The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
The Annihilation Score: Hugo Award-winning author Charles Stross presents the next case in The Laundry Files, a weirdly alluring blend of super-spy thriller, deadpan comic fantasy, and Lovecraftian horror” (Kirkus Reviews).
Dominique O’Brien—her friends call her Mo—lives a curious double life with her husband, Bob Howard. To the average civilian, they’re boring middle-aged civil servants. But within the labyrinthian secret circles of Her Majesty’s government, they’re operatives working for the nation’s occult security service known as the Laundry, charged with defending Britain against dark supernatural forces threatening humanity.
Mo’s latest assignment is assisting the police in containing an unusual outbreak: ordinary citizens suddenly imbued with extraordinary abilities of the super-powered kind. Unfortunately these people prefer playing super-pranks instead of super-heroics. The Mayor of London being levitated by a dumpy man in Trafalgar Square would normally be a source of shared amusement for Mo and Bob, but they’re currently separated because something’s come between them—something evil.
An antique violin, an Erich Zann original, made of human white bone, was designed to produce music capable of slaughtering demons. Mo is the custodian of this unholy instrument. It invades her dreams and yearns for the blood of her colleagues—and her husband. And despite Mo’s proficiency as a world class violinist, it cannot be controlled…
A bizarre yet effective yoking of the spy and horror genres. – The Washington Post Book World
A bravura display of intelligent action and real human characters amid eldritch menaces.”
—S. M. Stirling, New York Times bestselling author of The Desert and the Blade
A terrific pull-no-punches paranormal espionage thriller. – Alternative Worlds
Charles Stross, born in 1964, is a full-time science fiction writer. The author of seven Hugo-nominated novels and winner of three Hugo Awards for best novella, Stross has had his work translated into more than twelve languages. He has worked as a pharmacist, software developer, and tech-industry journalist.
Review By Terence Tidler on July 12, 2015
I was very much looking forward to the next instalment of the Laundry Files, because a) it is LF; b) it would from Mo’s PoV (after reading several dozen times about how unreliable Bob is as a narrator; and c) I wanted to see how would the author apply his wonderful wit and imagination to superheroes. As the review’s title noes, I was disappointed on all counts.
To me, what makes the entire series so interesting–and separates LF from the dozens of other paranormal series is its basic premise: high level computing equals high level magic. Yet in this instalment, smart phones are used for texting, computers for emailing, and all the magic comes from inherent abilities. Just like every other paranormal series. Strike 1.
Secondly, increasing the pleasure of reading the series for me is the author’s Dilbertian commentary on bureaucracy, garnished with highlights of the uniqueness of the British system. Yet in this instalment, witty insights and wry commentary are entirely lacking. Worse, he left in–and in fact increased–the actual bureaucratic activities going on. The book is filled with–and yes, it is nothing but filler–accounts of many meetings, the logistical trials of starting up a new directorate, and more meetings. Strike 2.
Next is Mo. Instead of a competent operative full of agency, we get a cliché from a half century ago. A women envious of the looks of a younger woman, of the clothes of a richer woman, jealous of her husband’s ex’s (from a decade ago, before they were married), concerned about her clothes and approaching middle-age spread, who deals with the stress of her job by…having a good cry. A single moment of competency at the very end of the book does not, for me, make up for how she was portrayed during the rest of it. Strike 3 and you are out (yes I am an American).
Lastly, making things even worse, the book does absolutely nothing to advance the arc of the series. It occurs in its own little bubble universe, where the devastating conclusion to the previous book seems to just be a plot device to justify getting Bob out of the way and making Mo start up a new office in a different location.
As far as the overall series arc goes, the author could have skipped this novel completely, and covered it all by one sentence in his next effort: “Mo no longer carries the violin, and has been promoted.”
I hope he does better on the next one.
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