The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I may be a card-toting fan of Charlie, here, but I know this novel deserves a ton of praise despite my bias. For one, he actually shifts from Bob Howard's character to Mo, his smarter, more competent half, and does it so well that even an ex-angry-white-boy like myself can feel like she feels GENUINE. That may be very hard or very easy, considering that I'm actually rather hard on books in my heart, while often giving them a pass in the final analysis, or the fact that I am, indeed, still only a boy and have never been a girl.
That being said, Mo struggled like hell against all the pigeonholing that everyone tried to slap on her, and I loved every single second of it. I haven't rooted for a character this deeply in a while. And this might sound a bit like blasphemy, but I'm having a very hard time deciding whether I love her more than Bob. It's that seminal question old Heinlein fans had to ask... after traveling with Lazzy so long, did you find yourself preferring his mom in To Sail Beyond the Sunset?
Okay, maybe that might be too obscure, and we're actually talking about marital strife, not child-dynamics, but still.
I've very much enjoyed Bob's hyperbole, SO dry humor, the shifting horrors of bureaucracy treading while surrounded with lovecraftian nightmares. He is a hapless programmer who eventually became The Eater Of Souls and therefore is a FORCE, especially after the previous novel did everything in its power to crush the Laundry and managed to kill off a lot of good friends in the process, leaving him in the possession *ha, get it?* of 80 years of secrets.
But now comes Domonique, his wife, catching him in a horribly compromising situation, and her own pet demon in the guise of a violin made of bone and eldritch horror decides its time to take vengeance on her man for what appears to be infidelity (it isn't) with a vampire (damn those running for your life circumstances), and Bob's little counterargument by way of tiny glowing worms in his eyes.
I understand why their marriage is breaking down. Truly. But it makes me so sad. Neither of them wanted what eventually happened. It's not like Bob actually wanted to be able to become the most powerful necromancer in the world, able to rip an entire population of other-dimensional horrors out of the heads of a roomful of civil servants; and besides, the paperwork is a real killer.
All this, mind you is merely a setup for the novel that actually came to us. It's like Charlie decided to put his incredibly facile brain to the task of treating the whole vampire phenomenon to a huge dose of this universe in the previous book, and found itself unable to cope, and then decided to do the same thing to the superhero phenomenon in this one.
And again, NOTHING can survive the bureaucratic mangler.
I loved it. I haven't been forced to read this slowly, for such obvious and prolonged sessions of pleasure and horror, in a long time.
These books are funny. They're funny in how they've completely twisted my view of popular culture. The superhero angle was absolutely not derivative. Their origin story is closely tied to the oncoming shitstorm of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, the invasion of all the dungeon dimensions onto the earth, and the invasion is only masking itself as popular belief systems. Dreams and hopes. So when superheroes start popping up all over the place, so do the supervillains.
The only way to combat such a nightmare is by using Upper-Middle Management to put together a task force to train and retain new superpowers, transform people in Pervert Suits into Law Abiding Constables, and put a civilized lid on the whole mess. Screw you, Xavier. This is a job for Home Office.
So delicious, and SO dry. :)
I could go on and on about this novel, but I'll stop here. There's a reason this has become one of my absolute top SF/Horror/Humor series, ever, and I can feel the waves of struggle underneath to turn it into something deep and serious, besides. I love Mo.
The whole novel just screams of a downhill slide with truly horrific consequences, and it delivered with prejudice. Hugely entertaining. Heads and above the competition, although, to be honest, I know of NO AUTHOR that fits this mold. Believe me, I've been looking for others that can pull off something like this, and yet, I've never seen anyone that has been able to do THIS.
Dare I say it? I keep looking and looking, and I'm not exactly unread. Dare I say that this series is UNIQUE?
Uniquely good, even, and rising to new heights. I liked the previous novel, but I positively loved this one. :)
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