The Apocalypse Codex – Charles Stross

Ahhhh, bliss. It’s been far too long since The Fuller Memorandum, the last in the excellent Charlie Stross’s series of novels featuring that secret division of the allegedly no longer existing SOE known as the Laundry. Our hero Bob Howard[1] is in trouble again. Serious trouble: he’s being groomed for management, which is a fate only marginally less awful than being consumed by some eldritch horror accidentally summoned by a bit of advanced mathematics.

He’s taken away from his usual boss, who goes by the unlikely name of Angleton, and who may be the incarnation of Something Very Nasty Indeed, and given an assignment to act as liaison for a couple of external contractors, who are employed by the Laundry to do the sort of things the Laundry couldn’t possibly get up to, or at least not while anyone’s looking.

The mission involves a particularly dubious variety of evangelical religious types, who seem to be trying to infiltrate the British government for reasons unknown. The action takes Bob to the US, where he has a fun time with immigration, a somewhat less fun time with some possessed agents, and lots of danger of imminent death, or indeed worse. As always, hardly anything is as it seems, from the evangelicals to the contractors to Bob’s mission itself. And a good time is had by all, apart from those taken over by nasty alien things or otherwise removed from normal existence.

There’s a bit of a change to the style, in that much of the action isn’t directly observed by Bob, but is reported by him from information gathered later. But there’s no let up in the expected humour. In the second of the series, The Jennifer Morgue, Bob had cause to complain about being forced to wear a tux on the grounds that it would damage his geek rating. This time, he’s obliged to don a suit. Bob doesn’t like suits. Here’s what he has to say about the one he keeps for unavoidable occasions:

It’s the kind of suit that is worn at arm’s length by a suit refusenik; the kind of suit that trails a screaming neon disclaimer overhead, saying: the occupant of this garment is clearly alive only because he wouldn’t be seen dead in one of these things; the kind of suit whose afterlife is destined to be spent surrounded by mothballs in a charity shop window display.

And there’s a bit of fun about smartphone users

Anyway, I’m an old fart now – I’m over thirty – and I feel the need to actually put the bloody thing down for a few minutes a day. Even though it is a JesusPhone, and all JesusPhone users eventually wind up crouched in a dank,  lightless cave, fondling it and crooning ‘preciousss’…

Well, I haven’t got to that state yet, but there’s time…

It’s all good fun, and like the rest of the series, highly recommended.

[1] Whose surname is surely a tribute to HP Lovecraft

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