My reading for the past few months has been somewhat sporadic. I’ve kept up with my comics and graphic novels but have had little time to dedicate to my passion for science fiction and fantasy. I have been making an effort to carve out more time for reading and have recently finished The Apocalypse codex by Charles Stross.
I have spoken about Stross’ Laundry files here before. This newest addition to the series only further cements my love of this world and cast of characters. He blends lovecraftian mythos, spy thrillers, and office comedy into a captivating story that never loses site of the humanity of the characters.
The Apocalypse Codex continues the story of Bob Howard, computational demonologist. The story opens as Bob is recovering from an operation that has gone bad. Stross feeds us the story through Bob’s memoirs and the reports of the other people involved in the event. Bob is on the fast track for promotion and has been assigned to External Assets. This is the department that handles jobs that would be embarrassing to Queen and Country but are outside the purview of the Laundry. Bob is given responsibility to oversee Persephone Hazard and Johnny McTavish as they investigate the evangelical american preacher Ray Schiller. The assignment is a test for Bob on many levels and we get to see how he reacts as everything goes pear shaped.
The thing that I love the most about this series and this book in particular is that Bob is not a stagnant character. In each book we get to watch him grow into a deeper and more believable person. This books shines the spotlight on this through his interactions with his wife, Mo. We get to hear about their daily life as a couple and how it is impacted by the difficult jobs that they both do. The part where they hold each other when the nightmares are gruesome is particularly poignant. We also get to see the lighter side of their lives as well when they have another married couple over for dinner and they struggle to skirt around just exactly what they do and stay within their cover stories. These vignettes aren’t throw away filler either and are called back to throughout the story. This touch of humanity is not something that is only applied to the protagonists of the story. Ray Schiller is no maniacal Bond villain. The goal that he is trying to accomplish is monstrous but it comes from motivations that are understandable given his perspective.
Stross’ love for playing with tropes is clearly in evidence here as well. I’ve mentioned how he gives Schiller motivations that are very believable. He also does not belabor the point of bashing Evangelicals any more than he does other religions in past books. His world does have a god but all he wants to do do is destroy our universe and make humanity into slaves before that happens. This may sound funny but Stross doesn’t get preachy about conservative evangelicals. Further, He juggles the trope of operations manager here as well. You get the standard operation goes bad and the manager is ordered to cut and run. Bob does his best to not leave his people out to dry. We are given further insight into this as we get to see Angleton, Bob’s boss, discuss with other agents the reasons to expect Bob to not take those orders if at all possible and why this is a good thing. Hell, we are even reminded that this loyalty to others is how he meets Mo in the first place.
The Apocalalypse Codex is a brilliant addition to the Laundry Files. We get to learn more about Bob and the Laundry itself while being taken on a wild ride in America. It makes me sad that I’ve finished this book and have to wait for the next installment.