The latest Laundry Files novel delivers the Stross cocktail of commentary on modern work environment and a pastiche of SFF tropes wrapped up in what can sometimes feel like a Terrance Dicks 1970s Target Doctor Who novelisation (and I mean that in a good way) of John Le Carre trying his hand at urban fantasy.
The earlier Laundry novels focussed on Bob Howard in a series of spy-genre pastiches with a Lovecraftian back-story and wry comments. The more recent novels have dropped the spy pastiche but instead looked at tropes of other genres (urban fantasy vampires, superheroes). The last two novels have pushed Bob to one side for a sound reason – his inevitable career path has led him into senior management and the tone of the series has better suited the voice of the person lower down the org-chart trying to make sense of the absurdities of their orders.
Instead of Bob, we have Alex Schwartz – a former banking quant, who accidently became a vampire through one overly clever financial manoeuvre (in the earlier Rhesus Chart). Nerdier than even Bob, Alex is an introverted mathematician struggling with his new problematic condition and beset with worry about how to explain to his parents that he is not only a vampire but has left his lucrative banking job to become a low-paid civil servant.
Really a book of two halves – the first a mix of Laundry style machinations disguised as busy work that is now its own genre, with a light touch of paranormal romance (he’s an introverted vampire, she is literally a manic* dream** pixie*** girl). The second part is more action thriller as events get more out of control then they ever have before – paving the way for the Laundry files big story arc CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.
As with the last novel (The Annihilation Score) the story suffers a bit from trying to project a distinctly different voice than Bob Howard’s but Stross barrels over those issues by keeping up the pace.
The book ends suddenly but brilliantly. Not the best Laundry novel but will satisfy your Laundry cravings for the time being 😉
*[or rather, psychopathic]
**[or rather, interdimensional]
***[or rather, scary elf-being]