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4.4 out of 5 stars86
4.4 out of 5 stars
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It can be hard to review a continuing series since often what you're commenting on is really the cumulative effect of the whole. That's not true with this book since, while a firm part of the ongoing Laundry Files saga, Stross has written it to be accessible to new readers, including a fair amount of recap and exposition. (Actually, slightly too much for me. For example, we get a description of the Laundry's (the supernatural intelligence agency) role not only from series lead Bob Howard, but in similar language from one of the main antagonists). That must be a sign of confidence in the ongoing project, which can only be good for us fans.

So, in this book, the series takes a notably darker turn. The book still full of humour, puns, in-jokes from the tech and SF worlds, bureaucratic nonsense (Bob has to dispose of an aged PC with no hard drive: procedure requires special authorisation for getting rid of a machine without shedding the drive but the unit giving that has been disbanded: solution - fit a hard hard drive). However, it's now clearly become (even more) gallows humour, like listening to the private talk of a group of undertakers or emergency doctors.

As to the plot, the ostensible theme is vampires - not a spoiler, it's in the first line - a nest of which have appeared in the London financial community - but the book doesn't run with that (one would think there was lots of scope to compare bloodsuckers in the world of money with... vampires), rather it focusses on the internal dynamics of the Laundry itself, on what daily experience of nameless horrors does to a friendship or a marriage. Imagine the PTSD from dealing with those many-angled intruders from other dimensions.

There's less of the convoluted, loop-within-loop plottery of Stross's earlier volumes (it's OK, there is still some) with much more of what is happening made clear from the start - I think that this series, which started as acknowledged pastiches of thriller authors (Deighton, Fleming, Price) has now developed its own voice. In consequence, the books can be judged more in their own right rather than on how well they channel their original model, and, on the evidence of this one, they're developing into a fine series. But, gosh, what a dark one.

(See what I mean - there I go, judging the series again...)
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on 25 September 2014
I've had the first book in the series, "The Atrocity Archives" for several months and bought this book almost by accident. Having started it I thought I'd be better off going back to the first in the series and come to this book without jumping into the middle.

So now in the past 4 weeks I've brought myself up to date with "The Laundry", Bob Howard and his gradually move from Nerd towards being a Superhero. This is the first book, in my opinion, that doesn't fall back on styles from other writers and, again from my point of view is better for it. Bob's been with The Laundry's "Active" department for over 10 years and as a quote from Bob says "I have grown old and cynical" Not so old and cynical that he cannot the idiocy that wraps itself around bureaucracies, but much more cynical in how he sees the world. Add in the "Special Sauce" he's aquired from his boss, the enigmatic Angleton and you have someone starting to come to grips with some very unusual circumstances.

If I have a criticism of the book it is only that it would be a good jumping on point for the series and then people would miss out on the development that has seen Bob's character develop from "scared rabbit in the headlights" to being able to declare a "Code Blue" -- even if it does then end up with what he describes as a "Circular Firing Squad".

Nightmare Green isn't a focus of this book, but it's coming and, with the twists in the last 20 pages, it will be interesting to see where this takes Bob and his cohorts in the next book.

Final point, you can use this as a starting point -- I wouldn't recommend it, read the rest first, they are well worth the time involved.

When's the next book due? It will be on my list
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 November 2014
Sometimes you think that Charles Stross is just too damn clever for his own good, too hip and caught up in the hyper-reality of the superficial technology and buzz-word obsessed world we live in, but the truth is that what he writes about is relevant and bang up-to-date. There's a recognition that things tend to go badly wrong when the real world doesn't quite manage to keep up-to-date with the speed of change in the new, and not just badly wrong, but hilariously wrong. The Rhesus Chart, the latest Laundry novel (no previous reading required) is an outstanding example of just how funny and clever this writer can be.

Stross's Laundry novels are a satire of the handling of regulations and procedures that have to be navigated when a secret department set up to protect the world from aliens, zombies, demons and otherworld threats run up against government bureaucracy, business processes, tech-speak and good old-fashioned British character traits. In The Rhesus Chart, the threat comes from an outbreak of vampirism in a banking group (something to do with stumbling across a suggestive algorithm in some quantitative trading analysis - magic being a side effect of computation). In some sectors this might be seen as a problem, but in banking, this is seen as a benefit that "constitutes a net benefit that would add to our core skills matrix for all personnel".

The city bankers don't immediately all start donning opera capes and cultivate widow's peaks, which makes them difficult to track down, but Bob Howard, a secret intelligence working for the Laundry is more concerned that about the official policy on vampires in his department, which seem to go through "the five stages of bureaucratic grieving" - "denial, anger, committee meetings, scapegoating and cover-up." Bob is to discover however that there worse things than blood-sucking banking vampires, and that's blood-sucking scary ex-girlfriends. That gives you a flavour of Stross's satire and it's to his credit that he makes all procedural bureaucracy and meeting ennui even more scary than the creatures that the Laundry deal with. Stross is on top form here.
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on 3 July 2014
Before any review I would point out I would actually rate this as 4.5, but have rounded up since 5 seems more reasonable than 4

The book does start to take a movement for the darker, as was seen starting to begin in book 4. We're not really into case Nightmare Green (although we get certain links that effects are being felt) - but I would guess this would be the last book where this is the case.

A few things that if you thought through minor suggested points and non-concluded points in prior books might get certain acts at the end predicted, but I would say don't think about it, just read it and find out!

While all of the Laundry Files books wrap up relatively well, Rhesus Chart takes it to new extremes - a few ideas are suggested at close of play but almost everything that happens in-book is concluded, leaving us with but a few dark fears to lead us onto the final three books.

An excellent read, I just hope we don't have to wait as long for book 6!
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on 29 December 2014
I've been a fan since reading his Hugo award winning "Concrete Jungle" awhile ago but haven't felt that anything in the Laundry sequence has lived up to the early promise of the novella. Until now. Me and my eldest (another acolyte and no, not that kind of Eldest) have been geeking out about it since we read it. It's a wonderful melange of, amongst other things: organisational bureaucracy, RPG, Lovecraftian horrors (from beyond space and time), James Bond and pleasantly old fashioned romance. Stross neatly sidesteps several clichés to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion while setting the scene for CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. I can't wait
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on 18 October 2014
I intentionally waited to read this latest offering from Mr Stross, so I had the time to read it in one. I confess to being a bit biased as I am a fan of the series. Its hard to maintain a mind blowing pace in a series of books but Charles has done a pretty good job. Some comments on here suggest its not as good as earlier Laundry novels, my view is that this book is very very good, but not blow your socks of amazing. Am I disappointed ? No!. I don't need the continual stimulation of fast paced action or war and peace told in 3 easy to swallow exciting chapters. Some spoilers.... We get to see the affects on Bob and his wife Mo as the stress and unique challenges affect their everyday life. Its a no win situation made harder by the machinations of previously hidden horrors continuing the task of separating humanity's soul from its body (often assisted by the more significant evil that is Human Resources and office politics).
Vampires of course don't exist, but Mr Stross creates a world in which such creatures can exist within the framework of tentacled other realities we have become familiar with. Interview with a vampire or Buffy this is not, its much more real and putting myself at risk of ridicule here its more believable.
You really do need to have read the previous books to get the best from this, if you haven't then go start your induction with 'The Atrocity Archives' and work up from there.
Historically I avoid anything with formulaic vampires, unicorns, dragons, orcs or people called nzxcwebah wielding the sacred staff of whogivesacrap. I normally go for deep thinking space opera (and still do its great), I think they call it 'hard' sci-fi these days as written by the likes of Peter F Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, David Brin etc. For me sci fi however fantastic needs to at least not be impossibly implausible, intergalactic spaceships one day could be a reality.........however there is a genre I have been missing out on. The Laundry Files are for me an Urban Fantasy that is eminently palatable because it justifies itself in a convincing way, using high order mathematics (implied, not detailed don't panic) that reads as a scientific fact. I would say its close to as plausible as intergalactic spaceships so fair play. If you have ever read any of Ben Aaronavitch Rivers of London series then you will love these books. It shares a similar theme.
I recommend this book very highly, not quite 5 stars but close.
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VINE VOICEon 9 October 2014
To paraphrase President Lyndon Johnson..."it's better to have them in the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in".

Where that quote fits into all this is where the Laundry's latest story diverges from the normal fighting monsters and winning story. London's financial sector is finding itself manipulated at a major investment bank by a gang of newly turned vampires who can produce the results that the boardroom types want, but not without consumption of human blood and unfortunately the passing on of a nasty parasite from outside this universe.

As usual, our hero Bob storms in but then things go very much off plan. The vampires are recruited into the Laundry and that expression above comes into play. So what then? Are the older, more territorial vampires going to tolerate these sparkly new types on their patch? Are there in fact other vampires lurking within the Laundry itself?

Very much a departure from other Laundry novels as the borders between right and wrong are something of a movable feast.Definitely darker towards the end when some regular characters meet a bloody end, and even a major face is left in uncertain limbo. There's even a personal tragedy for Bob towards the last pages.

I give this four out of five as I felt at times the story wasn't quite as tidy as Charlie Stross normally writes, and there's too much of a cliffhanger ending. It's certainly a lot darker than normal in places and I will be eagerly awaiting the next in the series to see what happens with the central characters and indeed the Laundry itself.

Nothing is certain any more.
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on 24 September 2014
Charles Strosses "Laundry" novels are perhaps some of the most entertainingly clever and imaginative written versions of a modern Lovecraftian spy thriller you will ever read.I am so glad I've read and reread them several times. This one however, is not as strong as the others, perhaps for several reasons.
Firstly, it feels a bit padded. An awful lot of explaining and re explaining every plot development to every character involved continiously throughout the story killed the pace of it and unfortunately the patience of this reader. I kept wanting to shout "get on with it" where as previously I'd be too busy reading to notice. The other stories often rocketed towards a spectacular climax but this one went like a gentle glide until it suddenly decided to thud into the ground.The effect is just as tragic but the impact felt muted.
Secondly, if you've read the other four they build upon eachother so significantly I was expecting something far more epic, and although some pretty surprising developments occur towards the end, it just felt like this was treading water.
It had its very funny moments and some surprisingly sad ones as well, but I kind of feel the sacrifices made here would have had more of an impact in the grand final act that all the previous stories all point too. This wasn't it mores the pity, but at least there is another Laundry novel to come and thats all the more to celibrate!
So, in summary its a good story but not a great example of a Laundry novel, and I would highly recommend that ,if you haven't read the others ,that you immediately go and do so, because its a rare to find anything as original and entertaining thought out as they are. Case Nightmare Green is coming!!!!!!
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on 7 July 2014
The latest outing for Bob Howard, and colleagues from The Laundry, the occult branch of the British secret intelligence service, revolves around the existence, or non-existence, of vampires. Why does no-one at The Laundry believe they exist? After all, compared with the Cthulu-type creatures and other extra-dimensional horrors that are their daily bread, vampires should be positively routine. Well, answering that question is an important part of the plot. I can't write too much without giving all the plot away, but a group of rapacious bankers (already with metaphorical vampiric tendencies) get accidentally transformed into vampires, or maybe it's not that accidental. But are they "real" vampires, and is someone or something manipulating events at the Laundry from behind the scenes, and to what end? Like the other Laundry novels this one mixes grotesque comedy, and witty authorial asides, with imaginative takes on some traditional horror themes. There are also some moments which are genuinely disturbing, this time in the form of a terrifying weapon wielded by Bob's wife, Mo. If you haven't read other Laundry novels you'll never guess what this is, and you won't forget it when you find out. Overall, an enjoyable read.
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on 5 August 2015
I like the Laundry series but the frequent recaps is beginning to irritate and the continual reference to previous stories does nothing to help.It's like he's writing for the sort of TV series that starts with 'previously on.....' and ends with a preview of the next installment. It starts well and really picks up near the end, but seriously the good stuff would make a short story.
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