In his third Laundry novel, Charles Stross performs an interesting piece of magic. He provides enough clues to allow the reader to accurately guess coming surprises about five-to-ten pages in advance, repeatedly throughout a 300-page book. When the actual details are revealed, it is done gracefully enough that a lazy reader won’t feel too stupid for not figuring it out. But it’s impressive how well the author caters to an attentive reader’s enjoyment of “figuring it out” before the protagonist did, even if the protagonist is also the narrator with informed hindsight (thus justifying the presence and noticeability of the clues). I’m not a routine reader of mystery novels, but it seems to me that this book should be satisfying for those who are—if they can stomach the elements of other genres, that is.
The other genres are Lovecraftian weird fiction, cyberpunk sf, “rational fantasy,” and espionage thriller. The hero “Bob Howard” (not his real name, of course) is a sort of glamorized “everygeek” working in Her Majesty’s Occult Service. In the course of this book, we get his usual droll assessments of civil service and managerial culture. We also get to seem him buy a new iPhone and tangle with cannibalistic death-cultists.
The two earlier Laundry books were each homages to a luminary of the espionage fiction genre: The Atrocity Archives to Len Deighton, and The Jennifer Morgue to Ian Fleming. They also included essays by Stross in which he discussed some literary underpinnings of “Bob’s” latest adventures. I was a little disappointed that this book has no such essay. It’s also just a single novel, without an additional novella or short story, as was the case for the earlier volumes. (The Wikipedia entry suggests that The Fuller Memorandum is a riff on Anthony Price’s Dr David Audley/Colonel Jack Butler series, while another reviewer indicates Adam Hall’s Quiller books. Having read neither of these, I don’t have an opinion on the matter.)
MINOR BUT IRRESISTABLE PLOT SPOILER: For the well-read Thelemites and historians of twentieth-century occultism out there, the “Fuller” of the title is that Fuller, as revealed in pages 87-90. And since he’s in the title, you know he’s significant to the story. I read this book pretty hot on the heels of Spence’s Secret Agent 666, and Stross’s imaginative fiction meshes just fine with Spence’s speculative fact. [via]
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