August 6 2012

The Apocalypse Codex

The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross is the fourth book in the Laundry Files series. I just noticed that the last book, The Fuller Memorandum came out prior to my resurrecting this blog, so I haven’t actually written about these books here yet.
The Laundry Archives take place in a world pretty much like this one except that magic works. The magic being in particular, essentially access to other realms/dimensions via applied mathematics–Computational Demonology as it were. You don’t necessarily need to sacrifice a goat, you just need to do the right math (computer program). The places that are accessible via this practice are largely populated by beings that are essentially Lovecraftian horrors that would be quite pleased to munch upon your brain (and then the rest of the brains of humanity) should you make a mistake in contacting them. (So, I guess it is just like here.)
Bob Howard (the main character) stumbles upon this truth as he is performing a bit of hacking. Bob is then forcibly drafted into The Laundry, the code name for what is the secret intelligence agency for the UK that deals with this side of things. Once you find out about this part of the world you either join them or else … In the Laundry, Bob has to deal with civil service bureaucrats (almost as frightening as the Lovecraftian horrors), as he is employed performing occult tasks and UNIX system administrator sorts of things–and paperwork. Bob’s responsibilities and knowledge gradually progress through the volumes. He also goes from sharing a flat with a couple of other Laundry recruits to being married. It’s all quite a marvelous mixture of dark humor and high-tech/high magic fun. As I’ve said about other series, if you haven’t read the previous three books in this series, you really should–go and do that now.
OK, great, now that you are caught up with me, on to the The Apocalypse Codex proper. In this volume, we start with a bit of warning from Bob that things are going to be a bit different. Bob explains that as he didn’t witness everything directly that was important, he is filling us in with some third person versions (usually the tale is in first person from Bob’s point of view) created from post case reports. Everything that Bob did witness will be in his usual first person account.
The set up occurs in this case when it comes to the attention of the Laundry that a questionable American evangelist is having a meeting with the Prime Minister. It doesn’t do to directly investigate the PM, so Bob is sent to the US as a handler of a couple of outside consultants (the Duchess (a sorceress and Johnny her assistant). It soon turns out that the particular brand of fundamentalism being practiced is trying to awaken things that it really shouldn’t. In addition to a bit of skewering of American fundamentalists, Stross tweaks some American attitudes to weapons of mass destruction and intelligence gathering. I’m not going to say anything much more specific than that about what happens as that would disclose some interesting plot points.
I liked this volume quite a lot and found the ending intriguing. The next volume should be very interesting indeed as Bob takes on a new role. Highly recommended.

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Posted August 6, 2012 by user in category "Book review

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