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A tentative attempt at a Review.

Or my thoughts on:

The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross.

Ace Books US, Pbk, 2006

With a foreword by Ken 'Hen according to Amazon' MacLeod.

I first encountered Charles Stross's Leatherman and sorcery-wielding hero Bob Howard (for ubergeek values of hero) via the free download of The Concrete Jungle. This convinced me that I needed to read more of his exploits and prompted me to buy the book. (Score one for the free download = real sales, 'try before you buy' strategy)

Lovecraft, Deighton and Stephenson are name-checked in the acknowledgements and this gives some indication of the atmosphere of the novels. But the two stories that make up the volume are more than the nexus of three interesting influences.

This is an occult spy thriller filled with office politics. A book that shows us mindless bureaucracy, empire building with a small 'e' in terms of jockeying for middle management position and its associated backbiting.

Stross draws out the absurdity of it all by putting it in the context of compromising the secret war against the tentacles from beyond the stars.  Let us not forget that we live in the land of the Rural Payments Agency and its cups of sick in filing cabinets and sex in the stationary cupboard. To truly reflect the process of government in Whitehall today, it just needs a sprinkling of temps in the admin positions.

Some of the set-ups in the novel triggered a half memory of a scene from Brazil where audio typists, who whilst wittering away in the most banal fashion, are typing transcripts of awful interrogations.

Bob is clever, resourceful and entirely believable but thankfully not quite an occult James Bond. He has some great allies and some greater enemies to fight.

Both stories are cracking reads, and I'd heartily recommend them.

I am now just waiting for the next one...


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May 2009

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