Equoid, a Laundry Novella, by Charles Stross (Hugo Nom)
Posted July 26, 2014on:
If you’ve enjoyed any of Stross’s Laundry novels, you’re sure to get a kick out of this novella. Oh, you haven’t read any of his Laundry novels? In that case you might feel a little lost (until of course, Bob gives you some background. Then you’ll be fine). Also, you are missing out on some hella fun novels. Here’s the gist of the world: The right mathematical equations call up Cthonic horrors from the deep, and a British secret agency exists to make sure that doesn’t happen. Bob Howard is an involuntary agent for the Laundry (because really, does anyone have a childhood dream of growing up to face unspeakable soul destroying horrors?), and even after years on the job he still gets the shit work.
One thing I love about the Laundry novels is the narrative voice. It’s what I’ve come to call “The Stross Sentence”, where many passages start out completely normal, but conclude in a sotto voce that’s purposely scathingly sarcastic. I’m that reader who just can’t get enough of that.
So anyway, the novella. It’s about unicorns. And H.P. Lovecraft’s previously unpublished rambling letters that prove (again) just how dangerous a little bit of knowledge can be. Bob’s newest assignment takes him out to a muck filled country horse breeding farm, where he’s to investigate some kind of animal health issue? Something involving a, erm, infestation?
Infestation indeed, and these are not the unicorns of kiddie cartoons. For once, Lovecraft knew what he was talking about, because he’d stood right in front of one, and somehow lived to tell about it. Bob gets out to the farm, and while his fixer seems to be on the level, everyone else is acting decidedly odd, but Bob can’t quite put his finger on what’s going on out here. As he reads through more of Lovecraft’s letters and diary entries, Bob begins to put the pieces together, and wonders if it’s not too late to call for back up. Besides, it’s just a farm. Out in the middle of nowhere. What could possibly go wrong?
Equoid is fast paced, strongly written, darkly funny, and made me laugh out loud more than once while reading it. It’s not a comedy by any stretch of the imagination, but the way everyone plays it like this kind of stuff happens everyday struck me as hilarious. Especially when I knew something horrific and disgusting and squicky was going to happen any moment now. Even when it got creeptastically disgusting. Even when I couldn’t stop biting my nails because I was pretty sure Bob wasn’t going to make it. Even when I identified the “bad guy” before Bob did. I mean, it was pretty obvious, wasn’t it?
This is one of my favorite novellas in the group because this is the type of thing I really enjoy reading. Gallows humor, snarky characters, ridiculous weapons, the cross section of mathematics and creatures from another dimension who expect us to worship them. Reading “Equoid” made me want to pull my Laundry novels down off the shelf and reread them, and if that’s not a ringing endorsement I don’t know what is.
And come on, don’t you want to know where baby unicorns come from? To hear little Hetty tell it, when a mommy horse and a daddy love each other very much. . .