Sunday, October 31, 2010

Charles Stross - The Fuller Memorandum

Charles Stross, The Fuller Memorandum, Orbit, 2010.

This is the third novel in the Laundry series. Once again, agent Bob Howard embarks on an adventure, attempting to prevent the vast, scary monsters from other universes from destroying our world. This time the threat is in the form of reanimated corpses, more usually known as zombies, an unpleasant meme in popular culture, with a more serious twist in the context presented here.

As always, I enjoyed the combination of humour and realism. The geek-talk, office politics, and historical background make this series very vivid and current. At the same time, serious issues are tackled. Bob has a convincing rant against cultists. While in our world, people who choose to act out made-up rituals can easily be ridiculed, in the Laundry world they pose a real danger since they might wake forces beyond their control.

Being predisposed to religion has its uses, but it's a real Achilles' heel if your civilization is under threat by vastly powerful alien horrors. (p. 149)

The novel shows the strain experienced by operatives like Bob and Mo, who have to live with their secret knowledge of the real nature of the universe, are regularly exposed to life-threatening and potentially world-ending experiences, and know that there is not much hope for the future. This can make depressing reading, so readers are advised to remember that our reality is in many ways less dangerous and more chaotic. Knowing that the risks described in this series are not real in our world can put things into perspective.

Quite early on, I knew the identity of two mystery characters. This knowledge did not spoil my enjoyment of the story. I often wonder how authors find the balance between leaving enough clues for the reader to work some things out in advance and gain the sense of superiority, while keeping the characters credible all the time they know less than the reader. In this case, it worked quite convincingly.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and recommend the whole series. It is worth reading the books in order, and finding the other stories set in this universe, which I hope will one day be collected into one volume. I look forward to following this series in the future.

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