Fifth in the Laundry Files series (The Apocalypse Codex, 2012, etc.), Stross’ stunning incarnation of magic as a branch of applied mathematics. As always, of course, the devils are in the details.
Literally, that is—since advanced computation attracts the interest of bloodthirsty entities from other realities. The British government’s countermeasure is known as the Laundry, a department so secret that anybody that stumbles upon its existence is (one way or another) silenced. Applied computational demonologist Bob Howard, whose boss is James Angleton (an Eater of Souls—and you really, really don’t want to know), has acquired some of Angleton’s occult powers. Bob’s wife, Mo O’Brien, also works for the department: She’s a combat epistemologist whose weapon is a demonic violin. Fast-tracked into management after recent successes, Bob grows suspicious when a whiz-kid team of investment bankers which calls itself the Scrum discovers an algorithm that promises to make its members billions in profits but whose unfortunate side effect (via the aforementioned hyper-reality nasties) is to turn them into vampires. (The supreme irony of this will be lost on few readers.) An added complication for Bob is that the Scrum’s ringleader, Mhari Murphy, is an ex-girlfriend. More peculiar yet, why is everybody in the Laundry convinced that vampires don’t exist? Bob’s superiors take prompt action—and form a committee. Laundry regulars by now will be familiar with Stross’ trademark sardonic, provocative, disturbing, allusion-filled narrative. And, here, with a structure strongly reminiscent of Len Deighton’s early spy novels, the tone grows markedly grimmer, with several significant casualties and tragedies, perhaps in preparation for Angleton’s feared CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.
Stross at the top of his game—which is to say, few do it better. Pounce!