RogerBW's Blog

The Jennifer Morgue, Charles Stross 19 March 2016

2006 modern occult secret service, second in the Laundry Files series. Bob Howard is sent to a Caribbean island to stop a billionaire from destroying the world with magic.

For me this was mostly on a level with The Concrete Jungle. It's the Ian Fleming pastiche of the series, but it owes rather more to the James Bond films than to the books; given how relentlessly sadistic the books tended to be, I can't regard that as a bad thing.

So yes, of course there's a Hot Babe, but she's an actual succubus.

"Every guy I've ever slept with died less than twenty-four hours later." It must be my expression, because a moment later she adds, defensively: "It's just a coincidence! I didn't kill them. Well, most of them."

It turns out that the only way to break through the dubious enchantments set up by the villain is to follow the pattern of a Bond film plot, but of course Bob doesn't work out what's going on, or his narrative role, until it's far too late; it feels in retrospect as though everyone else is keeping him in the dark simply for the joy of it (though in practice of course it was to prevent the reader from realising what was going on from the beginning). But it is a Bond plot, and while justifying the use of it is a great piece of authorial sleight of hand that doesn't make the basic shape of the story any less predictable. What works to generate interest, therefore, is not the core plot but the embellishments to it.

The characterisation is pretty flat, again, except for put-upon Bob himself. There are still piles of infodumping. Lovecraftian references seem to be there more for the name-drops than because they have any relevance to the plot.

And yet, as with the better pre-reboot Bond films, there's a goofy fun about the whole thing that carries me over most of the rough spots.

Most editions include Pimpf, a short story in which Bob gains an intern and nearly loses him again. Followed by The Fuller Memorandum.

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Previous in series: The Atrocity Archives | Series: Laundry Files | Next in series: Down on the Farm

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 05:06pm on 19 March 2016

    Either the copy I read didn't include Pimpf or I forgot about it.

    The thing I loved about this book is it talks about UK culture. We get US stuff rammed down our throats all the time. But this book talks about watching all the Bond films on ITV over Christmas, and counting how many bond girls there are supposed to be on average per film. I was waving my arms about cheering in the chair as I was reading that section, lovely.

  2. Posted by Mr. Insidious at 01:02am on 20 March 2016

    Jennifer Morgue is the most approachable book in the series, but Stross does hit a stride on his own universe's wackiness pretty soon. I'm ravenously awaiting the next Laundry Files book.


  3. Posted by RogerBW at 09:13am on 20 March 2016

    Mr I - glad you're still enjoying them, since for me in retrospect this was pretty much the high point of the series. Obviously I don't want Charlie to have to do the same thing again and again while getting more and more stale, but the directions in which it went weren't ones in which I was particularly interested. More reviews to come, and they're all getting filed under "all book reviews".

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