Friday, July 16, 2010

The Fuller Memorandum

I inhaled Stross' latest in about seven hours - a terrific blast of eldritch horror and computer geekery that once more filled me with envy that I haven't got around to the rewrite of my Hong Kong horror novel. Maybe I'll start tomorrow.

This is the third Laundry novel, and without a doubt the darkest yet; it's no longer just a riff on Lovecraft + a famous thriller writer, as per the first two. As such I think it's better than The Jennifer Morgue, and perhaps better than The Atrocity Archive, but at the same time slightly less enjoyable.

Given that people die in horrible ways, that shouldn't be unexpected, and it's important not to view the first Laundry novel as perfect; it was the first, so you might tend to think it the best, but the greater length and structure of The Fuller Memorandum make that more of a complete artifact.  There are twists and surprises, but it all feels like it locks together; you're not being cheated by a big reveal that you weren't warned about in some way. (Don't read the blurb on the back though - that feels like an attempt to ruin the plot more than a helpful advertisement.)

There were a few things I didn't like: somehow the mentioning of Firefox ad-blockers was a piece of geekery too far, and while it's nice to be able to spot allusions to great personalities of British sf, I felt they were a little pandering, as though Stross felt that he had to have them in there when they didn't add to the plot.

But those are minor points. Given that he's taken the nuclear-bomb Concorde and run with it to somewhere much stranger, and clearly done a lot of research on the cemetaries and trains of London, the result is something really impressive. (Although it does seem all the books I read now have at least one thing in common with each other - Matthew Engels was writing about the Necropolitan line in 11 Minutes Late; I'm not sure how I'll connect Stross up with Erronomics though.) It's not something that's happy like the previous ones were, and I wonder how much seriousness I want from this.

Then again, these are novels about a rugose and squamous apocalypse, so there shouldn't be an expectation of a laugh a minute. Maybe that's why my own first draft for the Untitled Chinese Horror Story felt grim rather than uplifting. Once I've got undead amateur magicians, however, all will change.

But I shouldn't go on about me.1 Go get yourself a copy of The Fuller Memorandum now. Unless you haven't read The Atrocity Archive, in which case, read that first. And maybe, maybe read some Lovecraft, although I'm not sure whether that really adds much now.

1 Yes, there is a certain irony to that statement given what I've been writing about this year.


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