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Book Review: The Atrocity Archives (2004)

Charlie Stross is nominated for a 2005 Hugo Award for best novel. The weekend the nominees were announced I happened to pick up The Atrocity Archives. It must be nothing like his Hugo-nominated novel, Iron Sunrise, which is a sequel to Singularity Sky, a SF space opera which was itself a 2004 Hugo nominee.

The Atrocity Archives almost beggars description. Mix some H.P. Lovecraft with some Len Deighton (Stross pays an interesting homage to both in an afterword) and some William Gibson and you start coming close. It’s a British spy agency (“The Laundry”) fighting bad guys (including Saddam Hussein and Nazis) with and against monsters, demons and similar creations from alternative universes accessed by magic generated in large part by mathematics and technology. In others words, your traditional horror cyberpunk spy novel. Actually, it’s a compilation of a short novel (the title piece) originally serialized in 2000 and 2001 and a sequel novella, The Concrete Jungle, itself nominated for a 2005 Hugo for Best Novella following its publication in this work.

Singularity Sky was an enjoyable read. The Atrocity Archives is certainly innovative and different. I don’t know that I could handle a steady diet of it, though.


[S]torytelling is a tool, and the uses to which a tool can be put often differs from — and is more interesting than — the uses for which the tool was designed.

Afterword, Charles Stross, The Atrocity Archives

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