I am behind in my Stross reading. Really behind. Here I am, writing up my thoughts on The Fuller Memorandum, a Laundry Files book from 2010 – a series in which there are two further books available (one of which is sitting next to me, looking at me accusingly) and a further one (The Annihilation Score) announced for this summer. And this is only one series...
You see, that kind of behind. Sorry.
And, in the long time I have abstained, I had nearly forgotten how much fun these books can be. Yes, content, structure, geekiness, story-telling drive and humoristic content vary in their mix from book to book, but this is still ways more fun for someone with a technical background, who works immersed in a bureaucratic environment where kicking a dead whale down the beach provides more progress than dealing with HR, and who has a sense of humour based on wordplay and terrible puns. But that's just me; Charlie is worse...
Anyway, the Fuller Memorandum. I'm not sure how much needs to be said about the Author, Charles Stross (adopted Scot. Umpteen books to his name. Award-winning, including Hugo, Sideways, Prometheus etc. All-round entertaining presence when on stage or in full swing in the bar), or the Laundry as the topic of the series (UK secret agency, started after WWII, dealing with occult dealings, incursions, and the end of the world as it approaches inexorably).
This book, as all others so far, follows our protagonist Bob Howard (not his real name) as he yet again gets into trouble with HR, with the Auditors, and with a rather sinister organisation of cultists, who are a front for something much worse, who also are a front. But I shouldn't spoil your fun here, let's just say they are the kind of people who can give a hardened occult agent well versed in demonology nightmares.
Besides the Cultists (whose first contact is with Mo, Bob's wife who plays a violin which is an A level occult weapon) I can really only mention that Bob has had an accident which killed an innocent bystander, and is thus suspended on full pay during the investigation. And that the Fuller Memorandum of the title, which, apparently, describes the binding of the Eater of the Souls in early-revolution Russia, and is considered a rather top-rung and then a bit higher secret has gone missing. And that now Bob's boss (one of them. Did I mention Bureaucracy?), the deeply weird, old-fashioned, and scary Angleton has gone AWOL. Yes, the trajectory of the solid effluent has intersected with the air ventilation device. And it gets better...
Besides the above (which will only tell you something if you've read the previous books in the series, I am afraid) I can mention that you do not need to have read the previous books in the series to enjoy The Fuller Memorandum, but it helps with some background, of course. The author drops a number of well-integrated info dumps into the story which explain where we are, who is who, and the way of it all, so this can definitely be enjoyed by a Stross novice, if there is still such a thing amongst those who like slightly geeky, clever, fun, magic secret service capers with an IT undertow. Although, again, he has greatly toned down the geekery, terrible puns, and IT references here in comparison to earlier books.
Not that that has done the book any disservice - the story, and the way it is relayed is easy readable, and very engrossing indeed – I have missed stops on the train, and disrupted sleep because I had to know what would happen next to vouch for that – this is rather magnificent (well, not the missed stops et al, but you see what I mean).
I also found that, for some reason, I was really rooting for Mo, and really didn't want any thing to happen to her, and found her distress after her first experience of the Cultists and their deeds distressing. We see this through Bob's eyes, of course, so I guess this a complement to the writer for conveying this so live-like.
We also get some glimpses (the whole thing is written as part of Bob's memoirs) into his development from a happy Atheist to a much less happy believer in gods he'd rather not know were real...
“The things we sometimes refer to as elder gods are alien intelligences, which evolved on their own terms, unimaginably far away and long ago, in zones of spacetime which aren't normally connected to our own, where the rules are different. But that doesn't mean they can't reach out and touch us. As the man put it: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Any sufficiently advanced alien intelligence is indistinguishable from God – the angry monotheistic sadist subtype. And the elder ones...aren't friendly.”
Did I say this is a great read, and very much recommended, like the rest of the series?
I better put that next book towards the top of the reading pile...
More Charles Stross
Title: The Fuller Memorandum
Author: Charles Stross
Series: Laundry Files
Series Number: 3
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher URL: http://www.orbitbooks.net
Publication Date: 2010
Review Date: 150504
Price: UKP 7.99
Topic: Secret Service