The Fuller Memorandum (A Laundry Files Novel)
by Charles Stross
Cover Artist: Mark Fredrickson
Review by Benjamin Wald
Ace Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441018673
Date: 06 July 2010 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The Fuller Memorandum is the third novel of Charles Stross' Laundry Files series, a quirky, hilarious, and addictive series that follows the adventures of Bob Howard as he tries to save the world form interdimensional horrors using computer programming. It's equal parts H.P. Lovecraft, James Bond, and Dilbert, with brain-eating monsters, Russian spies, and ineffectual bureaucracy that threatens to derail all attempts to defeat the former two threats. The Fuller Memorandum is an excellent addition to the series, maintaining all of the strengths of the earlier novels while providing some new information about Angleton, Bob's mysterious boss, and case nightmare green, an upcoming global supernatural apocalypse that is mentioned obliquely in earlier books.
The premise of the Laundry Files series is that certain complex mathematical calculations have the power to summon and influence beings from other dimensions. These beings are loosely based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, so expect tentacles, sanity-blasting horror, and demonic possession. Sorcerers of earlier ages had to do these calculations by hand or in their heads, but with the invention of the computer, all that has changed. Computers are used to do mathematical calculations very fast, and so a properly programmed computer can be used to, essentially, summon demons and do various other feats of magic.
Our hero, Bob Howard, is a computational demonologist, and he is part of a secret British government organization called the Laundry, which seeks to protect Britain and the world from incursions by extra-dimensional monsters and those crazed cultists who would try to summon them. The setting has enthralled me since I read the first book in the series, The Atrocity Archives. It's an amazing mix of horror, computer science, and occasional humor that is sure to delight fans of both science fiction and fantasy, while blurring the lines between the two.
The Fuller Memorandum continues to follow the exploits of Bob as he quickly gets mixed up with cultists, zombies, Russians and the potential end of the world. All of this centers around a secret document, the eponymous Fuller Memorandum, that has mysteriously disappeared from the archives of the Laundry. Bob doesn't know what's in it, but it relates somehow to Angleton, Bob's boss, and it's very dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands. Complicating Bob's search for the missing memorandum are hints that the theft may have been an inside job, and that not all of his co-workers can be trusted. The plot is fast moving and engaging, and Bob is a sympathetic protagonist with a unique voice that carries the story along.
You don't need to have read any of the previous laundry novels to dive into this one. Stross provides enough background to ease a new reader into the setting, and the plot is largely independent of what went before. That being said, readers who have been following the series will appreciate the development of Bob's character and his relationship to his wife, and also the new secrets that Bob discovers along the way that further flesh out the world Stross has created. This is a fun, fast-paced, thoroughly enjoyable read. I strongly recommend giving it a look.