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It's the Laundry Files, Captain, but not as we know them. This is either the 10th book in the Laundry Files sequence (although some might count this differently, too), or the 1st one in a new series – Laundry Files: New Management.

The author, btw, is of the latter view, and sees this as the first in a trilogy. None of the main characters from the original run of stories appears in Dead Lies Dreaming (except the Elder God who is now British PM), but this is very clearly set in this world, and after the events in The Labyrinth Index. It makes for an excellent jumping-on point – whilst you won't have the background information of how things got to be the way they are you actually also don't need that background, and could just start fresh with this, and what follows from it (the next book is announced for Jan 2022, and titled Quantum of Nightmares). Which does not mean that you shouldn't read the rest of the series, which is excellent. Just that you don't need to do so beforehand!

Charles Stross is a British writer living in Scotland, with 31 novels to his names (series, and publication history are complex, country/continent-dependent, and your count might vary), plus chapbooks, shorts, novellas, collections... I have read a good part of it, and generally find it stimulating, engaging, and more-ish reading. That other people share that view reflects in a series of Award-wins, including several Hugos.
The Laundry Files, the series which defined the world this story is set in, now runs to 10 books, and a number of novellas filling in parts, and is based on the basic premise that magic is like formal math, that formal math is a way to perform magic, and that computer algorithms (and their proliferations) has brought on a huge increase in magic in the world. There's more, of course, which derives from that.

As mentioned above, this story is set in London after the New Management (ie an elder God, to avoid -even- worse) was made PM. The main changes to our world is that regards for human life has greatly diminished, with a skull rack on Marble Arch, with the 18th Century 'Bloody Code' allowing Capital Punishment back in place, including the public execution of unregistered transhumans (ie people with some kind of super power). We also see Elven Warriors working for the government, which is a development from the previous stories.
Not that billionaires and their mega-corporations have any higher regard for lives – (shady) business motivated murders as well as corruption as a normal business tool are on open display.

The story kicks of with a raid on the Hamley's cash room by a gang of youthful delinquent, led by one Imp – we later learn that they are a ragtag gang/patchwork family of metahumans with unusual talents, which Imp protectively thinks of as his Lost Boys. Once we spot the heavy Peter Pan leaning of Imp (the original J.M.Barrie version, not the saccharine pap Disney turned it into) then a number of things fall into place, and the story riffs of this for the entire duration. This group is endearing in large parts, even if ways too much of their interactions are verbatim reported bickering.

The other thread focuses on Rupert, a billionaire hedge-fund oligarch with Dark Magic obsessions and capabilities, and approximately zero scruples. We learn of communion services, blood&body of the Innocents, midnight rites towards the Great Working, and a distinct Bluebeard/Gilles de Rais vibe. Rupert is after a concordance to the Necronomicon, which was lost (after sending many people as well as a Deep Learning Neural Network mad), and which is apparently coming up for auction.

I'm not going to spill more of the story, except maybe that the thread which holds all of this together and sets the general tone is Imp's family's history of magic (predating the current surge), and the curse this left on his family.
Some of the topics are actually quite heavy on grief, on personal consequences, on the emotional toll of leaving loved ones (or their shells) in care homes (knowing some of the circumstances Charlie wrote this under resonate here), but also on system vs. individual arrangements (that bit is in keeping with some of the rest of the pre-series). And one thing seemed to be that everybody had baggage, ulterior drivers, and their own agenda beyond the facade, and this makes the story more interesting, and some of the turns surprising. On some points the author had me guessing all the way...
There are some secondary and tertiary characters I am not sure were needed, but who might become more central further down the series/trilogy. The whole Necronomicon, hidden libraries, Babbage Machines/Jaquard Looms to encode and index the book, as well as the hidden rooms holding secrets all had a little whiff of Dan Brown, but I would not hold this against the story overall!

Before recommending the book wholeheartedly I guess I have to confess that I found this initially hard to get into, and that the characters did not engage me at the beginning. Once it got me it was an engrossing ride, though – and I thoroughly look forward to future instalments!

 

More Charles Stross

Title: Dead Lies Dreaming
Author: Charles Stross
Series: Landry Files: New Management
Series Number: 1
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publisher URL: http://www.tor.com
Publication Date: 2020
Review Date: 270621
ISBN: 9781250267016
Pages: 306
Format: ePub
Topic: Magic
Topic: Peter Pan

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

 

 

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Ian Sales – Adrift on the Sea of Rains

 

Peter Watts – Maelstrom

 

Ken MacLeod - Cosmonaut Keep

 

S.P. Somtow – I Wake from a Dream of a Drowned Star City

 

Doris Lessing - Shikasta

 

Lavie Tidhar - Central Station

 

Sydney Padua - The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

 

Thomas Pynchon – Gravity’s Rainbow

 

Thomas Pynchon - Slow Learner

 

Iain Sinclair - Radon Daughters

 

Doris Lessing – The Sirian Experiments

 

Tricia Sullivan – Occupy Me

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