Books of 2015, #37: The Annihilation Score, Charlie Stross

So, the latest of the Laundry Files novels.

The Annihilation Score is certainly of a piece with the others, though it does distinguish itself by having a different narrator— which is, as you could probably infer from my comments regarding the prior books of the series, a fine change in my view.

I think Stross’ recent observation on his blog of the need to move beyond the starting templates he worked with for the first few books—Linux, bureacracy and otherworldly horror—is well taken, and I’m interested to see where things go, but I do not feel immediate warmth toward this installment.

Whether its intended (and it might be, as it is certainly an aspect of its super-hero source material) or not, the narrative’s pace feels…weird. Although we’re told otherwise, it feels like it takes place in its entirety in maybe a week—big things seem built up and then torn down at absurdly superhuman speed. I mean, it’s good to have a narrative that moves, but the pace here is so fast that everything felt somehow…inconsequential.

In terms of the overall narrative arc, some things change, and they’re not insignificant, but it doesn’t feel like it advances that much. Which may be perfectly OK—we are given to understand that CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is truly starting to ramp up, and it feels like things are going to keep getting stranger before they start getting outright bad. Again, perhaps this is intended to reflect the source material, where you can have a character exist for 50 years without those years ever catching up to them.

I also wonder, given his well-documented problem with tapping into the zeitgeist so thoroughly that others pull the same idea out of the air while he’s in the middle of a book, I do wonder whether he already planned to reference The King in Yellow, or his only-barely oblique reference to True Detective is meant to indicate that that’s why he made the choice.

I dunno; in the end, I would probably put this relatively low on my list for this series. I wonder though whether it’ll stay there—I suspect it will depend somewhat on what happens next; I like many thing about the book, but it is clearly a transitional book, arguably following another transitional book (The Rhesus Chart does some big things to the status quo); if they’re resolved next go ’round, perhaps this book will rise in my estimation.

Books of 2015, #32-36+: The “Laundry Files” novels, Charlie Stross

  • The Atrocity Archive
  • The Jennifer Morgue
  • The Fuller Memorandum
  • The Apocolypse Codex
  • The Rhesus Chart
  • Short Stories/Novellas: Down on the Farm, Overtime, Equoid

I think it had been pointed out to me before, but for the first time I seemed to notice for myself—while being utterly unsurprised—that, in a series of books that mix Technical Neepery–specifically of the Linux variety—Bureaucracy, Lovecraft and Espionage, the initials of the main character’s Nom de Sysadmin are BOFH.

Anyway, this re-reading was all lead in to the new release, The Annihilation Score.

Having not previously read all of these books in quick succession like this, I must say, I was ecstatic to have new narrator for the latest installment, because, taken in a big gulp, one becomes painfully aware of all the verbal tics of the narrator that make annoyingly consistent appearances in the prior installments.

I realize that at least some of it—the endless callbacks to the nature of pure mathematics relationship to magic, the origin of the Laundry, etc.—is intended to let people start in the middle of the series without being totally lost, but I’m not convinced that that is necessary or beneficial to restate so many things almost verbatim—I’ll point to Steven Brust’s Taltos novels as an example that does not display this behavior—or at least not quite so baldly.

I still enjoy them, but I will have to remember to pace myself should I ever undertake a front-to-back re-read again.

Anyway, I would say that the low point for me is definitely The Jennifer Morgue; the Bond referentiality just doesn’t quite work for me. The Fuller Memorandum and The Apocalypse Codex are probably the best of the list, with everything else occupying a still-enjoyable middle ground.