The Fuller Memorandum is the third novel in Charles Stross’ Laundry series best described as Lovecraftian spy thrillers, and “Overtime” is the most recent Laundry short story (available for free from Tor). Playing with Lovecraft’s conceit that magic is applied mathematics and the horror of the Mythos are aliens and beings from other dimensions, the books imagine a Lovecraftian world in which modern intelligence agencies established sections to protect from the occultic and eldritch horrors. The Laundry series center around the adventures of Bob Howard, a computational demonologist who was pressed into service in the British occultic agency—The Laundry—after he accidentally almost unleashed some unnamed horror while conducting graduate research. As long-time readers of this blog know, I am a great fan of Stross’ work and it was his first Bob Howard book, The Atrocity Archives, that brought him to my attention. As I expected I would, I greatly enjoyed this latest installment.
As I’m trying to more regularly blog my reading, here are some thoughts/comments on The Fuller Memorandum and “Overtime” à la Brendan.
- While The Atrocity Archives consciously draws its spy thriller elements from Len Deighton and The Jennifer Morgue draws from Ian Fleming, The Fuller Memorandum doesn’t seem to be an homage to a particular spy thriller author. I’m not widely read in spy thriller fiction, so I’d be happy to be corrected on this one.
- The absurdest tedium of civil service bureaucracy upon which The Atrocity Archives draws so much of its humor is only hinted at in this novel, which is a good thing.
- The primary villains of this story are cultists seeking to awaken the sleeper in the pyramid aka the Eater of Souls aka CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN aka Cthulhu. With cultists at the center of this novel, I think it’s got a more Lovecraftian feel than the other two novels, but that’s a pretty subjective statement, especially as the other two are very much Lovecraftian in their own ways.
- As with Stross’s other two Laundry books, there is history to this novel, this time with roots in the Russian revolution and extrapolation based upon post-Soviet espionage. The arrest of an alleged Russian spy ring in the US the week before the novel’s publication and resulting spy swap a few days after the novel was released lends a sense of immediacy to the novel.
- In setting about writing this post, I came across a short post by John Brownlee of Wired, written after the publication of The Jennifer Morgue, in which he asks, “Which raises the question: exactly what genre of fiction wouldn’t benefit from the addition of the Cthulhu Mythos?” Good question.
“Overtime” is a fun story, set over the Christmas holiday with Bob serving as Night Duty Officer tasked with staffing the office while everyone else is off enjoying the holiday. (Mo, his wife, is off seeing her mother.)
While published before The Fuller Memorandum, it’s set after the book itself. Not only does Howard carry some technology he acquires in the FM, there’s a brief reference to climatic encounter in the novel. Very much worth reading, but I’d suggest reading it after FM.