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on 15 July 2012
The Apocalypse Codex is the fourth in the `Laundry' series, best described as spy novels meet HP Lovecraft, with a hero who works in IT support and demonology (which, as everyone knows, are basically the same thing). The Laundry is the nickname for the ultra-secret part of British intelligence that deals with things beyond the usual universe, and the people who worship or try to use them.

The series started out as spy novel pastiches - The Atrocity Archives was a homage to the Harry Palmer novels of Len Deighton, and The Jennifer Morgue was a full-on James Bond romp, but that element seems to have fallen away a bit in the last two - The Fuller Memorandum was, according to Wikipedia, inspired by the works of Anthony Price, but I've never read any of those so couldn't confirm, and I'm fairly sure The Apocalypse Codex is at least referencing the Modesty Blaise comics and novels (in the central character of freelance witch Persephone Hazard), but the author seems to be getting into elaborating the universe of the Laundry itself, rather than riffing on other works.

Since that universe is shortly facing a full-scale apocalypse in the uncertain shape of the Great Old Ones who are due to return some time Real Soon Now and eat everyone's brains, it's not suprising that the last two entries in the series have been considerably darker in tone than the fun action of The Jennifer Morgue.

The Apocalypse Codex features some Christian (ish) cultists who want to wake an entity from another universe, and it's our hero Bob Howard's job to liaise with the `External Assets' (contractors, the CIA would call them) who are to infiltrate, investigate, and if necessary, terminate them - Persephone Hazard, who was running her own occult intelligence network before working with the Laundy, and her ex-Para (with a touch of the witchfinder) associate Johnny McTavish. Bob has less of the heavy lifting to do this time around, as he has been promoted to management, with the freelancers getting most of the action (and there is plenty of well-drawn action), but he still gets to kick cultist butt when required. The plot bowls along as usual, and the espionage and horrific elements are well balanced.

I'll be a bit disappointed if we never get to read a John le Carré-inspired Laundry book, and the tone of the books is increasingly dark as it heads toward the seemingly inevitable apocalypse, but this is a good addition to a fun series.
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on 10 July 2012
Bob Howard has got the True Religion: he knows there are horrors from beyond that don't believe in any of our holy books and he needs to stop them. So when a TV evangelist who seems to have genuine holy powers appears, Bob has to find out what is going on

The Apocalypse Codex is the fourth instalment in The Laundry Files series, and you'd be well advised to start by reading The Atrocity Archives (The Laundry Files). Stross lays out the background and gets readers up to speed with his usual dry wit, and a new reader will probably get along ok, but there are frequent references to previous books.

For anyone who hasn't read the previous instalments in this excellent series: there are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know, but the computing revolution has made it all too easy to Find Them Out, with the result that Lovecraftian horrors can be summoned from the vasty depths of the Mandelbrot set with the right iPhone app. The Laundry is the British secret occult service, saving the UK from itself, but being a civil service department its agents need to succeed despite poor intel, outdated equipment, and the need to submit expense claims in triplicate The series has a strong vein of dry humour, usually from the narration of protagonist Bob Howard: civil service IT guy, reluctant spy, and computational demonologist.

Previous books have drawn inspiration from classic spy writers, and so The Apocalypse Codex features Persephone Hazard, a loving tribute to Modesty Blaise, the 1960s answer to James Bond. She is recast here as a freelancing agent (not to mention witch), more or less loyal to The Laundry's aims, called in for some plausible deniability when dealing with a serious problem: Pastor Raymond Schiller, an American religious evangelist, has some unusual powers and appears to have got too close to the Prime Minister. He needs to be checked out. So off she heads to the states, with her utterly loyal sidekick Jonny McTavish, and her new "liaison officer" Bob Howard in tow.

Hazard is an excellent character: tough, ambiguous, slowly revealing her motivations to the reader while delivering some top-notch secret agent action. It's a good job too, because she takes equal billing with Bob in this book, while Jonny gets some good scenes too.

The main event in the series is going to be Case Nightmare Green, an imminent occult apocalypse. The series has been slowly hinting at this, and it is clear that the latter half of the series will see things getting very grim indeed. In some ways, The Apocalypse Codex seems like Stross is getting the series prepped for the big event. The plot is tighter than some of the other Laundry novels, rattling along at a good pace with minimal digressions, but it doesn't move the series along as much as The Fuller Memorandum (The Laundry Files) did. The US setting means more about the enigmatic Black Chamber, and elements from previous novels return in very worrying ways.

The Laundry Files is one of my favourite series at the moment, not least because Stross is an excellent writer. The combination of well-drawn characters and a thumping plotline is compelling. The Apocalypse Codex is required reading if you liked the previous books. If you haven't read the previous books, go get them quick.
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on 29 July 2012
Nicely written as usual but lacking in plot and character develoment, still got some great characters (mostly from previous laundry files) unfortunately they all seemed caught up in race to the last page.
The best analogy i can think of is that it was like watching a bunch of competent actors rushing through a sunday matinee because it was one of the casts birthday and they were all going to the pub afterwards.
I hope that whatever was taking most of Mr Stross's time and attention when he wrote this one, is another book that better displays his normally excellent,and original,story telling and writing skills.
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If like me you've been enjoying the lighter side of the Urban Fantasy genre, then you've more than likely read the other Laundry books by Charles Stross (The Atrocity Archives, The Jennifer Morgue and The Fuller Memorandum) and been awaiting the next outing for the principle player and hero of the series Bob Howard.

What occurs within the pages is another light hearted romp that has some great characters, a new addition to the Laundry and of course a whole heap of trouble to challenge the newly promoted Bob. As usual with Charles' writing, its crisp has a great sense of humour coming through and when added to razor sharp prose, top notch pace and backed with an author who clearly has affection for his world, makes this a title hard to put down with the humour cheering you up despite whatever type of day you've had. All in a cracking story and one I wished had gone on longer.
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VINE VOICEon 9 August 2012
I have become a fan of the Laundry series by Charlie Stross, and after the first two books the series is definitely getting darker.

The Apocalypse Codex takes us into the realm of American retail religion. Cult-like sects preaching a strand of Christianity that just doesn't tick all the right boxes when the charismatic leader comes to London and therefore the attentions of Laundry operatives. From there into a deep and dark story of mass human sacrifice and sleeping Gods who have nothing to do with the one in the Bible, which has sprouted a couple of extra and deeply alarming books. One being the Apocalypse Codex.

Whilst some may recognise an idea which is central to the Stargate TV series, it's a dark, witty and pacy romp across continents ending with our hero being pushed upwards in the hidden side of the Civil Service. This has to mean more Laundry books are forthcoming and I for one am looking forward to Mr Stross entertaining us further. The Laundry series is definitely worth a read, but start at the beginning and work your way up to this fourth novel.
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on 14 July 2012
I'm giving this a 4 because Charlie Stross is a great writer and I love the Laundry novels.

But this is almost a potboiler. One of Charlie's early reviews called him "an explosion in an ideas factory" - that's why I buy all his stuff. This book is like everything else he writes, well worth the money.

It was only when I put it down having finished it that I realised that the the plot wasn't that different, the characters weren't that different, and I couldn't put my finger on any really new ideas - but I'd still had a damn good read. That's the mark of a good wordsmith.

Come on Charlie; I'm sure you can give us some more Laundry stuff with some new ideas - it's a rich world that has possibilities beyond the trivial imagination. Go for it, boy.

If you've never read any Charlie Stross before, this is worth buying, though I'd suggest you start with some of his earlier stuff. If you know him and have read him before, you won't be too much disappointed.

Reading this review, it sounds like faint praise; it isn't. I know I couldn't write stuff anywhere near as good. Trouble is, good as it is, I know he can do better. I suspect he does, too.

Mike Calder. michaelcalder@btconnect.com
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on 12 August 2012
In "The Apocalypse Codex", Bob Howard, civil servant for Her Majesty's Mystic Service, must investigate a US-televangelist with connections to Downing Street 10. During the mission, he will meet things that are not supposed to exist: magic wards, tentacle monsters from another space-time, and freelancers dabbling in the occult.

This is, in very short, the premise of the fourth of Charles Stross' Laundry novels. It is a rather good read and very gripping, once you've gotten past the first few pages - a kind of frame-plot-gone-introduction. There was excitement and suspense, although there are no surprises or revelations that feel actually "big". I felt that it's a distinct improvement over the serie's third "The Fuller Memorandum" (which I found slightly disappointing), although it didn't quite feel as good as "The Atrocity Archives" or "The Jennifer Morgue", the first two books. In my opinion, it's somewhere between three and four stars, with a tendency to four because it's really difficult to put away.

In many ways, "The Apocalypse Codex" loops back to and references the first three books a lot. So much so that you shouldn't try to read it without knowing them. In fact, you might still find yourself lost if your last reading of "Atrocity Archives" and "Fuller Memorandum" has been a while. Strangely, the plot itself doesn't seem to require it, really. It's just that Stross references the previous books so much, it feels redundant and repetitive without adding much to this book, subsequently becoming slightly boring.

All in all, I still wonder whether Stross is leading this series and especially his main character in the right direction:
First, the move away from the more or less unique format of the first two books: One main story in the format of an hommage to or pastiche of occult/spy/SF/... master stories, followed by another short story.
Second, the Laundry novels seemed to start out as an almost absurd or satirical mix of bureaucracy satire, technobabble and occult mystery story. "Fuller Memorandum" and "Apocalypse Codex" seem to take themselves very seriously, though.
Third, SPOILER ALERT, the Fuller Memorandum seems to have started a trend of Stross' main character becoming almost all-powerful. This goes in line with how the supporting characters and their mysteries are treated and revealed. I hope that Stross will not run out of stories due to his main character and his tricks becoming too powerful to create plausible suspense.

Still, here I am, and I already cannot wait for the fifth Laundry novel which I know will be coming (Stross used to mention it on his blog). So the four stars are earned after all.
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on 12 July 2012
If you you have any involvement in IT at all, you will probably have developed some notion of the terrifying horrors that lurk behind the monitor. This book, leaked somehow from the bowels of the 'Laundry', reveals the truth. To paraphrase the man, if you gaze into the void, the void gazes back also. If you cast into the void you either get a seg fault or whatever passing nameless horror, demon, or elder god that your dangling pointer happens to latch onto.

Highly recommended, although there's a reasonable chance that your soul will be eaten while reading.
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on 8 August 2014
“F***ing netbooks; you can't even use one to beat an alien brain parasite to death without it breaking.”

A real page-turner; Bob Howard is once again battling both a sinister plot and his own side's bureaucracy, with the fate of the world on the line. As ever he feels several fathoms out of his depth, and as ever this makes him endearingly easy to identify with. Sadly, however, it also emphasises the tale's major failing; Bob's most established allies and two of the series' best characters, Mo and Angleton, are barely present, and instead we spend a lot of time with a pair of new characters so hypercompetent that they're really quite dull.

Not the best Laundry novel, but that just means it falls slightly short of a very high bar; it's a great read nonetheless.
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on 31 July 2012
Charles Stross' smart and very funny amalgam of spy fiction and Lovecraftian horror continues in fine style. Bob Howard is a computer scientist pressed into a position at The Laundry - HM's border agency charged with countering extra-dimensional intrusions by elder horrors whose only desire is to eat and excrete human souls (at the same time - ugh!). In Codex, Howard must investigate a creepy US fundamentalist with the ear of a Cameronesque UK Prime Minister and an unorthodox take on Christian eschatology. When "the tentacle hits the pentacle" it's up to Howard to negotiate a new management role facilitating a pair of Bond-like "external assets", and stall the Apocalypse long enough to file a complete expenses claim.
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