Charles Stross – The Delirium Brief

Yes, we’re back in Charlie’s Laundry series, and things are getting serious. Well, they got a bit serious with the superhero stuff in The Annihilation Score, but the usual method of attributing the slight unpleasantness at the Last Night of the Proms to terrorists covered things up a bit, so that was fine. But the improvements to devastation of Leeds, multiple air disasters and a horde of what for the sake of brevity we’ll call elven warriors featured in The Nightmare Stacks were a bit too much to cover up.

And so Bob Howard (yes, Bob’s back as narrator for part of the story) is roped in to be the public face of the Laundry, and is interviewed on TV by a not even slightly disguised Jeremy Paxman. Which is a bit much, really. I mean, Eldritch Horrors, soul-stealing extra-dimensional entities and don’t be silly there’s no such thing as vampires, he can handle. But Paxo? That’s really scary.

Much to his own surprise, Bob survives his encounter, and things seem to be settling down until   things start going seriously wrong. We have the return of a previously presumed dead, or at the very least stuck in another dimension televangelist who has some ever so slightly unconventional beliefs, not to mention his own edition of the Bible with some rather odd extra books. And he’s staging a takeover of the British government, which leads to the Laundry being shut down with extreme prejudice, not to mention privatisation.

And that’s where the, err, fun really starts. In order to defeat one evil, Bob’s masters make a slightly dubious deal. Which will lead us into even more trouble…

As always, it’s hugely enjoyable page-turning (or Kindle-button-pushing) fun, as we see the return of loads of characters from the previous books, each dealing with their own part of the fight against the really nasty horrors, while in some cases being quite horrible themselves.

But it’s Bob’s narration that’s the most welcome bit – there’s something appealing about his line of geeky snark that works so well to provide a few laughs even when Seriously Bad Things are happening, and even when Bob is something of a Seriously Bad Thing himself.

It leaves me with unresolved anger issues, but those are the breaks: with great power comes a great tendency to mangle Spider-Man quotes.)

Things are definitely building to a climax – there are at least two more books to come (next month would be fine, Charlie, no rush), in which CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN will come about, the stars being right, and Ancient Wossnames will return and, err, it’ll all be a bit nasty, really.

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