Charles Stross – The Annihilation Score

And it’s back to fun and games with the Laundry, the mostly secret government department that deals with extra-dimensional entities, paranormal wossnames and worst of all, the HR department. But this time, we’re not in the familiar hands of Bob Howard. If you’ve read The Rhesus Chart, you’ll recall that having coped with a little matter of don’t be silly, there’s no such thing as vampires, Bob ran into a little domestic difficulty when his wife Mo (aka professor Dominique O’Brien, Laundry agent and academic, current holder of a rather special violin) got back after a rather taxing mission of her own. That special violin (Mo calls it Lecter, which isn’t it’s real name) took a dislike to Bob, and since it’s known for sucking the souls of of people, this wasn’t altogether conducive to domestic harmony. It didn’t help that Bob’s former boss, the entity known as Angleton, was killed in an attack on the Laundry, which left Bob as the new, err, Eater of Souls (very handy for dealing with occult menaces, but the eyes glowing in the dark can be a wee bit disconcerting). So Bob’s moved out of home, leaving Mo to narrate the story.

So. As regular readers of the series will recall, things are getting close to the condition known as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, which is pretty much what HP Lovecraft was talking about (stars are right, things from the Dungeon Dimensions[1] return, Bad Things happen, etc). And as a result of this, some people are, well, getting, umm, superpowers. And people being people, this results in some people doing Very Bad Things. Worse still, some of them wear lycra while doing their particular Bad Things.

So, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to her, Mo is appointed to head up a new organisation to deal with the Superpower Menace. Working with Jim Grey, a police liaison officer, who has a power or two of his own, she has to set up a team to recruit suitably well-behaved, err, superheroes and combat supervillains.

Things are complicated by the presence of Bob’s ex Mhari (who we mustn’t call a vampire) and another old friend.

And much fun follows. Missions go Badly Wrong. There’s a mysterious supervillain  who seems to be running rings around Mo and her team, and her violin is getting more demanding (doing the best Feeeeeeeed Meeeeee routine since Audrey 2).

But never mind. Mo’s getting on well with Jim, who manages to get tickets for the Last Night of the Proms. Won’t that be nice? Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, well. No. In a unprecedented change to the programme, Mo finds herself compelled to play a rather unusual piece on Lecter…

And that’s all I’m telling you. Fun, frolics, and really nasty things are involved. And it’s the usual level of enormous fun. If you’re wondering about Bob, he does make a few guest appearances, but this one really is Mo’s story, and we get to know her a lot better. And her own superpower is developing nicely.

As with previous books in the series, the only significant problem is that there’s not enough of it, and it’ll probably be another year (or more!!) before the next one.

Good stuff, totally recommended. And if you haven’t read the previous books in the series, there’s a list on my Charlie Stross page.

[1] Yes, Charlie does use Terry Pratchett’s expression there

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