The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Taking Out The Laundry

Posted on | September 5, 2017 | No Comments

— by Wombat-socho

Welcome to another all-too-infrequent book post at The Other McCain. As you might have guessed from the post title, this post is mostly going to be about Charles Stross’ Laundry novels, which are about the adventures of “Bob Howard”, a rising star in the British agency tasked with defending Her Majesty’s realms against occult and extradimensional threats. An obscure survival of the Second World War’s Special Operations Executive, the Laundry is forever contending with not just horrors from beyond time and space, but the bureaucratic regulations afflicting the civil servants of Her Majesty’s Government, and as Bob rises in rank, it seems that he’s been spending almost as much time fighting the waves of paperwork as he has been dealing with things like the Sleeper in the Pyramid.

With The Rhesus Chart, Stross takes the focus off Howard and also stops writing pastiches of famous British spy novels, and in my arrogant opinion, the next four Laundry novels are a lot better for it. Most of the focus of The Rhesus Chart is on Bob’s former girlfriend Mhari and the unfortunate mathematical discovery that puts her and her (surviving) fellow bankers on the Laundry’s org chart, to say nothing of a duel that has lethal consequences for quite a few Laundry staffers we’ve come to know. This is followed by The Annihilation Score, wherein Bob has to pick up the workload of a certain Deputy Senior Secretary (or is it Deeply Scary Sorcerer?) and is mostly out of the picture; the protagonist of The Annihilation Score is his now-estranged wife and Laundry comrade Dr. Dominique (“Mo”) O’Brien, keeper of a certain very lethal violin – and new head of an office tasked with dealing with a sudden increase in superheroes (and supervillians) in England’s green and pleasant land. Just to add to her stress levels, the aforementioned Mhari is assigned as her executive assistant, and Ramona Random (formerly of the U.S. Black Chamber, last seen in The Jennifer Morgue), shows up as her liaison to the Deep Ones, and as if all that weren’t enough, her violin seems to be developing a nasty habit of showing up in her dreams…

Which brings us to The Nightmare Stacks. The Laundry’s senior staff has been decimated, their headquarters destroyed, and so it falls to new recruits Alex Schwartz and Dr. Peter Russell, D. Theology (the latter guiltily worrying about his parish while he’s on Laundry duty) to scope out a new location in Leeds, which unfortunately for poor Alex, is his hometown that he’s been avoiding like the plague. Little does he know that he’s about to meet a girl who finds his condition fascinating, because she’s not from around here…and from “around here”, I mean Earth. Great for Alex. Not so great for Leeds. Everything comes to a head in the latest book, The Delirium Brief, and we’re reunited with all our favorite characters from the previous books (to say nothing of a few villains) as the unthinkable happens – having survived PLAN RED RABBIT, Her Majesty’s Government needs a scapegoat, and what better way to sweep everything under the rug than by firing everyone at the Laundry and privatising the remains? Unfortunately, the PM and his crew haven’t realized that the Laundry is responsible to a higher authority, and with people like Bob, Mo, Mhari, Alex, Cassie, and the legendary BASHFUL INCENDIARY against them, HMG has definitely bitten off more than they can chew.

All in all, I like the last four Laundry novels a lot. They’re very different than the first four, and while they’re operating in the same urban fantasy space as Delta Green, the Dresden Files, and the Monster Hunter International series, having them set in the UK instead of the US gives them a very different flavor, quite aside from the middle-aged punk aesthetic that helps bring Bob and Mo together. Very much worth reading, all of them.

Also on my Kindle was Mark Wandrey’s Cartwright’s Cavaliers, a coming-of-age novel in which the protagonist has to rebuild the legendary mercenary company is mother drove into the ground. Fortunately, young Jim Cartwright has a few friends with some old but useful hardware, and with a little guts, a little moxie, and a lot of luck, he just might make a go of things. Nominated for a Dragon Award this year, and definitely recommended.

Also also, The LawDog Files comes recommended by The International Lord Of Hate himself, and rightly so, because this collection of tales about enforcing the law in the West Texas town of Bugscuffle is full of weirdness and hilarity, including the famous Case of the Pink Gorilla Suit. Well worth your time if borrowed through Kindle Unlimited or your money if you buy it straight up.


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