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The Jennifer Morgue (A Laundry Files Novel) Mass Market Paperback – December 29, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 120 customer reviews
Book 2 of 5 in the Laundry Files Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this alternately chilling and hilarious sequel to The Atrocity Archives (2004) from Hugo-winner Stross, Bob Howard is a computer übergeek employed by the Laundry, a secret British agency assigned to clean up incursions from other realities caused by the inadvertent manipulation of complex mathematical equations: in other words, magic. In 1975, the CIA used Howard Hughes's Glomar Explorer in a bungled attempt to raise a sunken Soviet submarine in order to access the Jennifer Morgue, an occult device that allows communication with the dead. Now a ruthless billionaire intends to try again, even if by doing so he awakens the Great Old Ones, who thwarted the earlier expedition. It's up to Bob and a collection of British eccentrics even Monty Python would consider odd to stop the bad guy and save the world, while getting receipts for all expenditures or else face the most dreaded menace of all: the Laundry's own auditors. Stross has a marvelous time making eldritch horror appear commonplace in the face of bureaucracy. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"Stross packs this new novel full of hilarious in-jokes and frenetic set pieces."
-San Francisco Chronicle

"One of the most enjoyable novels of the year... Stross steps carefully through all of the archetypes of a classic Bond adventure without ever becoming predictable. The resolution is as perfect as it is unexpected."
-Jonathan Strahan, editor of the annual Best Short Novels anthology series

"Some writers play with archetypes. In The Jennifer Morgue, Charlie Stross makes them sing, dance, and do the dishes for him."
-S. M. Stirling, national bestselling author of The Scourge of God

"The Jennifer Morgue is Stross's most entertaining novel to date...Astonishing."
- Locus

"Alternately chilling and hilarious."
-Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • Series: A Laundry Files Novel (Book 2)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ace; Reprint edition (December 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441018149
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441018147
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #371,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Terrell T. Gibbs on December 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like it's predecessor, "The Atrocity Archives," "The Jennifer Morgue" is based upon the premise that all of those nasty Lovecraftian horrors are real, all of the world governments know about it, and are engaged in an ongoing and highly secret occult intelligence gathering/arms race. A few other writers have mined this same vein, most notably Tim Powers in "Declare." But in contrast to Powers, Stross leaves no doubt that his tongue is firmly planted in cheek. The current volume is not only a send up of the cold war spy novel, but specifically of James Bond. Fortunately, Stross has the extraordinarily rare ability to satirize a genre without losing sight of what makes that genre work. Stross's Lovecraftian horrors are actually scary--in fact more so than those of most other writers who've tried to write serious Lovecraftian horror (which turns out to be surprisingly difficult to pull off). The cold war style intrigue, with intricately layered plots and counterplots also works beautifully. Stross could doubtless be a master of either genre if he could bring himself to take them seriously. But that's alright, because this is better. Much of the humor comes from Stross's hero and narrator, a cynical hacker forcibly inducted into the British occult intelligence service. As such, he is completely out of place in either of the genre's Stross is satirizing (watching him try to fit into a Bond-type plot is particularly amusing), yet in the world Stross has created for us, he is clearly the perfect man for the job. Along the way, Stross manages a particularly sharp (but somehow affectionate) deconstruction of the entire Bond canon.

I'd encourage Stross to drop everything else and devote all of his time to writing sequels in this series, except there's nothing else that he writes that I'd be willing to give up. Still, none of his other work manages to be quite this much fun.
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Format: Hardcover
If you liked The Atrocity Archives, you'll love The Jennifer Morgue. If some of the more geeky computer references confused you, you'll still enjoy the basic story here (everybody's seen James Bond movies, after all) but again you'll be missing half the fun.

As another reviewer has indicated, to get full appreciation of every little nuance, you need to be an old school UNIX geek, preferably with a familiarity with the Internet that stretches back a decade or two, who still yearns for the days when USENET ruled, and before The Eternal September began.

Not meeting all these criteria doesn't mean you won't find this hugely enjoyable, but the more of them you meet, the more you'll enjoy the book. Having known Charlie since before he'd had anything published and used to hang out in some of the seedier USENET groups, I think I fall fairly firmly into the target audience, and even I missed one or two of the cleverer references first time round. However, I read the book cover to cover in a single sitting and enjoyed every page. Multiple re-reads are a must, the cover's as superb a homage to the book's influences as the story itself, and the story itself leaves an impressive number of openings for more Bob Howards books, from direct tie-ins to the implications of GREEN NIGHTMARE, which Charlie seems to have put in place specifically to give him a way to shut down the Bob Howard universe completely should he ever tire of writing about the character.

Personally, I hope he doesn't tire of writing about Bob for a long, long time. Haven't enjoyed a book so much in years. In fact, although it's a very different sort of book, the last thing I read that established a permanent niche for itself in my mind so quickly was Pratchett/Gaiman's Good Omens in the early 90s. I'm picky about what I read, and I place these two books in a separate little league, all of their own.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This novel actually creeped me out a few times and had me rolling on the floor with laughter most of the time. SciFi would be the topseller in genre fiction, if more novels were like this one. Stross skewers James Bond, flips the Lovecraft style horror novels on their ear, infuses some of the best IT and hacker details that I've read in a novel, incorporates a pretty good love story paired with a perfectly frightening stalking, all while careening hilariously through a landscape littered with zombies, creatures from the deep, creatures from the universe's deep past, and more.
This novel provides one blisteringly hot answer to those readers who complain that there's not much new or fresh in SciFi. I say you're looking for authors on the wrong side of the pond. Some of the best SF to be found, these days, is coming from Britain (Scotland, in Stross' case).
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Theoretically, this is a great book.

I love Stross's straight science fiction, and I'm a huge fan of both Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos and Broccoli's Bond Mythos. From a marketing standpoint I'm the kind of reader that should have been going ga-ga over "The Jennifer Morgue", but the story was a disappointment.

I think the book's biggest flaw is it's schizophrenic nature. Roughly 75% of the text is a gritty, contemporary take on battling the sanity-blasting horrors of the Mythos, grounded in a rigorously thought out world where magic works. The other 25% is a funny, over the top romp that revels in the sheer absurdity of the tropes it's embracing. The problem is the dissonance between the two perspectives. Every time I started enjoying one viewpoint the other would intrude into the narrative, bringing any momentum to a screeching halt. There are a few scenes where the juxtaposition works, with the comedy reinforcing the drama and vice versa, but they're unfortunately few and far between.

"The Jennifer Morgue" is a good book, and worth a read, but it's split personality ultimately keeps it from being great. I really wish Amazon had half stars, since 3 stars makes it look mediocre, and it isn't, but it doesn't quite rate 4 stars.

If you do give it a try I think an interesting follow-up would be any of Nick Pollatta's "Bureau 13" novels. They have a similar set-up to Stross's "Laundry" universe, blending espionage adventure with monster hunting, but where Stross applies the wacky comedy in measured doses Pollatta sprays it on with a firehose.
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