the Little Red Reviewer

The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross

Posted on: December 19, 2011

The Fuller Memorandum (a Laundry Novel), by Charles Stross

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it: enjoyed the previous Laundry novel, The Jennifer Morgue

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Bob Howard has a problem. it’s that he’s too good at his job. The office manager leaves him alone; his boss, Angleton, is sending him on special errands; and his wife, Mo, has started bringing work home with her. When you’re a computational demonologist, none of those can be good things.  You see, Bob works for the ultra secret British government agency called The Laundry.  Think James Bond meets Torchwood, but instead of fighting the Russians and aliens, they’re fighting the Russians and unthinkable Cthonic soul sucking horrors from another dimension. When the end comes, make sure you’re armed with a shotgun (same goes for when playing Arkham Horror, btw).

Although The Fuller Memorandum is mostly action, usually involving Bob getting the crap kicked out of him, it was the slower parts that were some of my favorites. Things like getting to know more (perhaps too much) about the mysterious Angleton.  What Mo actually does with that bone white violin (she needs her own book. period). How to jailbreak an iphone in three easy steps (step one, allow a professional hacker into your house). How to handle Russian zombies and drunken cultists, and what the British secret service really thinks about Americans.  And Bob Howard, accidental computational demonologist, armed with a jailbroken unauthorized iphone running illegal apps, better solve all these problems before his soul gets sucked out by cultists who’ve awoken something far more evil than they were expecting. The slower bits might have been all interesting, but the crazy action bits? Totally over the top frakin’ awesome.

If you’re grinning, you can skip the next paragraph, however if you’re a bit confused, quit skipping around and stop feeling bad.

Charles Stross’s Laundry series (The Atrocity Archives, The Jennifer Morgue, The Fuller Memorandum) follow Bob Howard, who works for a secret government agency known colloquially as The Laundry. These folks use math and geometry to fight Lovecraftian elder gods in an attempt to hold off the end of the universe just a few weeks longer. By the simple act of existing, humanity is wearing thin the borders between dimensions. If it wasn’t for the agents of The Laundry, the soul destroying horrors would have come through generations ago, and you wouldn’t be reading this blog. Filed under urban fantasy, Charlie Stross will spoil you rotten with his dry dialog, wicked funny infodumps (not an oxymoron, I swear!), and weapons of mass possession. Now that you’re all caught up. . .

Capping off one of the worst weeks of his life, Bob finds himself on administrative leave, a.k.a. enforced vacation. When he returns to the office, he’s been left a reading list by Angleton, but his boss is nowhere to be found.  Human Resources (not Residual Human Resources, that’s a whole ‘nother department) doesn’t even have a phone number on file for the guy. Angleton may be a BAMF, but it’s Bob’s job to find him before the cultists wake up their favorite god-like-thing.  If you pay attention, you may occasionally find yourself a step ahead of Bob in the “figuring out what the hell is going on” department. Stross does over the top technobabble meets demented creatures like nobodies business, but subtlety has never been his thing.

A quick word on the infodumps, because there are a lot of them.  The first hundred pages the infodumps pissed me off a little. they made me feel stupid. Then I had an a-ha moment: Stross is way more subtle than I give him credit for. The multi-paragraph long infodumps and all caps codewords? Just another over the top “for show” bit.  They’re totally for shits and giggles, totally for show. A casual reader isn’t going to understand them because they really don’t make any sense whatsoever. It’s part of the silliness of the whole thing.

Oh, and I probably should have mentioned it before, the Laundry books are absolutely hilarious. Wry and satirical, you’ll be laughing out loud as you bite your stay up way too late to find out what happens. Although it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, there had better be another Laundry book in the works, otherwise Mo and Stross fans the world over will be very disappointed.   The Laundry books  can probably be read as stand alones, but I do suggest starting with either Atrocity Archives, or Jennifer Morgue, as Fuller Memorandum starts in the deep end and slowly works it’s way up.

Speaking of Mo, Bob’s wife, I just adore her.  She has a violin that quite literally, destroys monsters. Part of me wants to know the story behind the violin that gives whole new meaning to “made from the soul of an orphan”, but the other part of me knows I’d have nightmares for a week if I found out the truth. Like I said, she needs her own book.

If you’re already a fan of Stross’s Laundry series, The Fuller Memorandum ought to keep you happy.  If you’re new to this wonderful world of horrific things that go bump in the night and suck out your soul through your eyeballs, hopefully I’ve caught your interest.

Note to self: next time I play Arkham Horror, start with the shotgun, and create a card called “Mo’s violin: destroys all monsters but you must take one hit of physical damage”.

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23 Responses to "The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross"

Great review – I just read this, and it’s every bit as good as you described. (I want me one of those monster-killing violins :P ) The ending was superb, although obviously no spoilers – though the Bond thing in the Jennifer Morgue surprised me more. So yeah, really looking forward to the release of the 4th book.

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Jennifer Morgue was more movie-ish action-y, where this one was a little more cerebral. and the monster killing violin? I’d totally bleed for that thing! 4th book better have more Mo.

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The Apocalypse Codex is done and submitted I believe. And it’s rather good too.

Love the ideas for Arkham Horror, will have to remember those.

– Neil.

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done and submitted? and you imply you already know it’s good?

are you like, Charlie Stross’s neighbor or something? ;)

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I was looking at this in the library recently but passed it. After reading you review I think I might get it.

You play Arkham Horror? Cool.

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I *try* to play Arkham Horror. I usually get overwhelmed by the scale of the thing about half way through. First two times I played I had a crappy character, zero sense of what I was supposed to be doing, and we had creature explosions like every other turn. and yes, we lost. Played it a few weeks ago, started off with an awesome character, and the humans won! yay! good thing that game doesn’t come with a traitor/cylon card. that would suck.

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I have only read shorter works by Charles Stross. I will have to read a novel one of these days.

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want crazy Stross? read a Laundry novel. want futuristic cyberpunk awesome? try Glasshouse or Accelerando. Want parallel universe time travel-ish sort of romance? Try Family Trade series. plenty of fun stuff to choose from!

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Huh..it sounds interesting that is for sure. I think I will need to keep an eye out for this book. I sounds like something that I might light;) Great review as always.

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thanks! :D the Laundry books are a riot, as you might have guesses. You’d really get a kick out of them!

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I was wondering why the premise sounded so familiar to me, and then I realized I read a story by Stross only a few weeks ago that takes place in the Laundry universe (“Overtime”). It was… weird, to say the least, but the briefness made it semi-enjoyable. I suspect I won’t be up for a novel-length foray into Stross’ world…

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Is Overtime the Christmas themed story? if yes, it makes much more sense if you’re already familiar with The Laundry characters. Stross has plenty of SF that’s not crazy Cthulhu stuff, and he’s got some parallel time travel stuff too.

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Will the Less Full Memorandum (a dry cleaner novel) be published soon?

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har har, very funny. ;)

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The Laundry books are awesome :D and I have heard that there is going to be a 4th one. A book on Mo though would be great.

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I love the Laundry series. Actually, everything by Stross is excellent.

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I love these books. Anything Cthonic is good with me, and Stross crossing it with a dilbert-cum-kafka bureaucracy was frankly a stroke of genius. I just want his cthulu impression to catch on (holding the back of your wrist to your chin and wiggling your fingers.)

Also, if you are at the boss fight of Arkham Horror, even a shotgun probably ‘aint gonna save you. Just sayin’…

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Have never made it to the boss fight. we made sure she didn’t wake up. :D

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I checked one of these out earlier this year but got so busy that I never got around to it. I really enjoyed Stross’ novel, Halting State, and have read half of a short fiction collection of his that is also very good. The man has some pretty good blog posts too, although the few times I’ve read them I don’t always agree. I ended up being disappointed by the raunchy taint to his HS follow up, Rule 34, and ended up ditching it early on. I don’t generally need my SF to have twisted sexual fetish stuff on page after page. If I would need that sort of thing I’d pick up Heinlein’s later novels which are at least tame enough by today’s standards that I can still pick out the story underneath rather than be distracted by vulgar detail.

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If you’re not into the raunch, then for the love of anything, don’t read his Saturn’s Children. I love sexy stories, don’t mind some vulgarities and raunchiness or even a little fetishyness, but after reading Stross’s Saturn’s Children I wanted to wash my eyes, ears and mouth out with bleach. It took a lot after that for me to pick up another Stross.

Luckily, in the Laundry books, Bob is so busy battling monsters and reprogramming history that by the time he gets home to his wife Mo, they usually fall asleep at the second glass of wine.

I think I’ve read Halting State? is it really sad that I don’t remember?

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I have yet to try Saturn’s Children, but I’ve always kind of approached it like it would be that kind of thing, almost an homage of sorts to Heinlein’s Friday. I think it was the fact that I enjoyed Halting State so much that I was unprepared for Rule 34. And I know I sound like a prude and also probably sound like the book was filled with trash, but the reality is that I didn’t read enough of it to truly judge.

After a few chapters I got sick of one character frequently justifying his sexual feelings (tell me once, I’ll remember, I don’t need to be reminded again and again) and the first murder gave me the impression that more of a similar nature were to follow and I just didn’t need it. I don’t mind “sexy” stories, I just don’t need stories where victims are tortured by strange things being shoved..well, you get the idea.

One of my favorite Heinlein novels is Time Enough for Love, which is filled with all kinds of sexual stuff that I wouldn’t claim to be a fan of, incest for one, but in the middle of all the juvenile male fantasy was a good story (or at least it grabbed hold of me when I read it).

And again, I admit that I am doing a lot of prejudging of Rule 34 since I didn’t read much of it. Heck, Halting State might have its own raunch, but since it didn’t register as the main thing happening in the story I have no recollection of it.

I guess the bottom line for me is that I don’t mind sexual things, even to the point of fetish things, if that isn’t the point of the story. I want those things to be a part of the story, not something that pulls me out of the story as if those things were dropped in merely for shock value.

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I keep meaning to read Stross’ work, how is he as a writer though? Compared to other scifi biggies?

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Compared to other SF biggies? Hard to say, as he writes Hard SF, cyberpunk, alt-history romance, and this weirdo urban punk Cthulhu stuff, and his writing feels utterly different in each subgenre. He got famous for writing cyberpunk-ish hard SF and that’s how I got hooked on him, but I think the Bob Howard books are some of the best things he’s ever written.

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