The Jennifer Morgue

OK, you monkeys, let's get back on this book reviewing train. I had the stack of books-to-review down to one, but it's crept back up to three. Unacceptable.

Today's book is The Jennifer Morgue, by Charles Stross. This is the sequel to The Atrocity Archives, which I reviewed previously. I'll follow my usual protocol of not spoiling anything in TJM, but I won't worry overmuch about spoiling the first book. I don't think I'll need to much, but I also write these on the fly with minimal editing so who knows?

To quickly recap: these stories tell the adventures of Bob, who works in the Laundry. In this universe advanced math can open portals to alternate dimensions and nasty Things-Man-Was-Not-Meant-To-Know lurk there. So any computer geek with too much free time can start playing around with math that will end the universe. The Laundry is the secret British organization that is dedicated to making sure that doesn't happen. But it's also a government bureaucracy and that means that Bob also has to worry about paper clip audits, and arguing with HR about needing a new computer and so forth.

At a stylistic level, the first book was the juxtaposition of Len Deighton and H.P. Lovecraft, whereas the second keeps the Lovecraft but replaces Deighton with James Bond. I wondered how this was going to work, and the truthful answer is that I don't think it does completely. Parodying Bond is straightforward, but Bob is a well-established character and he's not Bond. Nor is he a Bond parody, or does he even think he's James Bond. The answer ends up being a little clunky - it's actually explicitly handled in the text. That is to say, there's an actual plot explaining why Bob is going to become James Bond. There's a twist to it, but to be honest it's a twist that I thought was telegraphed ahead of time.

Other than that, it's a pleasant enough book. I really enjoy the world overall. I'm not a big fan of Lovecraft, but it's certainly a DNA strand that runs through Sci-Fi these days, and the gentle mocking tone works for me. As for the demonology hacker fighting dark forces and HR at the same time . . . well what's not to like there. I enjoyed TJM, but the whole James Bond Macguffin issue means I didn't like it as much as TAA.

One thing I will note: the hardcover of TJM also includes a short story with Bob called Pimpf. Pimpf was published in Jim Baen's Universe and I really enjoyed it there. Pimpf tells the story of when Bob is working on computer gaming - specifically at the intersection of the occult and Neverwinter Nights. It's a real gem of a story, and I'm unsure whether it will be in future paperback versions of TJM. If you like the universe then you might want to at least get TJM from the local library.

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