Tag Archives: #Monsters

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

Violante, Maria: BirthMarked (The Markers I) (2013)

Birth Marked
Cover artist: James Caldwell

So, I was sent a review copy of BirthMarked by Maria Violante and have now finished it. She wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but I did.

The main character is very different from De La Roca in Violante’s De La Roca Chronicles. They are almost like night and day. But both fit very well into the world Violante has created for them.

In BirthMarked we meet Charlie Kale as our protagonist. Poor Charlie. Abandoned by her father and left with an increasingly bitter and alcoholic mother to raise her. Charlie’s mother dies leaving Charlie alone in the world. Then her boyfriend dumps her. Thankfully she has her career as a truck-driver to comfort her. Except does she? You know things are just going to get worse, don’t you.

Violante brings Charlie lower and lower into the dumps. The already less than confident woman discovers it is possible to get to an even lower point. Violante is kind of mean to Charlie, poor kid. I think I must be identifying with Charlie or something.

Charlie’s truck gets over-turned because of a “drunk driver” and that accident ends up leaving Charlie with a choice between getting killed then and there or taking a chance with a gory death later. What you need to know right now is that these are the “good guys” Charlie gets the choice from. The Markers or as the rest of us know them: truck-drivers saving the world from monsters from another dimension.

What is there not to like about a set-up like that? Charlie is helpless, hopeless and strong at the same time. She is a blubbering idiot who tries her best to fit in with the cultish group of men she has ended up with. But this girl has a backbone. It just needs a bit of prodding at times by Diesel and various other characters that turn up.

Diesel the dog is cool. He is probably some kind of familiar whose powers have not yet been revealed. Already it seems he might have a bit of empathic abilities and a whole lot of gumption. Jeff Bruckner is a likeable character, Shawn an extremely conflicted one, Josh devious and Joseph a bit odd. All of the men are a bit odd considering the cultish quality of The Markers but Joseph might be a bit odder than the others.

I am prophesying a sort of love-triangle in future installments to this new series. I also prophesy tons of action and a really cool dog helping Charlie figure out her place in life. If the rest of the series ends up as fun (and silly at times) as this one then Maria Violante has a good series going for her.


  • Genre: Urban Fantasy with Romantic Elements 
  • Tags: Monsters, gunmen, and secret societies should know not to mess with a female trucker who is pushing thirty! 
  • Series: The Markers 
  • Length: 69091 words 
  • Release Date: 10-3-13 
  • ISBN: 978-1-962916-008-5