RogerBW's Blog

The Fuller Memorandum, Charles Stross 31 March 2016

2010 modern occult secret service, third in the Laundry Files series. Bob Howard becomes entangled in a cultist plot to steal the Eater of Souls.

Disclaimer: I read a late draft of this book, sent in some factual corrections that weren't used, and haven't been asked to do it again.

This is the Anthony Price homage, or so I'm told; I read a few of Price's books many years ago, and they left no lasting impression on me apart from a vague desire not to read any more of them.

There's rather less deliberate confusion this time out: after a very slow start involving a major foul-up on Bob's part, in the second half of the book at least he knows he's being dangled round London as bait for the cultists (and the Russians who also get involved). His own bureaucracy is still being an active obstruction to his work, and he's still prone to go off for paragraphs at a time about computational demonology.

Once things really get moving, there's a decent story to be told, though in the end very little is actually resolved; we find out more about Bob's boss Angleton, and yet another of Bob's superiors turns out to be a bad guy, but all the significant pieces are in pretty much the same place at the end of the book as they were at the beginning.

The characters do start to develop a bit, and that's encouraging. The style is definitely starting to shift here, if you look past the pastiches of other writers: there's much less stuff happening and much more talking about stuff happening. It's a distinct change in approach, and that's better than getting bored with one's series, but with all the mental breakdowns and various dark places people get into it's also a substantial change in tone from the muddling-through approach of the earlier books.

Even on re-read, this doesn't really seem to have a great deal to say. Yes, the Necropolis Railway is neat, but you need to do something with it not just name-drop it. Followed by The Apocalypse Codex.

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  1. Posted by Michael Cule at 11:50am on 31 March 2016

    I read all the Anthony Price stuff and enjoyed it and.. well, it hadn't really struck me that this book was supposed to be a pastiche of them. Yes, there's the exploration of a 'historical mystery' and the development of backstory but it's so much more interesting in Price than it is here.

    What is interesting is some of the characterisation: I particularly like the Hooray Henry cultists and their disdain for Bob as 'a civil servant who, of course, shops at Tesco' and Bob's messy revenge on them.

    I note that this is the start of transforming Bob from the downtrodden IT nerd who muddles through as best he can into a Power In The Land. In a way this is as daft as the fanfic I keep reading (don't ask) which makes Xander-the-Everyman into Super-Xander.

    I felt that the series went a bit off the rails in the last release (the superhero one which you'll get to eventually) and perhaps that is the start of that but I'm still enjoying it and hoping he'll get it back on line soon.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 11:58am on 31 March 2016

    Yeah, the cultists work reasonably well, though the combination of dilettantes and painfully-acquired knowledge doesn't entirely mesh.

    I've already reviewed the latest two books – see the "All book reviews" page, link at bottom right. I went back to fill in the series and try to work out where it had lost me. Answer: not quite yet.

  3. Posted by Owen Smith at 05:36pm on 31 March 2016

    Unlike Roger, this is the book in the series that lost me. I haven't read any more, and for a while this book was propping up my broadband router (which seems strangley appropriate).

  4. Posted by Owen Smith at 05:52pm on 31 March 2016

    I was once asked to proof read a late draft of a book about twenty years ago to provide corrections on any mistakes in the computer stuff. I supplied plenty, none were used. I was pretty unhappy about it given it had been difficult to find the time. Why do people bother to ask for proof reads and then not use any of the feedback?

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