Review: The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

Atrocity ArchivesTitle: The Atrocity Archives
Author: Charles Stross
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 2007
Price: £6.99
Shelf Copy

Charles Stross is a very prolific writer but this is my first chance to sample his very active imagination. And what an imagination: we have terrorists, Nazis, horrors from other dimensions, secret government departments, and a techie called Bob who’s just started Active Service.

Stross has created a fully believable world where technology is basis of magic and advanced maths can open holes in the universe. Shh it’s a secret.

Bob Howard is not James Bond thank god but he does have a few gadgets up his sleeve and a beautiful and intelligent girl to save, bad guys to chase and the tentacles of the Lovecraftian horrors to fight off whilst dealing with office politics and an computer audit.

The strengths in The Atrocity Archives are not only the use of ideas, which is both creative and grounded in scientific theory, but also the characterisation of the people in The Laundry (the secret government department).

It’s not really a complete novel. It is two stories bundled together. We have the fuller length ‘The Atrocity Archives’ and the episodic ‘The Concrete Jungle’. ‘The Atrocity Archives’ does all the hard work by setting everything up and ‘The Concrete Jungle’ shows Bob at work. Both enjoyable and I like the additional story as it feels like a bonus tale. And shows the potential of both the format and the character.

There are a few words of warning.

It does get very techie at times. This is partly due to the nature of the character of Bob who is also the narrator but also, I think, that Stross can’t help himself sharing what he knows. And he knows a lot!

It’s not completely polished. There are some niggling rough bits that I’ll forgive as I feel that Stross will get better and better as I work through his more recent works (This novel was written in 1999/2000.) He shows bags of potential and energy which is occasional misdirected. And I hope that he’ll revisit the actual Atrocity Archives in much more detail in a future book as there was a lot left to explore/explain.

Overall, if you’re a fan of occult tales with a techno-thriller twist this is a book for you. And if you’ve enjoyed of the Indiana Jones Nazis’ or Hellboy you’ll enjoy this too. And if anything in this review sparked your interest go get it. You’ll like it.