I’m not sure where I first heard about The Laundry books, possibly via roleplaying mentions of The Laundry RPG, which I played at Conception 2011.
The Fuller Memorandum, written by Charles Stross, is actually the 3rd book, after The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue. The books are spaced several years apart and follow Bob Howard while he works for Capital Laundry Services ‘The Laundry’, which is a very secret branch of the Civil Service that deal with the occult or rather cosmic horrors (Chtulhu type entities) from beyond. The sort that could potentially be summoned by the power of computing and thus destroy the world. Its much more important than anything MI5/MI6 do!
You don’t have to have read the first two books to follow what goes on in The Fuller Memorandum, and Stross does take time to explain how the Laundry works in each book, but I suggest you do read as they are very good. The Jennifer Morgue is pretty much a James Bond romp (apparently he’d just watched a James Bond marathon) but with a very clever twist.
However The Fuller Memorandum is my favourite of the three, possibly because it’s a fair bit darker. The story follows Bob as he gets pulled into a potential world ending plot, and his terrifying boss, the man with his finger on the ball, who seems to always be one step ahead of the game, suddenly goes missing at a critical time. Bob’s life and his sanity are threatened as he attempts to investigate a cult that seem intent on ending the world, Russians and Auditors but thing’s aren’t always as they seem.
Ok so probably not the best summary of the story but the plot is very good and very clever, there are quite a few unexpected twists and turn, they aren’t the sort that make you go ‘HOLY CRAP! NOOOO’ or ‘WHY!? ON MY GOD!’ but are the sort that make the story interesting and feel so very original. Also what’s great is that one of the twists I’m pretty sure you figure it out at the same time as Bob, only Bob doesn’t say at the time, but you know that he knows, and I have to say it was a nice feeling, being able to ‘keep up’ with the main character.
Bob Howard is a great main character, he’s an everyman, smart, down to earth but also a little bumbling. There was never a point a point where I felt he was just too amazing, because he seriously gets put through the wringer, nor was there ever a point where I felt like he did something too stupid just so the plot could be moved on. I’m sure you know what I mean, those times sometimes in books where you read something a character does and are like ‘whyyy!! why did you do that argh!’. You never get this with Bob, when he forgets to do things it’s always understandable, theres a LOT of crap going on that he has to deal with in the book. And most of the time you end up just shaking your fist at Angleton (his boss) who expects so much of Bob (who can deliver) but as a reader you’re like ‘but do you have any idea what he’s just been though? No wonder he messed up ever so slightly. Especially when you don’t tell him things.’ (This kind of happens every book, but there are always good reasons, they are a very very secret service after all.)
You also finally get the whole reason why they don’t use paper clips in The Laundry. It’s always mentioned in the first two books, how they don’t use them, and how there are paper clip audits, and finally finally we know the reason why, and to be honest it’s a very good reason why! (No I’m not going to tell you, you should read the book.) In fact the whole premise of how the Laundry works and what is possible is fantastic.
The books are all written in first person, and Bob is written as a very good narrator, explaining things, and is very chatty. In The Fuller Memorandum, you find out that he’s actually supposed to be writing down what’s happened to him for The Laundry’s records so that others can learn from what he’s been through. This helps to explain why in The Jennifer Morgue and this one the writing jumps in some places to 3rd person, . Bob is writing down stuff that he’s heard after the fact, from Mo (who is now his wife in The Fuller Memorandum) about what happened to other her and what she had to do to help solve the case. This helps to bring a much bigger picture to the reader, especially during the times when Bob is unconscious. This is never jarring, there is always a quick chatty paragraph leading you away from Bob and to what Mo is doing. (I did another post a while ago where someone jumped between 3rd and 1st and it just did not work.)
Anyway these are very good books, I’m a fan of the Cthulhu mythos (and really I need to finish reading some more Lovecraft) but it’s nice to see a book where there is something trying to deal with eldritch … even if it is slowly driving them mad. (Its to be expected really.) Although I will admit there were about 5 pages I couldn’t read… it’s got too gory, and I’m no good with that, especially not when I’m trying to read the book on the tube! It just makes me feel ill, I have a tendency to turn green and feel faint.
So I shall finish by saying that these are a must read, also if you’re a James Bond fan then you should read The Jennifer Morgue, and then of course read The Fuller Memorandum because that’s even better! 🙂
I can’t wait for the next book!