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The last three Laundry novels have been very uneven, as Stross seems to have run out of steam with his increasingly damaged, increasingly powerful main characters. What was once a series that managed to, oddly, combine real humor with spycraft and supernatural horror had become a slog rather than a delight. I barely got through the last book.
All of that changes with the Nightmare Stacks. By switching to a new character who is essentially a relaunch of Bob, his original protagonist, Stross escapes the problems that dogged the previous books. Once again, we have geek humor (references to everything from Baldur's Gate to software licensing terms), witty banter, and dark ritual magic. There is even an amazing dinner party scene that is genuinely hilarious.
In addition to recapturing the old magic, two things make this new book stand out. First, Stross has finally let the timeline of his books move forward into Case Nightmare Green territory, as the first inklings of the end of the world reach the population at large. The result is that we are moving from spy novels to war novels - and Stross writes some amazing Tom Clancy-esque miltiary action scenes.
The second thing that makes this book a stand out is that I think it is accessible to new readers. A short Wikipedia recap of the first book is all you likely need to get up to speed. You can certainly skip Book 6 and lose very little.
Overall, this was great - well read as always, and tight and well written. I am happy that one of my favorite series has found its (dark, eldritch) magic again.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up The Nightmare Stacks in three words, what would they be?
Action-packed, hilarious, and just plain fun. After the (not unenjoyable, just different) detour that was The Annihilation Score, Stross has come back to what makes this series so enjoyable. Alex really comes into his own in this novel after the introduction he had in The Rhesus Chart, and though you might think coming into this that you will be lamenting Bob's absence in this and the previous book, that is not the case at all.
What other book might you compare The Nightmare Stacks to and why?
This is a tough question, as I know there are several candidates floating around my head, I just can't put a name to them right now save for books I've read recently. Certain books of the Dresden series come to mind, because of how the endgame of the novel plays out. In that regard this book is also similar to the first entry in Stephen Moss' Fear saga.
Have you listened to any of Gideon Emery’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
Emery has narrated most of the books in the series, with the exception of The Annihilation Score which has Mo as the viewpoint character. He's back to do Alex, and does an outstanding job. Like there was ever any doubt.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Stross has a penchant for expertly blending geek humour and sardonic irony with this series, and that's back in full force as Alex is basically a younger version of Bob in this novel (and the inherent stereotypes of his character are exploited mercilessly with hilarious results on more than one occasion). I should also mention that, as with the previous entry, the CASE NIGHTMARE scenario takes center stage (with a twist) which Stross unravels marvelously.
Any additional comments?
I hesitate to call this a return to form, as there was nothing really wrong with the previous novel, it just wasn't what I was expecting. For all intents and purposes, this book mirrors the earlier entries in the series, and is a joy to experience.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
What did you like best about The Nightmare Stacks? What did you like least?
This was a great story - although I couldn`t finish it due to the narrator. I forgave the mispronounciations, I could live with the fact he sounded half asleep... but to make every woman sound like Daffy Duck and every `Northerner` a wannabe Scouser` was insupportable. I`ll return it and buy the book.
What was one of the most memorable moments of The Nightmare Stacks?
The first half. Before the women played an important part and the fact they all sounded like a mentally stunted platypus dragged it down.
How did the narrator detract from the book?
If this book were a film would you go see it?
After the last two lackluster Rhesus Chart and Annhilation Score, Stross regains the depth and fun of the first four Laundry novels. Gideon Emery's narration makes listening a pleasure.