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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 29 July 2010
I really enjoyed this instalment of Bob Howard and the Laundry, picked it up and 5pm put it down finished at 2am. Gripping narrative which kept me turning pages way past the time I wanted to be asleep. A markedly dark work, with very black humour and a seriously nasty narrative concerning attempts to accelerate the end of the world and a traitor within the laundry. As usual, the characterisation, both of human protagonists and organisational gestalt is excellent, if we had an occult intelligence agency I imagine it would function exactly as Stross imagines the Laundry to work.

With each instalment and story, Bob Howard grows as a character in terms of complexity, capability and human failings yet never ceases to be utterly believable, in particular some of the domestic scenes are extremely well drawn with his wife, Mo, being much more fleshed out as a character in her own right.

I can't praise this book highly enough, it's a great work. I can't wait for the next volume.
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on 30 October 2010
The book is hard to classify; is it Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Urban Science Fiction or as is suggested in the blurb on the front cover of the book is it a Lovecraftian Spy Thriller? Even after reading the book I'm hard pressed to say. I'd say it's Urban something because of the setting, but since I haven't read any Lovecraft I can't say whether Lovecraftian spy thriller isn't an apter description. It has an undeniably high spy level though. When Bob sits down with Panin for a pint and a civilised little chat, it's classic spy and I kept expecting them to suddenly whip into action all James Bond-like. But it's spy mixed with the paranormal, which we see on the first job Bob goes on in the book. At this job his PDA gets fried in a thaumathurgical mishap and this led to the scene which had me laughing out loud at the book for the first of many times, the buying of the Jesus Phone.

Because make no mistake the book is hilarious; it had me laughing out loud, reading passages to my husband and itching to get back to it whenever I had to put the book down. The references are fab, there are a lot of allusions to well-known modern day phenomena, such as the book Bob reads on the train "a novel about a private magician for hire in Chicago" (sound familiar anyone?) or the new iPhone Bob buys to replace his PDA. That scene where he goes and buys the iPhone had me in stitches. As someone who really wants an iPhone next time I need a new mobile phone, I completely understood the lure of the Jesus Phone as Bob put it. I loved the fact that Stross attributed the lure of the iPhone to it being designed by an intuitive magician who put a glamour on it.

The Dutch references in the book made me laugh too. I especially loved the bit where Bob has a meeting and one of the attendees is called Franz Gustaffson, who is presented as the representative for the Dutch Intelligence Service, AIVD. Right at the point where I was getting grumbly about such an obviously non-Dutch name for a Dutchie, Bob throws out a line about his dad being Danish, hence the weird name. And I seriously loved that. No one else might appreciate that but a fellow Dutch person, but I loved the Dutch elements in the book.

There were some typically British things that had me puzzled a little such as the ESB that Bob drinks in the pub. I actually had to Google that to find out that it was Extra Special Bitter! In fact the language and atmosphere of The Fuller Memorandum exudes Britishness, which would seem obvious for a novel set in London, but often in novels set in the 'real' world, the only thing that places it in a particular location is the fact we're told it takes place there. Not this book though and I really appreciated that.

Starting out as a fun and interesting read, The Fuller Memorandum ends up a real page turner. I couldn't put it down for roughly the last third of the book. I loved the rollercoaster ride to the ending; the twists and turns kept me reading and the ending was both satisfying and frustrating as it left me wanting to read more about The Laundry. While Stross plans on writing more Laundry novels, no date for those has been set, so until then I'll have to be satisfied with reading the first two Laundry books, The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue and the two short stories that were published on Tor.com.
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on 2 July 2010
Ok - confession time, I truly believe that Charles Stross is up there as one of the best authors in F/SF right now and Laundry No.3 proves it with ease. Sitting on the edge of the urban horror/fantasy market, the Laundry novels are a gem - a mix of the horror and espionage genres.

Firstly it starts with a prologue that grips you like the rotting hand off of one of the series zombies. The first 1.5 pages are a masterpiece of funny, deeply scary prose that drag you straight into the Lovecraftian world of Bob Howard and the Laundry. New readers should probably start with the Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue but its not entirely necessary - and regardless I would defy any Laundry virgins reading this not to go out and grab the others asap.

From the excellent prologue the action never relents, as Bob, his wife and colleagues are dragged into another chilling and amusing tale - this time instead of the Nazi's of Atrocity or the Megalomaniac of Jennifer its more cold war based with mole hunts and Russians of dubious allegiance.

Stross pulls no punches the heroes may win but never without a cost, possibly the highest so far.... Stross conveys their underlying despair very well indeed.

I dont intend to post any spoilers but you will not be disappointed with either the plot, the pace or the atmosphere as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN creeps closer.

If you buy one Horror/Espionage crossover in your life - buy this one. One of my books of the year.
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on 9 September 2014
Surprisingly, some things were too good to be true in Bob Howard's life, and it turns out those parts were down to enemy action. For everything else there was incompetence and paper-clip audits.

This is the Laundry novel where the frayed seams start to show, where we learn a little more about what is going on in this super secret, sad little agency, and how it all hooks together. For now, at least. Who can say how things will change as the slide into CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN continues.

--

Obviously, I really enjoyed this. My only regret is that the split from the usually first person perspective doesn't work quite as nicely as in the previous books, and quite a bit of what happens seems to be set up
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on 22 July 2011
If you know Stross' work, and the stories about The Laundry in particular, then The Fuller Memorandum is a must read. This is a great Laundry story, and I'm not going to provide any spoliers by hinting at the plot line. This is one of the best Laundry stories and if you haven't read this, then why not - you've read Stross before and know what to expect.

For those new to Stross, then this isn't the book to read. It's Laundry 3, so you need to start with The Atrocity Archivess (Laundry 1), followed by The Jennifer Morgue (Laundry 2). When you've read those, then The Fuller Memorandum should definitely be next on your list.

It follows the exploits of Bob, a sort of secret agent, and although it's Sci-fi crossed with Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos and a few other 'there are dimensions out there with creatures and beings we don't want to know about', it's very readable by a general reader with a taste for light horror. It's also humourous, but in a gentle way, not laugh-out-loud funny. Also, it's not very demanding for those without a grasp of science - it's just a story with monsters.

If you like Pratchett, then this is in a similar vein, but based on planet Earth. It's a very good read and should make you a fan of Stross' work.
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Bob Howard is a minor cog in a dangerous machine - the Laundry, a secret British department dedicated to protecting the nation from Lovecraftian horrors. In this universe, Lovecraft unwittingly stumbled on more of the truth than he knew. He was followed by Turing, who discovered that abominations from other dimensions can be summoned by mathematical theorems and invoked by computer code.

Would be tech support worker Howard has much more to worry about than the office cabling or backups.

This is the third in Stross's much praised Laundry series after The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue. They are good, but in my view this is the best yet, pitting Howard against foreign spies, cultists and his own missing boss as he races to retrieve the missing memorandum itself. TFM picks up themes from the earlier books, being stuffed with technology in-jokes, nods to The Register (so, Bob's shiny new iPhone is constantly described as his "jesusphone"), and scenes of office life as well as darker humour. We also learn more about the Laundry itself - its history, personnel (look out for the "residual human resources") and why it is so obsessed with paperclip security - as well as the true purpose of London's Post Office Underground Railway.

The previous two books were styled and structured as tributes to/ affectionate pastiches of, respectively, Len Deighton and Ian Fleming, as Stross subverted the conventions of the Cold War thriller to address his cosmic occult threat. That added to the humour - watching Bob flailing in his part as James Bond, and ticking off the tropes in Jennifer Morgue, was great fun - but it also, possibly, sidelined the true and developing nature of the threat facing the Laundry and its world. The current book is avowedly based on the novels of Anthony Price, - see for example Other Paths to Glory. When Stross made this known on his website I went off and ordered a number of them (they're mostly out of print now, which is a pity. I've been hunting second hand bookshops since to complete my collection.) However I didn't find Fuller Memorandum as close to Price as the earlier two books were to their models. It goes without saying that Stross has better characterisation and dialogue, but yes, the classic Price tropes are still there - the urgent but mysterious threat which can only be dealt with by finding a secret from history, the trusted figure who has apparently become unreliable, respect for an honourable if mistaken enemy. And the name Panin comes from that series.

However, the feature that strikes me most about Price's books - the bizarre skein of double, triple and quadruple motivations leading to utter perplexity about what is really going on - doesn't figure here anything like so strongly as I'd expected (and not even as much as it does in many of Stross's other books, for example Saturn's Children). Without the plot ever becoming obvious, then (there is still a lot happening here and you have to follow it carefully) it feels a bit less, oh, crowded, I suppose, than some of his other work, including the other two Laundry novels, and the book is the better for it. The plot has room to breathe. The characters really take shape. I think that as the series is growing up Stross is freeing it from the earlier models and forging his own tone for it, a distinctively Laundryverse tone which I'm looking forward to more of. While waiting, there's The Laundry which looks fun.

So, go out, get this, read it, you'll love it (or else your soul has already been eaten by you-know-what).

(In passing, I'm not sure but I think that C Stross and K MacLeod have a game going - both TFM and MacLeod's The Restoration Game, which came out at almost the same time have references to closed chainstores as existing (C&A here, Woolworth's in MacLeod's book) AND work in Katy Perry's music. What are that chances of that being a coincidence? Or are the stars coming right...)
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on 22 February 2015
Another romp, the author's chatty style is utterly engaging . I enjoy this series & his sci fi 'Merchant Prince' series. In fact his entire output is invariably addictive. High quality story telling at all times.
He is up there with Alistair Reynolds & Guy Gavriel Kay as one of my favourites!
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on 30 April 2013
Office politics really can get out of hand, add computer demonology to a massive insane conspiracy, our reluctant hero has his life on the line again and out of options but one he really doesn't want to use. I couldn't put this one down ether.
The Laundry files all work as stand alone stories, but I suggest this reading order The Atrocity Archives, The Jennifer Morgue, The Fuller Memorandum, The Apocalypse Codex.
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on 6 July 2013
Though I'm quite happy to tell everyone how much I love this series, I keep thinking I've done this all before. Is this my ground hog day? I ask myself. Is it a glitch in Amazon's system, or am I finally succumbing to an overdose of Lovecraft? Anyway, they're great these books. Mr Stross, please do more.
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on 16 September 2010
As a professional techie and fan of cold war spy thrillers, horror stories and post modern fantasy I'm pretty much the demographic for Charles Stross's tech-savvy, post-modern, cold-war-style horror thrillers.

"The Fuller Memorandum" is probably the best (yet - hopefully there will be more) of his Laundry novels. I couldn't have liked this more if there'd been a prominent reference to Adam Hall's excellent and under-rated Quiller novels in the title.

For the uninitiated, the Laundry novels are a mash-up of tech-based fantasy, Lovecraft's Cthulu mythos and spy thrillers. The high concept pitch for the series is that a branch of the intelligence service exists to fight off and hide the existence of the unknowable beings of unspeakable power who exist in other dimensions. It's X-Files gothic, or hard science Hellboy, so not a new idea. The Laundry's unique selling point is that it's very much the grey civil service of classic British spy fiction, and the MacGuffin for the fantasy is that the mumbo-jumbo attached to raising up and casting out monsters and demons is actually mathematics which can be run with terrifying ease on a computer. As Charles Stross is both a genre- and techno-geek, it's all written with informed authenticity.

Don't start here if you're new to the series. Read book one, The Atrocity Archives, which introduces the key characters and lays out the rules. The debt to Lovecraft is strong in this one, so while you don't need to know the Cthulu stories in detail you won't feel the benefit of some key fantasy elements if you don't "get" the mythos at all. Part deux, The Jennifer Morgue, isn't quite as good and the new book only refers back to it in passing so you could just skip it. But as you'd be still missing a treat, why not just get the set?

The Fuller Memorandum is a lighter, easier read than either earlier installment. There's much less obvious Lovecraft, and no albatross like book 2's elaborate Bond pastiche. As a thriller it has the same fast pace and action movie sensibility as a Christopher Brookmyre novel. As a horror novel it's like the best of Kim Newman, written with obvious affection and post-modern genre awareness but a minimum of kitchsy irony. It also blends in the boys-and-their-toys, guns-and-ammo gadget love of the Blade and Underworld movies. There's even something of Hammer and the great Monty Berman cult TV shows - Jason King, Department S - in the final showdown in a sex cult's forgotten subterranean temple.

Plus zombies. Farzans of 'em.

My only disappointment, as a dedicated Quiller fan, was the decision not to do an full homage to Adam Hall's intense first person narratives. It was probably the right choice for the best possible book, and doesn't really suit hero Bob Howard's established character, but I would have enjoyed Charles Stross's take on the dysfunctional alpha-male hero.

Otherwise, brilliant.
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