The Nightmare Stacks

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross.

Stross The Nightmare Stacks

At the outset, the Laundry Files series by Charles Stross consisted of a latter-day mash-up of two well-defined genres: Cold War espionage and Lovecraftian weird horror. And for several volumes it continued thus. As the focus has shifted off of the original protagonist Bob Howard, elements of other genres have been introduced. For example, the vampires of more traditional gothic horror were the crux of the last book Bob narrated, The Rhesus Chart. When Bob’s wife Mo took over as the narrator for The Annihilation Score, the caped superhero genre contributed to the central plot. In this seventh book, narrator duties have passed to junior recruit Alex Schwartz, and it is the high fantasy genre that gets tapped for its oddness. A chief character in this book is in point of fact the King of Elfland’s daughter (in quiet homage to Dunsany among many others), so that Alex/Alveric’s romancing of the unearthly “princess/assassin of the Unseelie Court” sits in a rich inter-textual tradition, complete with frequent references to the works of Tolkien and a Laundry operative named the Dungeon Master (or DM).

The return of vicar Pete in a more conspicuous role was something I already expected, and it’s a neat fit somehow to make him Alex’s mentor. However, I did not imagine that Pete would turn out to be [Spoiler! Hover over to see . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .]

Despite foreshadowings regarding bureaucratic fallout, as well as family and public comeuppances, this book is entirely bereft of denouement. It gallops to the climax and then stops. I guess that’s a little more forgivable for the seventh entry in a series, inasmuch as readers can expect to get some resolution of loose ends in the now-assured further installment.

I did enjoy this one very much, laughing out loud at it repeatedly, despite the frequently macabre events described—all of which is par for the course in this series. I’m not sure how well it would hold up as a point of entry, but with the benefit of all the foregoing books, I found this one to be among my favorites so far. Like the others, the fast pace of the action makes it a compelling read, and the character chemistry was quite endearing from my perspective. [via]