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Given that Charles Stross has ben publishing his award-winning Laundry Files since 2004, and is 12 books and a number of short stories and novellas into it I don't think anybody needs an introduction to it. Never mind that the book at hand, Quantum of Nightmares, is a sequel in it's own subset (New Management) of the larger setting. Should all of this have passed you by, though, I have 2 pieces of good news for you – firstly, you don't need to have read the entire body of work to enjoy the New Management sequence, it happily stands on it's own (you want to start with the first book, though, called Dead Lies Dreaming). And secondly – but should you be interested in, the whole shebang is clever, entertaining, and in my opinion very much worth your time.

But let's talk about Quantum of Nightmares, the topic for today's ruminations. It is, as said above, the second book in the New Management series, the sequel to Dead Lies Dreaming, and it feels like the author barely caught his breath in-between. 
Yes, Rupert is dead and gone (or is he?), and Eve Starkey is now, by dint of having been his Executive Secretary with full access, in charge of the Bigge Corporation (but is she?). What she definitely is, though, as she finds out to her dismay, is married to Rupert; and his chattel, at least according to the ancient legal system on the island nation of Skaro, where the Bigge Corporation is domiciled. 
Wendy Deere is still settling into her new job, and trying to stay out of the mess that Eve's brother Imp and his gang of Lost Boys is – tricky if your girlfriend is part of this, of course, or if your investigations inevitably lead back to a scheme Rupert set in motion long ago with some only-slightly-grottier-than-real UK supermarket chain called FlavorsMart. Where recently human DNA has started showing up in the meat produce 3D printed from MRM. Yum.

 (sorry, no details, that would be spoiling the fun!).
And we have a new protagonist, Mary MacCandless – she has powers of her own (as have many people in these days), and is pretending to be a Nanny in order to kidnap the children of two Government-level superheroes. Not a grand idea, even before you learn that he kids all have inchoate superpowers of their own, which they don't really understand or can control. Which leaves Mary, as Mafia enforcer without child experience, in rather over her head... but she needs to money, as her father needs special care homes, which only come at extortionate prices.

The story is, as these are wont to be, quite illustrative of the dog eat dog world created by the New Management. Those with power hold all the cards, and the people at the bottom of the pile tear themselves apart. Any relationship with our times and politico-societal structures is purely incidental, of course. Ok, it's not like the top end aren't also competitive and cruel amongst themselves, of course.
This book feels dark, somehow. Darker than the precursor, for example. Or maybe heavier, in topic and handling. Not that some of the Laundry files of the original story arc were fluffy, once we got past the initial math/computation is magic, geeks vs bureaucracy fun bits! But some of the 'playful' interplay between the Lost Boys has gone missing since the last book, and the subject matter cuts closer to the bone.

And there seems to be a huge focus on the meat production/presentation etc industries – slightly near-future in tech capabilities, especially the 3D printing, but presented in all its goriness. On the one hand realistic,future-pointing and deductive from where we are, and on the other quease-inducing 'I did no need to know this' stuff... Veganism-advertising, with an evil grin?

One thing that strikes me with this book is the heavy foreshadowing that the author employs. There's loads of it, and I don't think this is really needed, or helped to draw me in/made me want to read the story any more than the story itself did – not sure what gives...

But overall I found this to be a solid follow-up to the first book in the sequence, and I have the third one (apparently the final one... don't count on this with Charlie, though!) lined up, and expect further enjoyment, and hopefully a bit of escapism between the all-too-real-feeling bits extrapolated from our current society!

More Charles Stross

Title: Quantum of Nightmares
Author: Charles Stross
Series: Laundry Files, New Management
Series Number: 11, 2nd in New Management sequence
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL:
Publisher:  Orbit
Publisher URL:
Publication Date: 2022
Review Date: 221105
ISBN: 9780356516936
Pages: 368
Format: ePub
Topic: Superheroes
Topic: Alternative Reality

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.



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