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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2013
Others have written pretty thorough descriptions of this book, and I must agree that the concept is intriguing. However, I found the writing to be very difficult to plough through - lots of techno-babble which does nothing to advance the plot, and only the most rudimentary character-development. I can see why people make comparisons with Len Deighton in terms of the twisty spy plot and I think it's an important similarity - they're both very much plot-driven rather than character-driven. I found myself applying the 'eight deadly words' rule - 'I don't care what happens to these people'.

I don't think I have enough interest to give another of these a chance - my 'to read' pile is quite high enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 January 2013
This is an impression of the Laundry Files as a series (so far).

I've never been a great fan of pure horror but have enjoyed H P Lovecraft's stories; it was sad that he was never able to expand them further. Hence I am always on the lookout for attempts by other writers to emulate his style and further explore the Cthulhu mythos. Some in my opinion have been very successful and I count the Brian Lumley's Titus Crow adventures to be amongst the most enjoyable; I particularly like the more optimistic view in Lumley's take in that it is possible to resist the incursions of the Great Old Ones and their minions; in the original stories the best the protagonist could hope for was a descent into the depths of insanity.

Nick Pollotta's Bureau 13 series is another favourite of mine (incidentally it predates the X-files by several years) containing as it does fast moving adventure and subtle (and sometimes less subtle) horror elements mitigated with a smattering of humour. Interestingly they contain references to the British counterpart of Bureau 13, The Farm, I think you could easily substitute The Laundry for The Farm.

The Atrocity Archives makes a promising start to the series with the mix of malignant ethereal forces and equally malignant human agencies to confuse and muddy the waters. There is humour but it is darker than Bureau 13, the characters are convincing as is the occult technobabble. The series starts with an extra dimensional threat to the integrity of the Universe itself and by book three there are hints of far worse to come!

The question remains as to which poses the greater threat to humanity, the Old Ones or the perfidious minions of Human Resources?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 30 January 2008
Fast and funny, with a bureaucratic government regime more concerned with paperwork than saving the world, evil Nazis from another dimension and mind-eating horrors straight from Lovecraft... this is exactly what Torchwood should have been.

Yes, the book comprises two linked stories. Yes, it is a first novel and some of the characterisation is weak. But it is still a cracking read, has more ideas than the whole of the 268 volume Wheel of Time series put together, and there are some excellent IT jokes too.

If these guys tell you to turn it off, you really don't want to turn it back on again...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 February 2014
Mix equal parts of H.P. Lovecraft, Len Deighton, Jim Butcher and Neal Stephenson, stir vigorously and stand well back. Well, actually, dive right in and get carried along in a pacy, tense thriller with lots of humour.

The main problem was that as soon as I finished it I wanted more of the same; happily there are several more in the series already...

Four and a half stars - I only give five to absolute classics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2013
Having just ploughed through the ten volume epic that was the Malazan book of the fallen, The Atrocity Archives feels a little immature.

It's a great romp through a modern day maths-is-magic world and, being a civil servant myself, there are some parallels which are uncomfortably close to the truth (we've never done a paper clip audit to my knowledge, but we have done similar...). The references come thick and fast and although if you're not a computer scientist or a Cuthulhu nerd, you may feel a little out of the loop, is never enough to make the book impenetrable.

My main gripe was the feel. All of the characters have a wise crack ready and waiting and as a result they felt a bit like variants of the same character rather than completely different people.

None the less, it's a fun light hearted horror, I don't regret the purchase but it won't hit my top 50 list.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 November 2008
I came across this book by accident, at the library of all places. From page 1 I was hooked by its crazy fusion of hard-core Ipcress File meets Bond "secret government agency" caper with entities and motives straight out of Buffy with just a touch of Harry Potter thrown in.

Bob Howard, the main character, reminds me quite a bit of Harry Palmer merged with every quirky comic computer geek in popular fiction.

The story rips along, but what makes it so enjoyable is the dry wit, and the dull familiarity with which civil servants in "The Laundry" treat phenomena which ordinary members of the public would consider wild fantasy. If such things existed, the department of the UK government charged with fighting them would be exactly like this - right down to the petty-minded accountants.

Buy it, if only to make up for me borrowing my copy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 31 July 2013
Thanks to my friend Bob who works at QinetiQ in Malvern (yes he really does exist although pretty sure he's not an occult spy...although anything is possible) for reccomending the series.

It is wildly imaginitive totaly outrageous and yet somehow carries you along suspended by your prickling neck hairs, while your disbelief packs a toothbrush; in preparation for a long overdue dirty weekend with Lenny Henry (somewhere along the M40).

But, probably the most appreciable quality is - that it is very well written. Therefore if your reading age is equal to or less than that of the average Daily Mail reader; you just wont get it.

I can't give it the full 5 stars because this never going to be a true classic due to the number of very NOW references - but by no means should that put you off.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 February 2015
I feel a little niggardly about giving this book a four, but the reason should become clear. The earlier part was quite slow and difficult, despite light-hearted references. Full of rather long-winded techno babble (well, fantasy techno-babble geekery), and I was close to giving up. However, I’d read worse, so carried on. A good thing, too! Once the book got into the real ‘plot’, it was quite riveting, despite some incomprehensabilities. The underlying philosophy is linked to the Cthuhu Mythos, but not; Computer Science, Dungeons and Dragons, and the bizarre machinations of the Civil Service all mixed up. If you’re into any of those, you’ll get a few giggles, an occasional nodding of the head in agreement. What more can I say, except that I'm now on the third book in the series. Recommended!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This is an excellent book which deserves to be read and discussed. There will, I hope, be more in this vein from the author. (I also predict a crop of imitations).
The book contains four pieces: two stories and two "essays" (an introduction, and an afterword from the author). The stories are compelling. My advice would be to skip the "essays". If you read the stories the essays will tell you nothing new.
While the other reviews I have seen (and the "essays" within the book) position it as "spy fiction meets thriller meets Lovecraftian horror" I think that the book stands on its own feet much, much more than this would suggest. The references to these genres - and others - are there, but, like any successful fiction, the final result is a lot more than a combination of ingredients. The book just works - which isn't to say it is perfect, it's not; the writing, for example, is laboured in places - but I am looking forward to reading more by Stross. I'm glad to see that he several more books out and I'll be getting them as soon as I can.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 November 2013
The novel at the heart of this publication comes with three add-ons - a subsequent short story, featuring the same main characters and fictional universe, an afterword also by Charles Stross about his attitudes to writing science fiction and its similarities to horror fiction, and an introduction by a friend of his.

That introduction is, as you might expect, a very friendly and warm introduction but also one that gives the reader fair warning of what the novel is likely to be like. As it says, Stross's first novel is "unpublished - great concept shaky execution" and "the novels kept getting better". No surprises then that this - Stross's first published novel - shows much of the talent and skill for predicting technology which makes Halting State such an excellent book, yet also at times has the rather clunky over-eager sentences of a novice writer trying a little too hard to amaze the reader.

The novel (and the short story) is science fiction, set in the present with a strong alternative history taste, plenty of technology speak and a touch of the horror novel thrown in. If you're not a fan of the latter, don't let that put you off. I'm not either yet enjoyed the book, for here the horror does not dominate and indeed adds an appropriate emotional strength to the deaths recounted in the book. It's not just an emotionless pile of dead bodies that accumulate through the plot's progress.

A bit of knowledge of IT, physics or maths helps to explain some of the jokes, though as much of the humour is about management and bureaucracy, it's funny even without it.
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