position as well as relationship, which nicely contrasted to previous volumes. Moe also felt more "real" this time around, as opposed to the perfect fantasy girlfriend she's been portrayed as before. I even enjoyed the revelations about Bob's boss, each of them fitting with what we knew about him from before.
I can't say The Fuller Memorandum blew me away. This isn't one of those books I walked away feeling like I absolutely had to read the next story but I appreciated it. It's gotten me interested in the series again and I'm going to finish reading it. Kudos, Charles Stross, you've won me back over.
That aside, this was another delightful romp in the archives of the Laundry, Her Majesty's most secret organization. Its agents aren't licensed to kill and don't get 00 designators-- but should each have a Double-L preface, for Le Carré-Lovecraft.
This third edition of the Laundry tales includes cultists, Russian spies, and zombies. I'm looking forward to seeing how he tops it.
Stross here cooks the familiar stew of geek references, office politics parody, spy thriller, and Lovecraftian occult esoterica that's flavored the Laundry series so well so far, and if you liked the first two books (The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue) you'll like this one (although it's closer to the post-cold-war spy-thriller tone of the first book than the Bond-esque stylings of the second). Fans of the series will find out more about the mysterious past of Howard's boss, Angleton, and you'll see some further development of Howard's relationship with his now-wife, Dominique O'Brian. The book maintains a thriller-appropriate level of tension throughout, with some lighthearted moments, and numerous references to geek culture (such as a series of comic descriptions of an iphone, and a buried allusion to Jim Butcher's _Dresden Files_ books).
Where this volume does differ from the prior two books is in its sense of escalation. The occult players in Bob Howard's world are all moving towards "CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN," the coming apocalyptic incursion of Lovecraftian Elder Gods into our reality, projected to happen sometime in the next few years of series-time. This volume has a definite sense of players shifting for position in game with increasing stakes -- if the first two books were set to "warm," this one cooks at a simmer, and it's pretty clear Stross plans to take us all the way to boiling in the next few books. If he maintains this level of quality, I'll be looking forward to them.
If you want a free foretaste of the Laundry series, there are two Laundry/Bob Howard short stories available on the web for free, respectively titled "Overtime" and "Funny Farm". "Overtime", at least, can be grabbed for free from the Kindle store, here:Overtime: A Tor.Com Original
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irritating that amazon has a word requirement