After my recent review of Casting Call of Cthulhu, I was pondering my reading within the Cthulhu mythos. I have read many of the stories by H P Lovecraft and several of those by the inheritors of his legacy. In spite of my best efforts, I was never a fan of Cthulhu. It wasn’t until I discovered the Laundry series by Charles Stross that this changed.
The Atrocity Archives is the first book in this series. This book covers much ground as it introduces; Bob Howard, the protagonist of the series, The Laundry, the agency Bob works for, and the universe in which the series takes place. the Laundry is a secret British agency set up for express purpose of protecting the empire from threats from outside of our universe. Demons, Zombies, and Elder Gods are just a few of the threats that lurk on the other side of reality which is easily accessed via complex mathematical formula. The connection to the lovecraft mythos becomes evident in the explanation of these forces. there are beings that reside in both higher and lower dimensions and see any activity from our world as an invitation. In addition to these things which we can control or bargain with, there are things that would destroy us without even noticing. This easily puts it within the mythos for me with enough of a tweak to make it interesting.
It was the spy thriller aspect that the Laundry adds to the lovecraftian milieu which initially piqued my interest. It was Bob that sealed the deal though. Bob Howard is not your normal special agent. He is a computer and math geek who almost destroyed a city by writing a new computer program. He was given the choice of joining the Laundry or dying and took the only viable option. Instead of the romanticized version of the spy world, we are given a setting that has much more in common with Office Space than James Bond. Reports have to be filed in a timely manner and expenditures need to be approved and verified with superiors. Bob has a certain dry humor that I appreciated and the level of snark with which he contemplates the others in his office is highly entertaining. Bob’s perspective on this office environment is filled with snark which I find endearing. This still being set within the cthulhu mythos means that even the petty office politics that Bob gleefully pokes fun at can quickly turn deadly. It is these little things that help to keep the tension high throughout the book.
The book follows Bob’s first foray into field work after having been kept in the office to deal with the IT issues that any governmental agency normally suffers. It highlights his complete lack of training for any of the physical stresses that he has to undergo in the pursuit of his goal while clearly showing that for the occult aspect he is clearly well prepared. The story moves quickly with a definite Len Deighton feel to it. The story careens from mutilated cows in the British country side to old Nazi bunkers on the moon which makes for an action packed story. The action is broken up by visits to the office where work is still waiting despite the harrowing missions that Bob is trying to complete. This juxtaposition of the otherworldly and the banal would not seem to fit together but Stross pulls it off and makes it look easy.
If you like spy novels, Cthulhu, or Office Space, I highly recommend giving this book at read. Abandoned Nazi moon bases! What more could you ask for?