I decided to give the Laundry Files series another try after being gravely disappointed with The Jennifer Morgue. I was intrigued by the possibilities of a Lovecraftian spy agency in The Atrocity Archives, particularly since I was a huge fan of Delta Green, but The Jennifer Morgue's parody of James Bond was shallow and uninteresting.
The Fuller Memorandum, by contrast, is a return to form and I appreciate it. It takes the premise of a Lovecraftian threat to the world seriously while simultaneously also keeping some of its humor. Unlike The Jennifer Morgue, the humor of the novel doesn't go overboard and remains on the right side of this-close-to-ridiculous.
The premise is Bob screws up during a routine exorcism and things go from bad to worse in his professional life. Even worse, this is occurring when there's something happening with a long-buried secret of the Laundry's organizational life.
Part of what I enjoyed about this novel is it remembers the terrifying forces the Laundry deals with are actually terrifying. The Atrocity Archives made a nice balance between humor and horror, never going too far into one area or another like The Jennifer Morgue. The humor is actually funny, too, which allows it to be enjoyed for its own sake.
The book deals with one of my favorite elements of H.P. Lovecraft's writings, specifically cultists. What does inspire a person to want to worship the Great Old Ones? The book gives the obvious answer and expands on it, horrifying Bob with its logic. It also does a nice parody of upper-class English life, highlighting the kind of secrets which can hide under seemingly respectable people with tongue-firmly-in-cheek.
I also enjoyed the story's emphasis on the 'secret history' of the world. Spy fiction depends on realistic politics or, at least, understandable ones. Here, there's nothing realistic about extra-dimensional monsters and creatures from the deep--but the books acts as if they are. I appreciated that as the incorporation of people in real-life political situations trying to use demons somehow "sells" the premise to me.
I enjoyed Bob's characterization this time around, the befuddled bureaucrat struggling with his position as well as relationship, which nicely contrasted to previous volumes. Moe also felt more "real" this time around, as opposed to the perfect fantasy girlfriend she's been portrayed as before. I even enjoyed the revelations about Bob's boss, each of them fitting with what we knew about him from before.
I can't say The Fuller Memorandum blew me away. This isn't one of those books I walked away feeling like I absolutely had to read the next story but I appreciated it. It's gotten me interested in the series again and I'm going to finish reading it. Kudos, Charles Stross, you've won me back over.
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