Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Atrocity Archives

The Atrocity Archives is a mixture of horror, science fiction, fantasy and espionage thriller. If Len Deighton and H.P Lovecraft had ever collaborated they may have produced something like The Atrocity Archives, and author Charles Stross does admit in his afterword that he was influenced by both writers.

As the title may indicate it's actually two stories: The Atrocity Archive and the shorter novella length The Concrete Jungle, are contained in my copy.

Bob Howard is an IT professional who works for The Laundry. The Laundry is a never spoken about branch of the British government responsible for looking after all the things that go bump in the night. Bob basically does the sort of work any public service employee does, but he longs to be an operative. When he finally gets his chance he finds it both far more dangerous and more tedious than he could have ever possibly imagined, although he does manage to get a decent girlfriend out of it. The Concrete Jungle is largely about the Medusa (hence the novella's name) and while it features the same setting and some of the same characters as the novel it is definitely a separate and unrelated story. There's indications that The Laundry has been around for over a century, which tended to remind me of the British sci-fi Doctor Who spin off Torchwood.

It was definitely entertaining and Stross is an intelligent writer with some great ideas, but ultimately it's not for me. I've never been able to really understand work that tries to apply scientific principals to fantastical concepts, which is something that is at the core of this work. I found Bob a little generic and he's also a depressing sort of character, who somehow seems to bungle through things without any hope of his life ever actually improving. I liked the idea of a supernatural spy, but this is more Le Carre or Deighton than it is Ian Fleming.

The series has been very successful for Charles Stross having spawned 2 other full length novels, and 2 novelettes, with a 4th novel installment due to be published in 2012.

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