Charles Stross – The Fuller Memorandum

Bob Howard is an IT specialist and field agent for The Laundry, the branch of Her Majesty’s Secret Service that deals with occult threats.

Overworked and underpaid, Bob is used to his two jobs overflowing from a strict 9 to 5 and, since his wife Mo has a very similar job description, he understands that work will sometimes follow her home, too. But when ‘work’ involves zombie assassins and minions of a mad god’s cult, he realises things are spinning out of control.

When a top secret dossier goes missing and his boss Angleton is implicated, Bob must contend with suspiciously helpful Russian intelligence operatives and an unscrupulous apocalyptic cult before confronting the decades-old secret that lies at the heart of The Laundry: what is so important about the missing Fuller Memorandum?

And why are all the people who know dying…?

I won The Fuller Memorandum in one of Graeme‘s giveaways last July. It’s not typically the sort of book I’d pick up in the store, but it seemed like such rollicking fun I had to enter. And in this case listening to my instincts was definitely a good idea. I had a blast reading this book!

The book is hard to classify; is it Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Urban Science Fiction or as is suggested in the blurb on the front cover of the book is it a Lovecraftian Spy Thriller? Even after reading the book I’m hard pressed to say. I’d say it’s Urban something because of the setting, but since I haven’t read any Lovecraft I can’t say whether Lovecraftian spy thriller isn’t an apter description. It has an undeniably¬†high spy level though. When Bob sits down with Panin for a pint and a civilised little chat, it’s classic spy and I kept expecting them to suddenly whip into action all James Bond-like. But it’s spy mixed with the paranormal, which we see on the first job Bob goes on in the book. At this job his PDA gets fried in a thaumathurgical mishap and this led to the scene which had me laughing out loud at the book for the first of many times, the buying of the Jesus Phone.

Because make no mistake the book is hilarious; it had me laughing out loud, reading passages to my husband and itching to get back to it whenever I had to put the book down. The references are fab, there are a lot of allusions to well-known modern day phenomena, such as the book Bob reads on the train “a novel about a private magician for hire in Chicago” (sound familiar anyone?) or the new iPhone Bob buys to replace his PDA. That scene where he goes and buys the iPhone had me in stitches. As someone who really wants an iPhone next time I need a new mobile phone, I completely understood the lure of the Jesus Phone as Bob put it. I loved the fact that Stross attributed the lure of the iPhone to it being designed by an intuitive magician who put a glamour on it.

The Dutch references in the book made me laugh too. I especially loved the bit where Bob has a meeting and one of the attendees is called Franz Gustaffson, who is presented as the representative for the Dutch Intelligence Service, AIVD. Right at the point where I was getting grumbly about such an obviously non-Dutch name for a Dutchie, Bob throws out a line about his dad being Danish, hence the weird name. And I seriously loved that. No one else might appreciate that but a fellow Dutch person, but I loved the Dutch elements in the book.

There were some typically British things that had me puzzled¬† a little such as the ESB that Bob drinks in the pub. I actually had to Google that to find out that it was Extra Special Bitter! In fact the language and atmosphere of The Fuller Memorandum exudes Britishness, which would seem obvious for a novel set in London, but often in novels set in the ‘real’ world, the only thing that places it in a particular location is the fact we’re told it takes place there. Not this book though and I really appreciated that.

I chose the following as my favourite line of the book, because a) I live with a D&D geek (and I used to be one myself) and b) that would so be me if I had to go buy a phone right now!

Bob loses saving throw vs. shiny with a penalty of -5. Bob takes 2d8 damage to the credit card — just how much did it cost?

Starting out as a fun and interesting read, The Fuller Memorandum ends up a real page turner. I couldn’t put it down for roughly the last third of the book. I loved the rollercoaster ride to the ending; the twists and turns kept me reading and the ending was both satisfying and frustrating as it left me wanting to read more about The Laundry. While Stross plans on writing more Laundry novels, no date for those has been set, so until then I’ll have to be satisfied with reading the first two Laundry books, The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue and the two short stories that were published on Tor.com.

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