The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross
The Laundry Series, Book 3
Published by Orbit UK July 2010 (Review copy received).
Review by Mark Yon
Charlie Stross has been a regular writing machine in the last decade: from Singularity Sky to Acccelerando to Glasshouse, his Heinlein homage Galaxy’s Children to his near-future Halting State, fantasy such as the Merchant’s War series, not to mention his short story collection, Wireless… he’s been busy. With such an eclectic and voluminous range it’s easy to miss the tales of Bob Howard in his Len Deighton-meets-HP Lovecraft books.
I must admit though that out of all his writing, they’re my favourite. And here we are with the third. After The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue, we now have The Fuller Memorandum, (a title no doubt riffed from the book/film, The Quiller Memorandum.) Charlie’s Laundry tales are full of quirky references, both real and fictional, in a manner akin to Kim Newman. (Langford Death Parrot, anyone?)We have real departments mingling with occult practices and a Cold War that’s about as cold as you can get – fighting not just the Russians but older Ancient species.
For those who are not aware, Bob’s an IT technician who over the length of the series has become a bit more than your usual computer fixer-upper. By Book 3 he’s married to Mo (Doctor Domanique O’Brien, if you like) and a key operative under the stern, watchful eye of his mentor, Angleton.
Here we are in pretty dire straits – Mo’s been on a mission from Hell (with a musical instrument from somewhere similar), the cultists are hunting her and Bob down and there’s a situation developing with Bob as bait for The Eater of Souls.
After dealing with Nazis and megalomaniacs in previous tales (not to mention concrete cows in Milton Keynes) this time Bob’s involved with the Russians. As a result, we’re dealt secret London Underground Tube stations, equally labyrinthine corridors of bureaucracy, administrative red tape galore, zombie servants (though they’re called Residual Human Resources here), a great dollop of the Laundry’s past history and a wealth of deliberately silly codenames, from TEAPOT to CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. It’s not just codenames – the ubiquitous iPhone gets a look in too, albeit renamed the JesusPhone, obviously for its arrival being seen as the Second Coming.
The ending’s a great tour de force and a nice variant on the ‘one bound and he was free’ scenario. I’m sure its consequences could be explored should Charlie wish to go further with the series.
It’s all great fun and not to be taken at all seriously. Except that, now that I think about it, some of it doesn’t seem quite as far-fetched as you might think….
For those readers who like quirky technology, occult spymanship and meaningless administration, this one’s for you. Recommended.
Mark Yon, June 2010