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I am a big fan of the Laundry series, and this book is still excellent, but, as the series moves on, it has matured, by necessity, in ways both good and bad. In general, much like the Harry Dresden series, as the series has developed, it has become less lighthearted, losing the parody and many of the pop-nerd-culture references in favor of more spy- and Love-craft. The characters are now quite well developed, but that leaves less room for the cartoonish bad guys and bizarre plots that made the early books amusing. On the other hand, it means that the stakes feel more real, the plot more grounded in previous novels, and the action more engaging.
This trend is not the reason why I have slightly mixed feeling about the book (though I still strongly recommend it to anyone who has read the series so far). First off, the plot in this particular book is, in some ways, a little less inventive then Stross often is capable of - you are introduced almost immediately to an evangelical church leader with clearly ominous intent, which is a bit of an easy target. There are twists and turns, but perhaps the revelations are more expected in this novel then previous ones.
The second issue is that, as the series has gone on, the main character has shifted from regular schlub to a hero on a larger stage. This is fine, but, as the protagonist moves up the ranks, and as more of the secrets of the Laundry universe are revealed, it removes a little of the overarching cosmic horror that made the series some interesting. Again, this is natural for any ongoing series, but it, plus the slightly less surprising plot, makes the book Really Good rather than Amazing.
On the other hand, the reading is insanely good - many accents, from cosmic horrors to royalty, are covered beautifully. Overall, a really good choice, though this is clearly not where new readers should start.
17 of 18 people found this review helpful
Any book that actually contains the phrase that titles this review deserves to be read. This book is, by the way, the sequel to "The Atrocity Archives," and that book must be read before this one, so if you haven't read that one, stop reading now to avoid possible spoilers and go get the first book.
Stross, normally known for his very hard science fiction, has decided to reboot Lovecraft's view of our universe as a place that horrible monsters from other worlds/dimensions/universes are just waiting to invade for all sorts of terrifying reasons. And the keys to such invasion are certain kinds of advanced mathematical routines that, if run or activated or invoked by either a person or the right kind of electronics, will open the doors to these other universes and let the monsters in. All of those intelligence agencies like the CIA and MI6 are really just covers for the true bulwarks against these monsters -- agents who understand this threat and use a combination of technology and intuitive mathematics ("magic") to fight the good fight. It's all great fun, has a strong tongue in cheek element, and is built around a strong story with lots of interesting plot twists and clever surprises. One warning: Stross takes a particularly hostile view of certain flavors of Christianity here, so if you find such attitudes off-putting, you probably won't enjoy this. Gideon Emery does a really solid job with the narration.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful