Monday, 5 June 2017

The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross

I have missed a whole lot of books in the middle of this series. I will have to go back at some point and pick them up. I read The Atrocity Archives, enjoyed it, but hadn't gotten around to reading the book after it. Then I went to my city's library booksale in the fall, and The Apocalypse Codex was there on the table for $2 in hardcover, so what's a woman to do?  Besides, I figured these were probably okay to read out of order?

For the most part, yes. A bunch of things had clearly happened, but none of them seemed to be the sort that would interfere with me going back to read others, knowing what was to come, nor did I feel particularly at sea. We're still in the middle of bureaucracy trying to deal with Lovecraftian evils just beyond the realms we dwell in. Interestingly, this book seems to mark a shift out of the bureaucracy somewhat, and into a different gear. I'll be interested to see where the books go from here.

Bob Howard is still our main character, the computer engineer who accidentally used his tech savvy to summon something and thus attracted the attention of The Laundry, which then employed him to help make sure others didn't do the same thing. His expertise has been growing, and it sounds like he's been at a bunch more evil cultist show-downs in the intervening books.

This one, though, is run by an evil cult with its roots in Christian fundamentalism, including some extra pages in the Bible that lean a lot towards waking something that some might think is Jesus, but Bob is pretty sure is an eldritch horror from beyond waiting to munch on human beings like popcorn. But he's not alone on this trip, and in fact, he's not even the primary operative. He's sent with two deniable outside contractors - Penelope, an exceptionally well-preserved woman who is damned good at magic and espionage, and Johnny, her physically capable partner, who has his own roots in a cult that is a little too similar to the one he's investigating.

Interestingly, both books about the Laundry that I've read have had long swathes happen outside the U.K. - and this one starts in England, but quickly shifts to the U.S., and more specifically, Denver, after a new megachurch and its star pastor were getting uncomfortably close to the British Prime Minister. Hence the Laundry investigating - and the U.S. version of the Laundry, which seems a even more sketchy than the one we've gotten to know, is not impressed.

So, there are monsters that replace your tongue, truly horrific revelations regarding pregnancy, a church that makes true believers in rather unorthodox ways, and Bob, who is trying to be a decent human as well as a good operative, delaying the inevitable doom of the world. And that's an interesting point - Bob's far past the point where he thinks he can save the world. He seems to know it's doomed - but there's no reason to hasten the end, and a lot of reason to try to put it off.

This was an entertaining delve back into this world, and I quite enjoyed it. And I also didn't feel particularly handicapped by not having read the intervening books.

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