Tag Archives: Orbit

Review: Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

Promise of Blood

Synopsis

The cover says, ‘THE AGE OF KINGS IS DEAD…AND I HAVE KILLED IT,’ which is quite a statement to make. And to be fair it’s not an understatement. Field Marshal Tamas’s coup in of the nation of Adro, one of the Nine kingdoms, results in the death of the monarch and the layer of aristocrat. But it also results in the death of his royal kabal of Privileged, magic users who are there to keep the King safe (they didn’t do a good job on this occassion). Though they aren’t the only magic users there are lesser users like powder mages and those with a knack.

The trouble is that it’s the powder mages, who are mostly military and of whom Tamas is one, may have saved Adro from being sold out to their neighbours, but the end of the Age of Kings causes its own problems.

Comments/Thoughts/Analysis

Let’s get this out of the way. I had a great time reading this book.  I’m having a really good run of varied reading; Equations of Life, Poison, The Panopticon, The City of Silk and Steel, The Universe of Alex Woods and I’m happy to add Promise of Blood to the list.

What’s different? Guns and magic! I honestly didn’t think I’d get excited about someone else’s gun fetish but McClellan’s narration drew me in. He has structured his story in such a way that it is compelling from the opening chapter. He weaves three main threads; an investigation each of the kabal’s dying words, his son’s hunt for a rogue privileged and Tama’s own struggles in powers. But even those seeds grow and each of their roles change as the story unfolds.

I’m aware that one person’s fresh voice is another’s cliché but I’m also aware that my tolerance for certain epic fantasy stories is low so to be drawn in and excited by a fantasy novel is a refreshing thing. McClellan really does have a skilled storytellers eye for lingering in the right places for the right time before looking elsewhere. It’s a dangerous thing to do to leave one thread just as it’s in full swing only to leap to another and invariably you think you’d like to keep going rather than leave it.

I never felt that. I did think that a couple of times the leaps didn’t flow from one moment in one thread to the same or future moment but instead they felt they were going backwards (I could be wrong). But even so the whole thing held together. Each thread was worthy of the attention it got and each was packed with twists and turns. I enjoyed each of them equally for different reasons. The treat that Tama’s faces leading a country, the underside met by his investigator and the action that his son provides hunting.

All the characters are multifaceted. McClellan is good with giving characters something worthwhile to do. They serve the story. Some more than others obviously but even the minor characters are interesting for example a maid we meet at the start plays an important role at several key moments which are unbeknown to her moments before they happen.

As I was reading I didn’t have any major problems with portrayal of any of the characters apart from a niggle to do with the ’slave-girl’ Ka-poel. She’s a mute, a ‘savage’ and her magic is not understood by those around her. She accompanies Tamas’s son on his missions and when she does she looks after him, mostly via magic. I only had the niggle because of something that happens later on.

McClellan shows women in various roles and strata of society but it does have an old school flavour to it. The society is a conservative one. It’s a book about the men (thanks Neil) and their fights and struggles dominate, though as I said the maid’s story is a powerful in minor thread and could well turn into something else but even that it is about a male character.

So while I didn’t have any issues while reading it on reflection it could and probably should have taken more risks to displace the social model it based itself on. The women have a valuable role in the story but not in their own society, at least that their power isn’t their own as they facilitate the males at each and every turn.

 Summary

Where does this leave me? I have a quandary. If I’d read and moved on then I’d have been left with feeling I’d enjoyed an amazing book. And I still feel like that. But the process of reviewing it has made me consider other aspects that I wouldn’t have lingered on. I would have missed the conservative nature of the backdrop. That’s the privilege of being a male reader I guess.

So, I can’t ignore that aspect but neither can I berate it for sticking to a historically social norm. I can wonder why it wasn’t more daring. I can be honest and say that I think that this is a book written for men. And most male readers are going to enjoy the hell out of it without batting an eyelid.

As for me I’m going to read the next one. I’m hoping that McClellan brings to it all his skill as a storyteller. I’m invested in the plight of the people of Adro. I want to know the consequences of Tama’s actions. I want to see what the shocking end of this one means in the bigger picture. But I also hope that there is time for McClellan to tweak his treatment of his female characters. I’m not sure how he’d be able to do it as he’s set the whole world up to be male dominant but there are still opportunities for giving them strength rather than weakness and goals that unrelated to those of the male characters.

This is a traditional feeling story. It’s amazingly well constructed. Its aim isn’t to elevate the role of women in society, so leaves to others. But it does explore the law of unexpected consequences. Its premise feels fresh. It’s exploring an idea about what happens when gods you don’t think are real actually are. It also explores the diminishing of power over time. The role of the church and it’s statements vs it’s actions. It explores truth and lies. Plus it has guns and magic and a passion for that which is infectious.

And with all that said would I recommend this book?

Oh yes, but with all the caveats above.

Buy from:

Amazon UK: Hardback/Kindle

Book Depository UK/US

Review: Cold Days by Jim Butcher (@OrbitBooks)

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

WARNING SPOILERS FOR EARLIER BOOKS IN THE SERIES AHEAD!

Synopsis

Harry Dresden is back from his ghostly’ adventure in Ghost Story. In Cold Days he’s got a new job and first assignment is to kill someone who should be impossible to assassinate. Being Harry and Chicago’s only Professional Wizard/Private Detective combo he needs to find out why they need to die. Oh, and while he is doing that he also has a world to save.

Comments/Thoughts/Analysis

Honestly this is going to really hard to review without spoiling earlier books so if you are sensitive to these things skip to the summary.

Ok?

So here is the thing about The Dresden Files up until Changes (the 12th book), there was a story arc but it was in background to the monster-of-the-book detective-fiction-mould that allowed Jim Butcher to establish and explore relationships and to give lots of supporting characters centre stage. In the last book, Ghost Story, we saw what happens in a world without Harry being able to play hero. But in Cold Days it’s all about Harry and I’m not sure I like it.

At least I don’t think I’d like it to be permanent change of direction for the series. It’s partly a problem with plotting. Butcher has got very confident with his world and his character’s place in Dresden’s life but at the same time this books feels like a role-call in passing to important characters that aren’t Dresden. They play second fiddle to the plot.

It is a really good plot. Butcher chucks in the kitchen sink to make sure that it roars along. And I really enjoyed it. But Butcher has set a time pressure on this story and everything has to happen in short order with no time for characters to talk or reflect. In fact it’s all deflected as they have a world to save like right now!

There are some twists which really make you reconsider the roles the fae of Summer and Winter and their fight for power. And I loved the scenes with Mother Summer, I really wanted more of them as Butcher does those types of observations really well. I think it’s partly that he’s homeless and the routine from earlier books has been blown away that makes me want to see him back in his familiar surroundings, though here is a scene, like the bedroom in the Labyrinth, where is apartment is recreated that is way more creepy that sweet.

As I said I’m torn between liking the skill that Butcher has, the story has a satisfying journey, and missing the character interactions that made earlier books sparkle.

I think the real problem is that Butcher has six more ‘Dresden File’ books planned and an additional trilogy of ‘apocalypse’ books, which, to me, could go one of two ways. This book was setting up the stakes for the next few books and it’s all Harry, Harry, Harry from here on in or the next book has his supporting cast back in a proper supporting role and it’s all Team Harry. I’m so hoping for the later.

Summary

Harry Dresden is back in action. He’s got a time limit and by limiting the story to action, action, action Butcher looses some of the sparkle from earlier books. That doesn’t mean that it’s not gripping and engrossing but by the end it doe leave you feeling that you’ve slide on ice rather than feeling the characters have carved a deep and long impression of themselves.

Review Hexed: The Iron Druid Chronicles: Book Two by Kevin Hearne (Orbit)

Hexed by Kevin Hearne

With no real recovery time Atticus O’Sullivan has do deal with the consequences of Hounded, namely the power gap that’s been created around Tempe, Arizona since he kicked a few demons back to hell. It’s a vacuum that a gang of German witches and a horde of Bacchants are very eager to fill.

In my review of the first one (Hounded) I might not have emphasised how much fun Kevin Hearne is to read. He writes in a way that is fast paced, intelligent (Atticus quotes Shakespeare just to prove a point), and it’s funny. It’s kind of jovial humour in places but I’d say this was very much a geek boys book. Especially given Atticus’s wondering eyes and the general banter he has with his dog Oberon (who he has a telepathic connection with).

Atticus is a very old Druid, the last, but he looks in his early twenty’s, thanks to some very good herbal medicine, which provides a lot of scope. He can know things like reciting  Shakespeare off the top of his head but also act like a lad in his 20s and partly that’s so he mixes in well, skill he’s trying to teach both his vampire and werewolf lawyers. But he wouldn’t be alive this long if wasn’t skilled and powerful.

And it is that melting pot that gives this series its energy. Hearne keeps fulling that with mix of gods (e. g.Roman/Celtic) but also more human evils (German witches) and other magicians (one of Kabbalist origins). This is a book that you’d have trouble getting bored reading.

The only thing that lets it down as a stand alone is that it stands on the shoulders of Hounded and it’s preparing for Hammered. Which doesn’t make a disappointment as such but it suffers slightly from the ‘middle book syndrome’. You know that things are building up to Hammered and that the focus is on the bigger picture.

What might have worked better would have been to draw more into this one and dance around a bit before going in for the kill. As I said this is a very laddish book so it may not be aiming for subtle.

Saying all that I tore through it and enjoyed it. Definitely a fun and enjoyable read.

Review: Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles: Book One by Kevin Hearne (Orbit)

Hounded Kevin Hearne Iron Druid Chronicles review

I do love it when mythical characters are dropped into a modern world setting. And being a Welshman I have a certain frisson when Celtic myth is used. They were classical used in The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo. And another evocative portrayal is Mark Chadbourn’s trilogy of trilogies (The Age of Misrule, The Dark Age, Kingdom of the Serpent). Unlike Chadbourn’s serious (if excellent and entertaining) take Hearne sees the funny side of the situation by using a 2000 year old Druid who is currently in the masquerading as a 21 year old New Age bookshop owner.

Though his new found quiet life is disturbed when he receives a visit from the The Morrigan. And it’s her prophecy that that gives Atticus O’Sullivan a wake up call. He is the currently owner of a sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer. Unfortunately an angry Celtic god want’s it back and has been hounding (hence the title) Atticus for centuries.

To be honest what Hounded lacks in locations it more than makes up for in an eccentric cast of characters. The action sticks closely around Tempe and a few key locations, which is a bit of a double-edged sword as Hearne uses the introduction of several characters to keep the plot and the action moving. Now this could be a flaw if the characters and the situation weren’t so entertaining. Trouble has definitely come to Atticus’s door.

And in a way it’s like the trial of Hercules or some other ancient mythical hero, as soon as he’s fixed one problem there is a another just around the corner. But the cleverness comes from weaving those events into something that builds so Hearne can drop little bombshells on Atticus that reveals a bigger picture and the reader gets that must know more feeling.

Speaking of the bigger picture we have Celtic gods, Druids, a vampire, a pack of werewolves, sidhe, a coven and a Hindu witch to name a few. It’s good to see hints of a ‘real’ world outside the community of Tempe though for an out of the way place in Arizona it doesn’t half attract a few mystical beings.

Hounded definitely feels like Hearne has a good deep understanding and enjoyment of myth as well as cracking sense of humour and you can feel he’s enjoying himself. Though it isn’t actually a ‘lite’ tale. There are blood and gore moments as well as lightly touching on more adult themes. Which actually gives a better edge to the humour to play off as well as to show that Atticus is really in danger because near the beginning he seems quite powerful until the bad guys get stronger.

Another strength is that not only using Celtic myth but shows how other beliefs all interact and are it seems real. A fact that Hearne plays off really well as he builds his story. He also plays Atticus off against his dog Oberon who can not only psychically talk to his master but also has a pointed wit and that bound makes Atticus a sympathetic and likeable character and definitely a humanises him.

If you enjoy myths, like a laugh, and love feeling that an author is enjoying themselves Hounded is one you have to read. Now. It cheered me up no end reading it. Looking forward to Hexed (which is out next month).

Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles: Book One is out now. Book Two: Hexed is out Oct and Book Three: Hammered is out Nov.

Potentially Spoilerly Review: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher plus bonus review of Aftermath (Orbit)

Butcher GhostStorySideJob 2

Aftermath (fromSide Jobs) by Jim Butcher (Orbit)

Aftermath is set after the ending of Changes and focuses on Karrin Murphy, who is dressed up but with no sign of Harry has to go home. And if you’ve read Changes you’ll know why.

With Harry predisposed it’s up to Murphy to help Will get his werewolf wife back if she can. Now Harry normally narrates his tales so it’s natural for Murphy to take up the mantel of hero as well as narrator for this novella.

What can I say without giving away too much? Murphy is more than a sidekick and that is illustrated perfectly here. She knows how the supernatural game is played around Chicago, which is lucky for her as otherwise she’d be dead.

Even though she has her own problems her natural instincts as protector of the city and investigator shines here. Her leads take to place that shows with Harry’s absence the game as changed and not for the better.

I’m not sure Murphy’s final destination. I’m hoping and guessing it’s got something to do with how she shined, literally, in Changes and how the fallout of those events, including this milestone as it’s part of the fallout that have altered balance of supernatural power around the globe. Harry Dresden doesn’t do things on a small scale.

If you’ve read Changes then Aftermath (and the whole of Side Jobs) is a must. I’m now prepared as I can be to start Ghost Story.

SPOILERS POSSIBLE

Changes Review

STARTS HERE

If you’ve read Changes that last moment of the book lived up the to title. Not that the rest of the book didn’t have lots of changes but being dead is as final as it gets. Or it should be. But if your name ist Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden that doesn’t seem to stop you.

Instead Harry is given a choice. Move on to the next place or haunt Chicago in order save the lives of three of your friends. And we all now that he’s a friends first kind of guy.

So Harry finds himself back in Chicago six months after he left not able to touch or affect the real world without the help of those who are sensitive to ghosts.

If you’re expecting not a lot to happen as Harry is powerless you’d be wrong. Quite cleverly Butcher manages to make this as action packed as the rest of the series. Partly this is down to the rules of the ghostly realm and partly is that the afterlife isn’t exactly empty. In fact mere moments after arriving back Dresden is helpless as a stranger fights for him. Harry isn’t used his newborn state at the start but boy does he learn quickly.

Now then the Dresden Files has been going for quite a few books and you’d think that this being 13th would be unlucky for the series and that surely a series couldn’t be going strong after this many books. You’d be totally wrong. It can and it does. If you’ve liked the series up to this point you’re in for a treat.

Butcher’s skill is reinvigorating his main cast. He doesn’t throw them aside as paper thin constructs. They hang around and grow, usually through supporting in with whatever Dresden has managed to get himself tangled up in.

And it’s a good job they do as the world is more dangerous place without Harry’s presence though it could be argued that it is only that way through Dresden’s actions especially after creating a massive power vacuum in Changes.

Murphy is most obviously affected, as touched on in Aftermath, her reliable role as policewomen has been taken away but she is still protecting the city of Chicago though now she is leading a band of Harry’s associates to defend it from the more darker and dangerous side.

Butcher focuses a lot on memories and consequences in Ghost Story, which can only be deliberate as shades (or ghosts) are just bundles of memories. We get to see a couple Harry’s key memories like the first time he used magic and when he left his adopted home and the first big bad he encountered and defeated. And rightly they are presented as life changing moments.

There is a strong theme of choices and consequences in Ghost Story especially when Harry discovers how Molly, and other close friends, have been distorted by his absence. But Molly is unique in his responsibilities as she’s his apprentice and soon become apparent he hasn’t been a good enough teacher. Especially when her new teacher uses pain as a necessary teaching tool something that is hard for Dresden to watch.

There is an interesting cannibalisation to the whole series as Butcher keeps reusing characters both good and bad guys but instead of wearing away his canon and his source material but he continues to mine depths of connections that keep giving back.

For example Mort, who has appeared in early early books as a bit of two bit crook, can talk to the dead of Chicago. But it appears he has been keeping the nature of his power under the radar as well as what he does to protect the city.

And this is what I admire about the story as a whole. As we only see things from Dresden’s perspective we get this biases and his hangups but in Ghost Story can’t mostly just say Fuego first and ask questions later so he has to see things differently.

Then there are minor actions in previous books like in Dead Beat asking Bob to lock away the part of himself that allowed him to go rogue but in Ghost Story we see exactly where that part of Bob went and it can only be described as a Nazi Officer.

None of this goes into the main purpose of Harry’s return to Earth. The need to find his killer before his friends end up hurt. But even their Dresden is friends first killer later. Not that they are really separate.

The Dresden File defines all odds by getting better and better. Apart from Sir Terry I really can’t think of another series that is as stronger now than when it started. And cruelly the ending of Ghost Story doesn’t let Harry off easy. Instead he’s dropped straight in a situation he can only spend the next book trying to get out of.

If you love Urban Fantasy drop everything to catch up now. There is no other UF series that comes close.

Review: Full Circle by Pamela Freeman (Orbit)

Full Circle by Pamela Freeman

I told you last month that you’d see a review of Full Circle sooner rather than later. And here it is.

The thing about good endings is that all that you’ve read up to now becomes clear. This is one of those endings. Not only does bring about the stand-off between Acton’s people with the ghosts of the Travellers raised by the stone-caster Saker.  But also twists the battle and shows the events in a new light.

In fact one of the main themes of The Castings Trilogy is to show that what see in people isn’t always the whole story. And in the case of the Domains the whole basis of their society is based on a lie as revealed in Deep Water.

With the ghost of Acton raised the gods have told Bramble to take him to Sanctuary and along the way he spreads the message of his return. But that is only a minor part of the resolution of this story. It comes mostly in decisions of other characters we’ve been following like Leof, Sorn and Martine and their timings make sure decisions they are surprising I found myself giving a little cheer in some cases.

Other themes here are blood and memory and it’s a refrain that’s echoed every time Saker raises his army. It fuels them with hate. The worrying niggle has always been how do you resolve a story with ghosts that can’t be killed? And as Bramble and crew point out if you kill Saker someone else will just take his place.

This is especially true when Thegan, the main warlord of the tale, decides to use the Travellers as hostages to protect his town against the ghosts and others follow his lead. There is a good use of conflicting ideologies as those towns that work in harmony with the Travellers get different response from the ghosts than Thegan does.

Going back to the resolution Freeman gives  another bigger picture above and beyond Acton’s people and the Travellers and shows why the gods are so interested in the outcome of these events and the importance that the conflict ends in the write way.

Without  that context the trilogy could have ended differently but less successfully. Freeman makes you question things as she’s done all along by filling out the lives of those minor incidental characters like the woman that will regret her beauty for ever more.

It’s not a happy ending in some sense but it is right and the different threads have been tied off though frayed and loose in some cases. I’d happily read it again from the beginning with fresh eyes to see all the clever twists and hints Freeman laid along the way.

Review: Changes by Jim Butcher (Orbit)

Changes1

Review in a sentence:

I didn’t like Changes because I have to wait until July for the next one, Ghost Story.

If you’ve never read any of the Dresden Files novels before this might not be the right place to start. Even after eleven books it’s a great series and well worth the effort to start at the beginning and catch up. If you’ve read the series so far the opening line might shock you.

‘I answered the phone, and Susan Rodriguez said, ‘They’ve taken our daughter.’

Jim Butcher in that opening line instantly changes the dynamics of the series. Why?

Wizard Harry Dresden is a force of nature but even when he’s being a hero, doing what he believes is right, he’s not acting to save his child, so is moderately restrained. But this takes things to a completely different level; how are he is prepared to go to save her. The restraints are well and truly off.

But this isn’t the only alteration to the status quo and in that respect Changes lives up to its title. Some things are subtle like seeing Mouse in a different light (blue as it happens) to bigger things like the deals that Harry makes to get enough power in order to be tooled up when he faces up to what might as well be the entire Red Court of vampires.

What’s great about Jim Butcher is that not only does he move events along at a pace (I read Changes over three days, which is fast for me) but he’s also been setting up these events practically since the beginning either consciously or subconsciously. So in essence you get a double pay off. You get an immersive read and lots of payoffs for loyalty to the series.

Now I do have a few problems with parts of the motivations of characters in. Can you really be that selfless? There is also some interesting movie magic in Changes giving some scenes some physics defying timings. And I’m not completed blinkered by the enjoyment I got from the novel not to see them but they hardly registered when compared to other factors like the many ‘wow’ moments.

You have to ask yourself what could Butcher have done better? And apart from a few tweaks in some scenes to make them more balanced not a lot. He’s upping the stakes here in terms of who he’s dealing with and even Harry isn’t equipped for demigods. But somehow he manages to go up against them.

And that’s the strength of the series. You have an urban magician that has great power that feels real. The world he is in is real as are the enemies he faces. And when Butcher brings in other more powerful characters they don’t feel like caricatures.

In terms of character development we get to see different sides to a lot of the regulars and even though they aren’t slowly grown as they are fired out of a gun they have as much, if not more, impact that way. Murphy is now my hero.

There isn’t a lot more to say apart from I’m an idiot for not reading it earlier but on the bright side July brings the next one!

Review: Moving Target by Elizabeth Moon (Orbit)

Movingtarget

When I finished reading Moving Target last night I tweeted:

Moon did it again. Loved it! Maybe I do like military sf after all…

The odd thing is that when I checked when I read the first in the series (Trading in Danger) I reviewed it way back in July 2008! Talk about being a bit slow with the follow through. Despite that I knew who Ky was and fell back into your life quite easily, which I think shows the power of a good writer. To be fair I’ve forgot a few details too but the emotional connection still was strong.

Moving Target follows on from the aftermath of Trading in Danger and I wasn’t expecting the explosive opening up of the world around Ky and what changes Moon introduces to her life. When a dramatic event takes place to the heart of the family Ky is left to fight alone, again. Though this time she’s learnt from her last adventure and makes some life saving and life altering decisions.

Because of the nature of the threat we again focus down on Ky on her crew but we also get to see another member of the Vatta clan, Stella, as her story weaves with Ky’s. Sometimes other POVs can be distracting or at least frustrating if they feel like asides but Stella’s character and how she compares to Ky is a strong addition to the plot.

The thing is that Stella is quite resourceful and entertaining in her own way. She also shows that Moon can handle two narrative threads giving both their own feel. If Stella had her own adventures I’d be inclined to follow along. As it is she’s integral to Ky’s (and her own) survival.

Again it’s the characterisation that Moon injects which keeps you reading along with the treacherous twists and turns that neither Ky or the reader can fully anticipate but Ky adapts well and quite scarily at more than one point.

As a way of opening up the story Moon gives a good steroid injection changing Ky’s journey by the end quite dramatically but without feeling that she’s been writing by numbers to get to that point all along.

I’ll admit that I felt that I was pushing the ‘suspend disbelief’ button quite hard a couple of times as she seems to take the Star Trek: The Next Generation approach to conflict and technology like Data verses Phasers. Any civilisation that can create AI can invent some amazing ways to kill people. But I enjoyed ST for its humanity rather than its portrayal of evils and I like Moon for the same feelings.

I’m not leaving it as long until I read Engaging the Enemy I swear!

Quick Questions with Charles Stross (The Fuller Memorandum)

If you didn’t already know I’m a big fan of Charlie Stross’s Laundry Stories ( see The Atrocity Archives, The Jennifer Morgue and The Fuller Memorandum) so I was really chuffed to get to ask the very very busy man a few quick questions. And here they are:

Gav: Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions on Bob and The Laundry. How much, if anything, of yourself is in Bob Howard?

Charlie: Nope, I am not Bob. Frankly, if you offered me Bob’s job I’d run a mile.

Gav: He gets a bit of harder time in The Fuller Memorandum, is it important that he’s a human hero?

Charlie: Bob is basically your everyman geek, who’s fallen into a work/life environment that really doesn’t work that way. Part of what makes the Laundry stories work is that Bob *isn’t* a traditional spook, and indeed is a poor fit for his workplace and his co-workers expectations. (Never heard *that* one before, right?)

Gav: Some of my best moments of The Laundry comes from the shorter stories, I know you’re not keen on mentioning work until it’s signed and sealed but is there any chance of some more mini-adventures for Bob and crew in a file somewhere?

Charlie: I’ve got plans for a couple of novellas. (There’s one in which Bob meets a unicorn — which is a lot nastier than you might think — and which also explains where H. P. Lovecraft himself fits in the Laundry mythos. And there’s another about… no, no spoilers.)

Gav: Bob has moved on since we last caught up with him – how important is it to you to have a ‘realistic’ timeframe or was it something that was needed to move everyone on in the story? Bob has come a long professional way from his appearance in The Atrocity Archive.

Charlie: Partly it’s because there was a gap of five years between each of the first three books. To avoid ending up with Bob receding into the past, I decided to reposition them so that he’s ageing, roughly in step with wall-clock time (at least for now). In “The Atrocity Archives” he was in his early-to-mid-twenties. By The Jennifer Morgue, he was late twenties. In The Fuller Memorandum he’s early thirties.

I’m aiming to get the fourth book out a lot faster (hopefully within just two years of the previous). Events are, of course, accelerating …

Gav: So do you think that there are nameless horrors coming into the world? Was Lovecraft on to something?

Charlie: Seriously? Nameless horrors lurking in the walls of the universe? Nope.

But Lovecraft was onto something different: namely, the numinous sense of dread that is the flip side of the sense of wonder that good SF aspires to create in the mind of the reader.

Gav: You’ve explored more traditional fantasy, science fiction and horror. If you could hit reset would you want to have less toys in your sandbox?

Charlie: I get bored easily; in fact, if I could hit reset, I’d have *ALL* the toys in my sandbox!

(Also: “fantasy” and “SF” are just labels to help the bookstore employees figure out where to file the produce, and to guide the customers to the right bit of the shop floor. I don’t see a firm dividing line between the two labels, or between them and “mainstream literature” for that matter.)

Gav: Your next scheduled novel in the UK is Rule 34 (though not until July 2011 ed.), again there has been a bit of a gap from Halting State, can you say a little bit about it and how they link together?

Charlie: It’s set five years later, and one of the minor characters from Halting State — detective inspector Liz Kavanaugh — plays a central role in Rule 34. Other than that, and being written in multi-viewpoint second person? They’re completely different books, about completely different subjects.

Thanks Charlie! Now I’m wondering what’s bad about unicorns…

Look for more quick questions soon!

Green Review: The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross (Orbit Books)

The Fuller Memorandum
Charles Stross
Orbit Books
Out Now

We’re used to series having a regularity and rhythm to them. But The Laundry series is a little more erratic to say the least. Not that it’s anyones fault as such. We’ve had two almost full novels, 4 novella/shorts, this full novel and two more still to come (hopefully).

After finishing The Fuller Memorandum I hope Stross has chance to write both The Armageddon Agedna and The Nightmare Stacks and surprises us with a stack of more short stories.

You can take it from the above that I’m a fan of the series right? Just in case you’re in any doubt I love what

Stross has done with The Laundry. When I grow up I want to tell stories like this.

I’d better explain why it’s hitting my buttons then.

I do have this thing that’s been slow burning for Lovecraftian-esque horrors and it’s slowly creeping into my reading see:

as well as the first two book in this series:

In my review of The Jennifer Morgue I said:

In the next one I’d love to see the horrors a bit more horrific just to see how far Bob can cope and I want to know more about the origins of his boss Angleton. And if I’m being picky I’d like to have the pace toned down a little bit to have more time to digest stuff.

I think Stross must have read my review as he’s done all of that and more.

Time has shifted again. Bob is now married to Mo not surprising after the events of The Jennifer Morgue but their connection is forged by what they’ve seen and can’t share with the outside world more than love. They have a strange but understanding relationship. They both agents for The Laundry, a branch of the British secret service, tasked to prevent hideous alien gods from wiping out all life on Earth.

Stross always seems to come back with something different but retaining all the things you like about Bob and The Laundry. This starts with his unofficial boss giving him a little errand. All he needs to do is check out a disturbance in the Royal Airforce Museum and seeing as he’s all ready going it’s suggested that he checks out a white elephant in Hanger 12B. Unfortunately there is an accident and he doesn’t get chance to investigate the elephant, which is only the start of Bob’s problems.

All The Laundry stories are retold by Bob which gives them an emotional and personal edge that might be lost if they were told in third person. We do occasionally get to see some events retold by Bob from other people’s points of view so we’re not limited to Bob as there a few key moments that we need to see and couldn’t see them any other way.

I really can’t fault Stross for his characterisation. He manages to dish out Chuthu-lian horrors at the same time as making paperclips and the need for an autopsy like inspection of a violin mix in as if it’s normal.

And it is normal to them. Especially having an upgraded Jesus phone with magickal apps plus injecting geek humour by accusing it of a having a strong glamour that just pulls you in. You know what I’m almost convinced they do.

It’s this mix of supernatural and the mundane that makes Stross such a convincing writer. He can pull out the horror and when I said I wanted Bob to suffer I wasn’t sure that Stross could actually do what he did to Bob here. It’s not pleasant and it’s disturbing as it’s not carried out by anything alien but fanatics who believe in something enough that they see what they do as means to an end. And he can also pull out plot twists that have you seeing things completely differently.

You get to see the history of one of the more enigmatic characters in the series so far and what you learn is more ‘oh’ than ‘err’ but only just. I wonder what else Stross is hiding from us?

All the end of the world horror is mixed with Stross personal brand of geek humour and the character could be average-if-he-wasn’t-dealing-with-the-supernatural-Bob, not forgetting the rest of eclectic crew of The Laundry, shows what rich world Stross has created. I’m sad that we’ve only got to see glimpses of it so far. I hope this isn’t the last we see of them.

I’m not sure where we go from here. The Laundry is a hotel corridor of horrors just waiting to be walked down and any door could lead to a nightmare.