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The Nightmare Stacks (Laundry Files Book 7) Kindle Edition
After stumbling upon the algorithm that turned him and his fellow merchant bankers into vampires, Alex Schwartz was drafted by the Laundry, Britain’s secret counter-occult agency that’s humanity’s first line of defense against the forces of darkness. Dependent on his new employers for his continued existence—as Alex has no stomach for predatory blood-sucking—he has little choice but to accept his new role as an operative-in-training.
For his first assignment, Alex is dispatched to Leeds to help assess the costs of renovating a 1950s Cold War bunker for use as the Laundry’s new headquarters. Unfortunately, Leeds is Alex’s hometown, and the thought of breaking the news to his parents that he’s left banking for the Civil Service, while hiding his undead condition, is causing him more anxiety than learning how to live as a vampire secret agent preparing to confront multiple apocalypses.
Alex’s only saving grace is Cassie Brewer, a drama student appearing in the local goth festival who is inexplicably attracted to him despite his awkward personality and massive amounts of sunblock.
But Cassie has secrets of her own—secrets that make Alex’s nightlife behaviors seem positively normal...
About the Author
Charles Stross is the author of the bestselling Merchant Princes series, the Laundry series, and several stand-alone novels, including Glasshouse, Accelerando, and Saturns Children. Born in Leeds, England, in 1964, Stross studied in London and Bradford, earning degrees in pharmacy and computer science. Over the next decade and a half he worked as a pharmacist, a technical writer, a software engineer, and eventually as a prolific journalist covering the IT industry. His short fiction began attracting wide attention in the late 1990s; his first novel, Singularity Sky, appeared in 2003. He has subsequently won the Hugo Award twice. He lives with his wife in Edinburgh, Scotland, in a flat that is slightly older than the state of Texas.--This text refers to the audioCD edition.
- ASIN : B016JPTNZW
- Publisher : Ace (June 28, 2016)
- Publication date : June 28, 2016
- Language : English
- File size : 1701 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 393 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #407,746 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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I can't be too hard on Charles Stross because he's reversed one of his earlier decrees of the Laundry when he declared that everything from Howard Phillips Lovecraft was true(ish) other than the existence of Cthulhu, who he calls Old Bat Wings. Charles said that was the one element of the series which wasn't true--and is apparently now like vampires in that he was totally lying. Cthulhu's presence is revealed early on and he is also revealed to be the master of a longtime group of petty antagonists for the Laundry in the Black Chamber.
In this book, Mhari is dispatched by the Prime Minister (Mr. Everyman who is basically Johm Simm's Master with godlike power and a hatred for all Jews--which include Christians and Muslims BTW) to the Americas. Someone has wiped the President of the United States from its 300 million citizens' memories and this is probably the prelude to something bad. Much gunplay, shoggoth summoning, and character growth for Mhari occurs. We also get snapshots into other characters views on events.
Charles Stross has been struggling to keep the Laundry relevant with the cataclysmic weirdness in politics these past few years and this is the book he finally gives up on. Brexit, Trump, and other contemporary issues flat out don't exist in the Laundryverse now with a fictional new heroic President taking their place while the U.K. has bigger issues than its withdrawal from the EU. It's probably for the best but costs the series some of its meticulously researched realism. Then again, I suppose that went out the window with K-syndrome superheroes and PHANGS.
The short version is this book is...okay. I give props for the use of the Black Chamber, Cthulhu, American military history, and the return of characters I like such as Peter. However, the fact Stross writes his heroes as overtly evil (siding with Nyarlathotep versus Cthulhu is even namechecked as "Stalin over Hitler" but that's not exactly reassuring). A bit like Mo in The Annihilation Score, Mhari is a deeply unpleasant person. While she undergoes some character growth, it seems consistent Stross prefers to write his men as nardy and devoted to their partners while the women are overtly dismissive to them when not doing "necessary" evils. It showed up in The Nightmare Stacks as
So, it was okay, I guess? I think the series has lost a lot of its charm without Bob Howard and none of the other protagonists really work well. I liked Mhari more than Mo and she's probably the second best protagonist but this feels like the kind of fiction which Charles Stross used to mock in earlier books and that's a bit odd to now have to take completely straight.
The main character of this installment is Dr. Alex Schwartz, to whom we were introduced to a few books back as part of the mercenary arbitragers who became part of the Phang community. Alex steps nicely into the Bob role as a highly intelligent but socially maladroit nerd. Author Charles Stross successfully rings all the humor he can from Alex's social awkwardness and the fact that Alex has been reassigned back to his hometown of York, where he may have to finally disappoint his parents with the news that he is no longer a high-flying arbitrager, but has been reduced to the ranks of the civil service, and that he has become also acquired a blood condition that may prevent them from becoming grandparents.
In York, Alex is hooked up with Pinky and the Brain, again characters from an earlier book, and Reverend Peter, the very mellow consultant dragooned by Bob into the Laundry in an earlier book.
The story involves the Case Nightmare Red, Plan Red Rabbit - Invasion from Middle Earth.
Middle Earth is provided by a parallel world where the species of humanity that developed was not Homo Sapiens. This species didn't develop speech as soon as humans, but they developed magic much quicker and much better. The social structure of this species - OK, let's call them "elves" - is entirely based on the geases used by the Laundry to ensure loyalty. Actually, from a science fiction standpoint, I thought that the sociology of the elves was fascinating.
The elven world is a mess. The demons from Beyond have invaded their home universe and ruined it. A small section of the Morningstar Empire that had placed itself in stasis has revived and are looking for a place to start over, and England is looking pretty good to them.
Of course, they send a spy who assumes the role of a giggly coed named Cassie, who becomes the essential player in this book, and important in the next.
Things start slow and then move into high gear and stay there. We see plots and conspiracies, and counterplots and counter-conspiracies, both Elven and human. We see some nifty Human technology v. Elven magical technology battles, with neither side being able to comprehend the tech used by the other, but managing to achieve nearly similar results from a completely different starting point.
I listened to this book as an audiobook and I found it a totally captivating and entertaining experience.
Top reviews from other countries
I'm intrigued by the way that the Laundry books have blossomed. I have always enjoyed the mix of classic horror, geeky in-jokes and organisational politics - Dilbert meets Doctor Who - but at the start these books were infrequent, coming out between other Stross projects. Lately there has been an annual book, and they've now widened their scope from Bob Howard, the original hapless geek protagonist ,to other Laundry members - first, Bob's partner Mo and now, to Alex the ex-banker and vampire. (The joke writes itself, really).
Doing that has given the books a shot in the arm, I'd say. Bob has accumulated skills and powers steadily until there was a risk that, like a 20th level paladin in a starter dungeon, he would just steamroller the bad guys away. Mo also has a lot of power and her violin solos are to die for (literally) but Alex is basically a beginner. His vampiricism gives him certain advantages, but also vulnerabilities, and he's relatively inexperienced.
He is, though, the man on the ground - in Leeds - when the somewhat Delphic "Forecasting Ops" warns that something may be about to happen - specifically, CASE NIGHTMARE RED. With a scratch team, he's about to take on the greatest threat to the British mainland since 1066...
I enjoyed this book. I really enjoyed it. There was just the right balance - for me - between action (BIG battles! Shooty things! Planes! bangs!), intrigue (Alex becomes entwined with the enemy agent First of Spies and Liars in a kind of reverse James Bond scenario), humour (Alex's family life is also going through a crisis, and you can't expect Mum and Dad to lay off sorting out their children's love and professional lives because of a mere incursion form another dimension, can you?) and deadly, dull bureaucracy (I shudder to imagine the post-event review coming after this book closes...)
Stross also continues to slot folklore and SFF/ horror tropes into the framework of his imagined universe, where magic is equivalent to advanced mathematics and the rapid increase in both conscious brains and computer hardware is fast creating a critical mass of computation that has thinned the walls of reality. In earlier books we've had superheroes (the ability to manipulate reality creates beings with all sorts of new powers), vampires and now... but I won't say exactly what. Just take my word. It's impeccably worked out, chilling in conception and inflicts real panic on the streets of Leeds.
It was also fun to see the imagined response - detailed and convincing - by the British armed forces to the scenario: the usual state of directed panic as whatever resources are available are thrown at poorly understood threats with unfortunate Tommy Atkins left to put things right:
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute!
But it's " Saviour of 'is country " when the guns begin to shoot...
In sum my message is: buy this book. Then turn off Twitter, lock your door, cancel any work and just read it. You won't want to stop till it's done.
I can only guess what's going to come next. I think events here have now blown the Laundry's deniability to bits: I want to see how they operate under a spotlight...
Cassie was a student, until she got her brain sucked out and replaced by the consciousness of the head spy of an invading Elven army. Alex has to save the world from Cassie’s warlord father. But all he thinks he has to do is convince his parents that Cassie is his new girlfriend. Good luck with that.
We first met Alex in The Rhesus Chart, where Bob Howard helped flush out the vampires. He’s now a Laundry employee (it was either that, or something more terminal), and we get to see how he is faring as the new boy.
Each of the books in the series has a schitck: here it’s elves. Usually in fantasy we get to see an army casually plough through the peasantry in the countryside before the big showdown. Here we get to see them plough through the ordinary people in the suburbs of Leeds: it cleverly demonstrates how utterly horrifying those fantasy battles should be, but somehow never are.
Although there are still the absurdities, of the clash of dark horrors and government bureaucracy, and we care about the various characters, the series is definitely getting darker, as it inexorably moves towards the End of Days.
The Nightmare Stacks covers a climactic event in the Laundry Cycle - invasion by an alien power, also known as CASE NIGHTMARE RED. Author Charles Stross somehow manages to balance wonderfully between well-characterized individual viewpoints and still providing a wide-scale, powerful view of strategic and tactical military action, all still infused with that bizarre yet believable hint of bureaucracy that makes the series so peculiarly, beautifully British.
The pace is incredible - the tension builds constantly for the last half of the book, and that starts from a point that is already tense enough - by the end, I was quite as watery-kneed as any character. This is, I think, the fourth time I've read this book and I still can't put it down once the ball starts rolling.
While I would rate all the books in the Laundry Cycle as 5 stars by comparison with other books, The Nightmare Stacks is a particularly strong entry in the series and very timely. Read it ASAP, you won't regret it.
The Nightmare Stacks is his best yet. It is a brilliant novel that brings togather love, humour, death, war and magical destruction. What more could anyne want?
I liked it so much I read it again from cover to cover as asoon as I'd finished.