Review of The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross book 1 & 2 of the Laundry Files. The Laundry Files is an urban fantasy thriller series set in London. Bob Howard is a low-level techie working for a super-secret government agency that deals with the supernatural.
Review of the Laundry Files series
I have a thing for spy novels, I used to read a lot of spy thrillers. One of my favourite non f&sf series is the Hamilton series by Jan Guillou about a Swedish spy (don’t judge a book by its movie) and one of my favourite tv-series is Spooks. I also really like stories about agencies dealing with the supernatural – I probably just watch too much X-files, but it is a setup that fascinates me. So the Laundry Files has it going for it from the get go.
My review of The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross, book 1
Lovely working Lovecraftian mythos. Great techno babble. Good plot. Even a love story thrown in for good measure. It is a bit like a new tv-series – it don’t quite feel like it has found it’s legs yet. But I really liked The Atrocity Archives! Bob is telling the story with a wonderful dry wit, that had me smiling my way though.
My review from 2014 of The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross
I really liked The Atrocity Archives. It works really well as an introduction to the universe and the premise. Bob Howard (the POV character) already knows quite a bit about how things work and explain it along the way, but we also get to learn quite a bit more both about what is going on with the setting and about his organization right along with him. This is a quite typical tool in urban fantasy and one that I like quite a bit.
I am not a great fan of H. P. Lovecraft, ok that is an overstatement, but let’s not get into that. However I think Stross makes the Lovecraftian mythos really work. I have seen Neil Gaiman do it really well as well as a lot of people get do it poorly. It is not an easy thing to pull off, the whole so horrible that your mind can’t cope trope is really hard. But I think Stross really makes it work for him.
Bob explains the world and the supernatural to us in quite technical terms, a bit like The Doctor’s techno babble, but way more technical and detailed. Because I read the book as an audiobook, it didn’t slow down the reading experience for me. I just tuned out the bits that I didn’t understand and appreciate the parts that I did. My high school physics was enough to understand most of it and get the drift. I really enjoyed it, but I can see how it might turn off some readers.
I really liked the plot and the ending was great! And I think the whole sub-plot with Mo. I really like how their relationship develops. It is a nice low-key romance that never takes over more than a few pages of the story at a time. And I love how she is really grumpy at him a lot of the time.
Speaking of lovely sub-plots. Pinky and Brain (his roommates) are just awesome characters. I love the whole scene where Brain is making an omelet without breaking any shells. And as always I love it when the fact that they are a couple don’t come up until it is relevant to the plot, it is not their defining characteristic by a long stretch.
But I think the thing that sold me on The Atrocity Archives was the humor. There is such a dry British wit in these books that it is just a joy to read. The humor is quite understated but has me laughing out loud and giggling.
The Atrocity Archives do however feel a bit like the first episode of a tv-series, it does not feel like it has quite found its feet yet and the characters have not quite figured out how to play their characters yet.
But I grabbed the next one, just like I would do with a promising tv-series and I have started to listen – ready to see what we will get next.
The book to tend to be categorized as horror, which I think is wrong, not all stories that uses the Lovecraftian mythos are horror, the book borrows way more from spy thrillers and urban fantasy than from horror. It isn’t really spooky or particular horrific. It is however a book about the hidden supernatural world behind the everyday where people are fighting a secret battle to keep normal people safe. Does that sound like a horror story to you?
The audiobook comes packaged with the novelette The Concrete Jungle as well as the main novel – I count that as a separate read though and I don’t think I will be talking about it here. And I do think that in The Concrete Jungle it feels like the series has found its legs and is ready to run with it – it is by the way quite an enjoyable story.
I did by the way run into thelaundryfiles.wikia.com today which you should check out if you like the series because it is neat.
The stats: The Atrocity Archives
Length: 345 pages
Read: December 28 to 30, 2013
Author: male, white, UK
The protagonists: Bob Howard, male, straight, white, it-man/wizard, able-bodied.
Setting: London, 2000’s
My review of The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross, book 2
The Jennifer Morgue is the second book in the Laundry Files and it’s a real page-turner. It’s is so very British, from the underfunded agency to the low-confidence protagonist. The Jennifer Morgue even have a James Bond theme going through it!
My review from 2014 of The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross
I read the first Landry Files book, The Atrocity Archives, and two short stories set in the universe over the holidays and loved them. So as soon as I finished the first audiobook, I picked up the next one. Due to the sad case of my tablet breaking I ended up spending a few weeks not listing until I figured out how far I had gotten in the book and could pick it back up. I really started listening again yesterday and was almost unable to put it down. To the point where I stopped playing Wildstar (closed beta) to go listen to some more of it. I just spend all afternoon finishing it. The second half of the book really kicked up the gear.
The series is so very British, from the underfunded agency to the low-confidence protagonist. The Jennifer Morgue even have a James Bond theme going through it! This second book really plays with the tropes of the spy thriller genre actively as a part of the plot (Yeah go metafiction) – which is just so much fun!
The plot is a bit slow getting started and there is a fairly long into, which made me very happy I was listening to it. But once the plot kicks up I found it hard not to try to squeeze time in to listen to it and it is the kind of book that requires my full attention – so no playing Skyrim while listing.
The writing is still really clever and Bob’s inner dialog is awesome. I love Ramona’s character as well – she is the best deep one ever. Their complicated relationship is very enjoyable to follow with Mo on the sideline of course.
The ending is really great. I love how the tropes are put on their head and it is really interesting to see how the modern British non-hero protagonist is stuffed into the Ian Fleming mold. I think that is all I can say without spoiling.
The stats: The Jennifer Morgue
Published: 2006 by Golden Gryphon Press
Length: 292 pages
Read: January 05 to February 17, 2014
My review of Equoid by Charles Stross, story 2.9
I really enjoyed the Equoid, though I was quite shocked at how long the story. Equoid is a wonderful mix of humor thriller and horror. Also unicorns are nasty, you can’t convince me otherwise!
My review from 2013 of Equoid by Charles Stross
When I started reading this story I thought I had tons of time, it was only 21.30 after all. Little did I know that this was a massive novella of a story rather than a short story. I only finished reading late last night, which was far from the plan.
If you have rape-issues, consider this your trigger warning, because tor, don’t provide one.
It is however a really enjoyable story with a wonderful mix of humor thriller and horror. The story is very funny at times and it is quite horrible at others. The protagonist spend quite a bit of time talking smack about H.P. Lovecraft (yeah!) while still using his mythos as inspiration for the story. throughout the story there is drizzled letters from H.P. Lovecraft as well as short government reports on the unicorn problem.
The unicorns in this story reminded me of hurocks – flesh-eating winged horses. And I of course though about Seanan McGuire because of the parasites.
The protagonist is so wonderfully British. He is at the same time very capable and kind of useless. Which seems to be a common trend within British fiction when it comes to male protagonists. They are so very real. Yes he is a secret government agent, but most of his time is spend dealing with bureaucracy which he is very good at. But running around being an action hero, not really within his job description on a day-to-day basis.
I really enjoyed the story, though I was quite shocked at how long the story. I had not planned on reading a whole mini-novel I really want to read more in the Landry universe.
My review of The Apocalypse Codex & The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross, book 4 & 5
The Rhesus Chart takes the darkness to a new level – especially in regard to Bob’s interpersonal relationships. This really start to go pear-shaped for the Laundry and it becomes clear that they are not really up to the task of protecting the world against what is to come.
This review was originally posted: December 19, 2013, January 7, 2014 and February 17, 2014, November 29, 2014. Updated and edited July 1, 2023