Top positive review
8 people found this helpful
Everything is better with cannibalism and necromancy
on 19 July 2014
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...)