BOOK REVIEW – CHARLES STROSS – THE ATROCITY ARCHIVES 2004 ORBIS PRESS
Len Deighton meets H. P Lovecraft in this fantastic post Cold War spy thriller. In which a so secret MI5 barely knows it exists, spy group called The Laundry, fights off the forces of evil from dimensions beyond our own. The Laundry’s torturous bureaucratic rules, endless board meetings, paperwork and need to report on every paperclip as well as every act of necromancy is as scary as the monsters encountered, and there are plenty of those.
Bob Howard, the narrator, is a low level official in the Laundry, and sees a student end up with worms behind his eyes when opening a portal to an otherwhere. Bob’s quick thinking saves everyone else, and he finds himself assigned to spying on an American woman who seems to be attracting the attention of foreign agents who use terrorism and science driven occultism that could do as much damage as an atom bomb. When Bob falls in love with the girl, and she is captured by creatures in a vast vortex to a liquid nitrogen World. Bob, and a division of the SAS, take an atom bomb through the vortex to help rescue her. Nazis, escaping the collapse of the Reich, summoned the creatures and they have even inscribed Hitler’s image on the Moon by supernatural means. The entity they have summoned has however proved to be much too powerful for them to control, and it needs a nuclear blast to give it sufficient energy to prepare for its final conquest of our World. Bob realizes that his efforts to nuke the creature might well unleash it, so he ends up diffusing his own bomb, while fighting off creatures that could drive any man utterly insane. Worse, the paperwork his action is going to generate is going to be horrendous.
This is a brilliantly inventive, funny, perceptive story, as much a Dilbert-like looks at office life as the treatment of indescribable horrors, of which there are plenty.
Bob has a further adventure in a Novella attached to The Atrocity Archives, The Concrete Jungle, which I shall review separately at THE CONCRETE JUNGLE.