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service, saving the UK from itself, but being a civil service department its agents need to succeed despite poor intel, outdated equipment, and the need to submit expense claims in triplicate The series has a strong vein of dry humour, usually from the narration of protagonist Bob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.
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.
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.
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.
on 6 August 2016
Book #4 of The Laundry Files is yet another cracking novel!
Once again the action is narrated from the perspective of Bob. Bob's come a long way within the Laundry, the UK's premier (and Only) Occult/Anti-Occult government agency. He has risen up the ranks of operational staff through a combination of knowledge, intelligence and a lucky skill in not actually dying when the tentacles hit the fan!
In The Apocalypse Codex, The Laundry is put in a tough spot when a person of questionable (possibly occult) motivations worms his way into No. 10 Downing Street - a place that The Laundry cannot investigate or interfere without being very, very delicate... The solution is to outsource! But when you outsource government work, you need to supervise the outsourced labour - enter Bob!
Newly promoted and told to supervise only, at extreme arms length! Yeah. Right!
Cultish Bible Bashers, Sleeping/Dead Elder Gods, Witches and Feeders of the Night collide in a plot where the stakes are of apocalyptic proportions (This is The Laundry Files - nothing less would do!), Bob must wrangle them all whilst staying on the good side of his wife AND making sure he keeps his expenses paperwork in compliant order!
This is a fascinating story that delves into evangelical but miss-guided religious plotting and end of the world stuff. As ever there is a pervading esoteric and geeky sense of humour throughout the book - after all The Apocalypse Codex is Bob Howard's (The Occultish Geeks, Geek) narrative and journal of events.
If your security clearance is high enough to read this book without your eyes and brain boiling in response to the security wards - you're in for one (of many) hell of a ride.
You can read this as a stand-alone if you haven't read any previous Laundry Files books before - but it will work better if you have read some or all of the previous books (There are references a plenty to previous stories within) - The Apocalypse Codex is fun and engaging thrill ride through Urban Fantasy, Spy-craft and the occult!
I highly recommend it as a great read!
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.
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.
on 26 May 2013
This fourth book in Stross's Laundry series is, apparently, like the previous ones, written in a pastiche of some other author's style, but this time it wasn't one that I recognized. It's also a damned fine read.
Many series get tired after a while, as the characters stop developing or worse, develop into one-dimensional archetypes. This doesn't happen here. We learn and see more of both the characters and institutions. We also have a well-developed antagonist, one who is (of course, this is a Laundry book) utterly evil, but for the best of reasons and thinks he is on the side of the angels.
However, I feel that the ending was rather rushed and not particularly believable. No sensible bad guy would leave one half of his Doomsday Device utterly unguarded, especially when he knows that the opposition are in the field. And the idea of the double double-cross and subtle but quick manipulation by the Black Chamber of institutions and individuals is frankly silly. For that I deduct one star. I'd deduct more except that the rest of the book is so gloriously fun to read, deftly combining horror, action and comedy as we have come to expect from the series.
I recommend this book, provided that you have read the previous installments. If you haven't, then you should read them first.
on 14 July 2012
You'll need to have read the previous Laundry novels to enjoy this book properly; there's a lot of backward references to the previous stories. The style of the book is similar, but the writing is perhaps tighter and there are more lead characters in this book than there have been in previous Laundry novels. I read the whole thing in a couple of sittings and was sad to have finished it, as I wanted more to read. Well worth buying, but read the other books first to get the most out of the story.
on 3 October 2014
... now he's on the menu for cultists of a different stripe.
Still great fun, the Codex builds on the ideas in the Fuller Memorandum (maybe with a bit of uncomfortable shuffling), setting up Bob as the handler for some unusual assets.
There's a bit more jumping around here than in previous efforts, and I'm not sure I like that, but I am still thoroughly loving the series overall.