RogerBW's Blog

Equoid, Charles Stross 08 April 2016

2013 modern occult secret service novelette, between The Apocalypse Codex and The Rhesus Chart in the Laundry Files series. Bob Howard is sent to inspect a livery stables, because they're buying a worrying amount of meat.

This story is about the life cycle of the unicorn. Which is disgusting, and that's fair enough. The main narrative is interspersed with pastiche letters from H. P. Lovecraft, which among other things explain just why he was so uninterested in women…

…but this is the story where the Laundry series turns on its progenitor, painting Lovecraft's work as the gushings of a wannabe hipster that contain just enough incorrect detail to get the reader into trouble. Given how much this series has relied on name-checking Lovecraft from the beginning, it seems a perverse approach to take.

Anyway, apart from that, we have a few passing references to Cold Comfort Farm (there is indeed something nasty in the woodshed), a very brief mention of The Archers that seems to make no sense, a hint that school stories exist, and then things end where they should have started in large-scale destruction caused by the good guys before even larger-scale destruction can be managed by the bad guys. In terms of narrative structure, the setup comes about half-way through, and everyone ignores the obvious explanation until things have got nearly out of control.

The Archers and school stories could have been effectively parodied, but this is written in the modern style which regards simply mentioning something as sufficient to get the laugh.

But, you know, this story graphically depicts the mutilation, rape and murder of a thirteen-year-old girl just to show us that the monster is a bad thing.

Freely available at tor.com.

(This story won the 2014 Hugo for Best Novella.)

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

See also:
Hugo 2014: Novella


  1. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 10:08am on 09 April 2016

    The problem with power-ups.

    Reminds me of Mary Gentle's Grunts, which has one scene that goes one step too far.

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