Saturday, May 01, 2010

Sending Out the Wash

Charles Stross; The Atrocity Archives (Golden Gryphon; 2004; ISBN 1-930846-25-8; cover by Steve Montiglio).

Made up of: Charlie's Demons (Ken MacLeod); The Atrocity Archive; The Concrete Jungle; Afterword: Inside the Fear Factory; Glossary of Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Organizations.

Charles Stross; The Jennifer Morgue (Golden Gryphon; 2006; ISBN 1-930846-45-2; cover by Steve Montiglio).

Made up of: The Jennifer Morgue; Pimpf; Afterword: The Golden Age of Spying; Glossary of Abbreviations; Acronyms; and Organizations.

Counts as seven entries in the 2010 Year in Shorts.

Stross takes on both the spy genre and the eldritch horrors that lurk both in large governmental bureaucracies and the elder dimensions with these two collections (each made up of a longer piece and a shorter piece). Bob Howard (get it?) works for The Laundry, a secret governmental organization that has such a high security clearance that you literally sell you soul in order to join. Railing against the machinations of both limited budgets and Human Resources (a department filled with eldritch horrors if there ever was one), Bob spends his days trying to keep The Laundry's computer systems running and the odd hour (night, day, weekend, month) fighting off various horrors trying to get a foothold (tentacle hold?) into our world.

The bulk of the first book was heavily inspired by Len Deighton. Like John Le Carre, Deighton's spies tend to be a bit grittier than those of Ian Fleming. It's a fun little romp across a couple of continents and a couple of dimensions with Iraqi spies, possessed Nazis and a doomed alternate Earth tossed into the mix. The second books is heavily influenced by the James Bond end of things, more by the movies than the books (and more by the earlier movies than the most recent cycle) and includes an evil industrialist trying to take over the world, Big Machines and Sets and a doomed love interest.

The main entries are very different from each other, both in terms of style (a Deighton-style escapade vs. a Bond-style escapade) and substance (the shorter works are much lighter in tone). The series shows some creakiness, the first entry written in the "future" takes place (seemingly) not too long before the second long installment but the technology takes a much bigger jump. The sex in the first tale is about as poorly written as the sex in some of his scenes in Accelerando, they do improve for the Bond-esque tale (a Bond tale without good sex would be a shame).

Fun stuff. I hope he revisits the 'verse someday!

FTC Disclaimer: 100% purchased by me!

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