RogerBW's Blog

Down on the Farm, Charles Stross 23 March 2016

2008 modern occult secret service novelette, between The Jennifer Morgue and The Fuller Memorandum in the Laundry Files series. Bob visits the asylum where broken Laundry agents go; all, unsurprisingly, is not well.

This means there's an awful lot of atmospheric setup, and relatively little conclusion. The setup turns out to be setup for Bob too, as it was mostly a lure to get him to come and investigate, but the atmosphere of a facility full of people who've been damaged by magic is well drawn. I didn't find the clockwork automata entirely convincing, since they felt rather out of genre, but they're a pleasingly baroque touch nonetheless.

Playing around with the order of the narrative, delaying the reader's knowledge of information Bob has had from the point he turned up at the asylum (and with the plot turning on a point that Bob knows all about but has never bothered to mention in the narrative), is rather more blatantly synthetic. What the long-term residents are really up to is rather more interesting, and I'd have preferred more of this and less of the main story. Many of the characters could have been much better served by the space available in a full novel.

Freely available at tor.com.

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  1. Posted by Michael Cule at 11:48am on 23 March 2016

    Well the whole thing is a very geeky joke but yes the inner secret of the St Hilda's Home for the Confused is something that Stross should come back to if he ever writes the Big Blow Off and tells us what happens when Case Nightmare Green eventuates.

  2. Posted by Owen Smith at 02:27pm on 23 March 2016

    Stross changes his mind about aspects of Case Nightmare Green in every laundry novel. So he's unlikely to have it happen, because then he can't keep changing it (and claim that was the truth all along for spurious reasons).

  3. Posted by RogerBW at 02:39pm on 23 March 2016

    I don't know about every, but it's explicitly redefined in Overtime (two book reviews down the stack, to be posted probably next week some time).

  4. Posted by Chris Bell at 06:19pm on 23 March 2016

    Maybe he listens to The Archers. The members of their production team at the moment seem entirely happy to re-write back-stories (and long-established characters, and the number of rooms in a house, and so on) whenever it suits them or their latest sensational plot.

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