Monday, December 10, 2012

The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross review

    I really hated this book.

    This is the case of fandom getting in the way of a good story because I loved The Atrocity Archives  and I love Weird Espionage. In this case, the book is one long satire of James Bond and you'd think I'd love that, except for the small problem that the book is about mocking James Bond while I'm a huge James Bond fan.

    I laughed precisely twice during the entirety of the book. The first time was a joke about having a James Bond-esque souped up...Smart Car. That, my friends, is funny. It's not funny when the main villain wears a neru jacket and has a cat for reasons that are explained but don't really mean anything other than, "it's like Bond, ha-ha, isn't that silly!"

Much like Harry Dresden's Beetle, this is an inherently funny vehicle.
    Except, we're supposed to take the plot of a Lovecraftian monster buried in the middle of the ocean seriously. I find it difficult to go with the idea H.P. Lovecraft is "serious business" while James Bond is worthy of derision. H.P. Lovecraft was a guy scared of seafood and man's pointlessness in the universe. I love the guy's writing but it's Pulpish and fun. So is Bond. It's not a mental leap I'm willing to make to say one is good and the other is bad which, unfortunately, is the heart of the book. Stross isn't even making good-natured goofy parody of Bond like Austin Powers, he's beating the readers over the head with how stupid he thinks Bond is.

At least, that's the way it comes off to me.

    The Jennifer Morgue's premise is the aforementioned Lovecraftian monster has been found by the U.S. Navy who can't get to it because the Deep Ones don't want them to. Our hero, Bob Howard, is sent to deal with a person who may be involved in an attempt to recover them. Assisting him is Ramona Random, a sexy skilled American agent who is everything Bob is not. This should be a winning formula but it...isn't.

    I confess a large part of my distaste for this book may well be the the fact I'm fond of Ian Fleming's ideas (racism and misogyny aside) and every time Bob highlights how unlike Bond he is, it slows the pacing down to a crawl. It was implicit in the first book he was a different sort of secret agent from James Bond but this book needs to spell it out repeatedly.

     I've heard mixed reviews about this book but, basically, either you'll find the tone of the book humorous and light in the first ten pages or you won't. If you don't, the entire book will become one long boring exercise in tedium.

    I will say, however, I may be shooting myself in the foot because I actually found the exact same joke I made in one of my book manuscripts in this volume. I won't say which joke it is, but it's very embarrassing, especially as I'm going to give the book an extremely low score. I still laughed but this just made me more annoyed with the work as a whole.

    I'm searching for something to recommend the book but, frankly, I am not fond of the way the plot developed. As a fan of H.P Lovecraft, spies, and off-beat humor I should love this but nothing is worse than a fan who feels slighted. I grew up with the James Bond series and, yes, they're ridiculous but no more than Fish-People trying to take over the world.

    Charles Stross can write really well, it's just this time it felt like he was phoning it in and the subject matter was one that was way too close to home for me to enjoy. I can't imagine I'm going to be particularly pleased with The Fuller Memorandum since it tackles religion and I'm a devout Christian while Charles Stross is a militant atheist. So, well, I'll give this book series one more try before I drop it.

    Maybe it was just an off-volume.


Buy at

No comments:

Post a Comment