The second book in Stross‘s Laundry Files series is part homage to Ian Fleming‘s James Bond books. It is also a comment on the modern mythology that has sprung up around the worlds best known fictional agent.
As in the first installment of the series we follow computational demonologist (not much different from sys admin work really) Bob Howard as he is faced with nameless horrors straight out of mythos and management. This time Bob is, for some reason, being equipped with tons of weird gadgets, paired up with a beautiful (if not quite human) woman, and set up against a wealthy man on a high-tech ocean vessel… there is also a cat.
It is fun, geeky, and sharp. Entertainment. But behind it hides a clever commentary on stories and legends of the modern world. How expected narrative sometimes controls our behavior. Stross’s afterword was a delight to read as well, and should not be missed.
When reviewing The Atrocity Archives I think I remarked that the Laundry-series might well become a new ‘guilty pleasure’ of mine. And so it is. I now count it together with Steven Brust‘s Taltos books and Jim Butcher‘s Dresden Files series (of which I have read the couple of first books, but not found time to write a review of; they are fun, and Dresden a protagonist simultaneously likable and annoying) as prime entertainment. However, the term ‘guilty’ is perhaps a bad choice of words. I do not mean to give the impression that I feel remorse or shame when reading Stross (or Brust, or Butcher); that I am reluctant to admit to liking it (the ‘pleasure’ part of the description is correct); or, for that matter, that the quality is questionable.
Nope. Not at all. The Laundry files are pure entertainment, and of high quality at that. The guilt is not the that of a criminal, but that of the kid ‘just having one more cookie’ from the jar he was invited to. It is such good entertainment. Like watching a good movie blockbuster. Though they are rare in this age of averaging tastes and senseless destruction.
I can switch off Bond any day, but I have a hard time putting Howard away.
So to say.