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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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TOP 1000 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 As it says, Stross's first novel is "unpublished - great concept shaky execution" and "the novels kept getting better".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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on 13 August 2017
Excellent, and pretty funny too. Plenty of subtle references to names and events geeks may have heard of, the type of thing that produces a good laugh when they are done in surprising ways. I've seen plenty of descriptions saying this is "BOFH meets HP Lovecraft", and they aren't wrong.
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on 18 August 2017
Mr Stross, on form. Geeky fun. Must read.
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on 20 July 2017
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on 24 December 2014
Fantastic. Funny, horrifying, exciting. A cross between HP Lovecraft, John le Carré and Douglas Adams. Hard to imagine? Read the book...
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on 10 August 2017
Great book, thoroughly entertaining read. Great world building and characters. Can't wait to buy and read the rest.
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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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on 8 March 2012
I came to this as someone who had never heard of Stross. Three novels later and I confess to being hooked. Oddly enough, I have found his other work difficult to get into - perhaps I am a closet techie. Yes it is short but I found it very funny in places and grimly fascinating in others (the SS Annenerbe did exist and had a very weird mystical outlook which included human sacrifice). Accept the multiverse concept (and lets face it it in't exactly new to sci-fi) and the rest follows without straining the credulity filters too much. It is a good start to the rest of the series which get darker and far more complex. try it and then read the others and I don't think you'll regret it
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on 21 April 2017
Bob Howard is a civil servant and takes care of the IT in his department. His department? The Laundry, a parallel branch of the British Intelligence services, that deal in the supernatural threats. Because yes, magic is real. But it's nothing more than digital algorithms and equations. So it's a bit of a problem when everyone has a PC and can casually summon the monstruous horrors of the neighbouring dimension.
The Laundry is a fun series. The Atrocity Archives starts it with high credentials in geek humour, to the point that most jokes could be quite obscure to anyone who doesn't master Python, the TCP/IP arcanes or the Turing equations. But as the series progress, the jokes are less specialist in-jokes and the humour range from political and social satire to parody.
Lovecraft is an obvious influence from the first volume to Equoid, one of the novellas. But if Stross enjoys Lovecraft as a writer, it's pretty obvious in the novels that he's at the opposite side politically speaking.
The novel revels in exploring the tropes of the SFF genre. But even if Stross uses the tropes, there's no clichés: he actually uses them to turn them on their head and have them making double back flips.
The characters are delightful. Most begin their paper life barely drawn but they quickly become fully fleshed and well rounded, whether it is the main characters, the secondary characters, the male characters or the female characters.
And, oh boy, does Stross know how to write! His style ranges from the tongue-in-cheek political satire to epic moments. The pace is always gripping and the first paragraphs of The Apocalypse Codex are among the best pages I've read in 2012.

The Atrocity Archives isn't a novel you'd recommend to someone who doesn't like scifi and who barely knows how to turn on their computer and this first volume is essentially a fun nerdy romp. But over the volumes, the series turns into something quite special, quite unique, and I'm always eagerly waiting for the next one. And I'm rarely disappointed when it's published.
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