Thursday, 5 July 2007
‘The Atrocity Archives’ – Charles Stross (Orbit Books)
Do you work in an office? Do you spend your day trying not to catch the boss’ eye just in case he dumps more work on your desk? I know the feeling. Still, it’s better than having to do the extra work for little or no recognition… isn’t it?
Bob Howard didn’t think so, he was tired of dealing with broken down servers and password resets so put in a request for active service in the field. Bob doesn’t work in any old office though. When you’re working for a secret government agency (the ‘Laundry’) that defends the UK against dimensional incursions (through misuse of maths), ‘active service’ can involve Lovecraftian monsters, dimension-hopping Nazis and a ‘Medusa-hybrid’ CCTV system. Even this can be better than staying in the office though, especially an office where audits and quality control take on a murderous twist and you really don’t want to know what the disciplinary procedure involves…
If the number of fresh ideas (crammed into 300 pages) is anything to go by, Charles Stross must be bouncing off the walls trying to get them all onto paper. The pace is frantic and I guarantee that if you blink you will miss something. Maybe there is a little too much ‘info-dumping’, and in some cases assumptions are made on the readers general knowledge, but I am already looking forward to the re-read so I can get things straight in my head. If you’ve ever worked in an office then you will meet characters in the book that you’ve worked with in real life, especially if you work for the government. If you’ve ever shared a house with slightly weird housemates then you will wince (and laugh a little) at Bob’s experiences with Pinky and the Brain. A tight, fast paced plot (split into two short stories, novellas?) leaves the reader guessing and rounds off a book that has something for everyone. Maybe it is a little too densely packed but you’ll be enjoying it too much to really notice.
If conspiracy theory is as exciting as this then I wouldn’t want to live Bob’s life but I’m glad that I get to read about it. I’d love to see more books about Bob, and the ‘Laundry’, but given the number of different stories that Charles has written already I’m not sure what the chances are of another ‘Bob Howard Book’ being published. This is a real shame but I’ll be looking out for other books by Charles Stross in the meantime.
Nine out of Ten