Stross, Charles: The Atrocity Archives (Laundry Files I)

Cover art by Steve Montiglio
Cover art by Steve Montiglio

The Atrocity Archives consists of two stories: The Atrocity Archive and The Concrete Jungle.

“Saving the world is Bob Howard’s job. There are a surprising number of meetings involved.” (The Atrocity Archives)

I have an admission to make. I do not believe I have ever read any Lovecraft but the Chtuluverse reaches far and wide and has many incarnations. Another admission. I am beginning to see that I do not understand what horror literature is. My placing it in this category relies solely upon what Charles Stross himself has said about his novellas.

The Atrocity Archive has to be a math/computer lover’s dream. It mixes real and imagined theories with abandon and we end up with things like “The Church-Turing Theorem”. Even I have heard of Alan Turing. The theorem itself is, of course, fantasy – or is it? Perhaps there really is an organization out there trying to protect us from reaching into the unknown and dragging out brain-eating monsters from parallel universes.

Artwork by Leighton Johns
Artwork by Leighton Johns

In the case of The Atrocity Archive this parallel universe is illustrated perfectly by Leighton Johns on Deviantart. As you can see, the worship of Adolph Hitler reached new heights over there. But the lovely monster who has taken over the Nazi-universe wants in to ours, and we really do not want that to happen. Unless you belong to the Order of Null.

As a first field assignment I have to say that Bob Howard has his work cut out for him. Although Angleton (boss-man) did not KNOW what kind of mess he was putting Bob into, he had to at least have an inkling of the extent of the problem. Exactly who or what Angleton is remains a mystery. I find myself curious enough about the man to want to get more of the Laundry series so I can find out more about him.

And that is just Angleton.

I have to say that Charles Stross has a wonderful way with the names of his characters. Scary Spice for one. I just about died when Scary was introduced. Then we have Bob’s flat-mates, Pinky and Brain. Pinky and Brain are uber-intelligent guys whose creative genius (and idiocy) are on par with Leonard of Quirm.

Perhaps this is the main reason I really like Charles Stross. His writing has the exact zing it needs to be both funny and painful. Stross excels at the astoundingly difficult art of satire and I love the way his intelligence radiates his writing dragging me along for the ride.

The Concrete Jungle is of the same quality. In these surveillance times it makes perfect sense to read about CCTV security cameras being taken over to wreak havoc in an area. All in the name of politics. Who cares if a a few people die along the way? You know, proper politics. Oh, the bite.

Once again, Bob Howard is called upon to save the day. Along the way he manages to show me my own “Laundry”. And so I conclude with the words of the master himself:

“The Laundry squats at the heart of a dark web, a collision between paranoia and secrecy on one hand, and the urge to knowledge on the other. Guardians of the dark secrets that threaten to drown us in nightmare, their lips sealed as tightly as their archives. To get even the vaguest outline of their activities takes a privileged takes a trickster-fool hacker like Bob, nosy enough to worm his way in where he isn’t supposed to be and smart enough to explain his way out of trouble. Some day Bob will grow up, fully understand the ghastly responsibilities that go with his job, shut the hell up, and stop digging. But until then, let us by all means use him as our unquiet guide to the corridors of the Fear Factory.” (The Atrocity Archives)


Reviews:


  • ISBN: 9780441013654
  • Author: Stross, Charles
  • Publisher: Ace Books
  • Introduction by: MacLeod, Hen
  • Copyright: 2004
  • Series: A Laundry Files Novel
  • Publication Date: 2006 01 31
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 368

2005: The Concrete Jungle won the Hugo award for novella of the year


Just for fun: Check out Mathematical Fiction: The Atrocity Files

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