Quantum Of Nightmares (a Laundry Files novel) by Charles Stross (book review).
It has been almost two years since my last review of a Laundry Files book, ‘The Delirium Brief’. That one was number 8 in the series and the book I’m reviewing is titled ‘Quantum Of Nightmares’ which happens to be number 11 in the series. There’s obviously some evil necromancy going on here as I’ve not seen books 9 and 10, ‘The Labyrinth Index’ and ‘Dead Lies Dreaming’. I shall be reporting this to the management.
Perhaps I should explain to the uninitiated that the ‘Laundry Files’ written by Charles Stross are a series of novels which have been a blend of Lovecraft horror, occult, secret spy agencies and a good pinch of gallows humour. The main protagonist in the early novels was Bob Howard who worked for the British Government’s Special Operations Executive (SOE), who battled the countless horrors from other dimensions that see us as rather edible.
To put it another way, the British Secret Service dealing with the occult, but it was all hush-hush. The general population didn’t need to know about all the unspeakable things that wanted to cross over to our dimension and generally cause havoc. This changed in ‘The Nightmare Stacks’, when the events were just to big and obvious to sweep under the carpet and people became aware.
Anyway, it seems the ‘Quantum Of Nightmares’ is a follow on to the 10th book ‘Dead Lies Dreaming’ which I’ve not read. To be honest, ‘Quantum Of Nightmares’ is unusual for a ‘Laundry Files’ book as you don’t need to have read the others before you delve into this one. Bob Howard is absent and the SOE only get a brief mention, but, fear not, an eclectic cast of characters has been assembled and let loose.
First up is Mary MacCandless, who’s been given an assignment by her boss, ex-Superintendent Barrett COE of Wilde Corporation, to kidnap the children of the Banks family. Mr. & Mrs. Banks are off on holiday and MacCandless is the nanny assigned to look after the little darlings. Doing a passable impression of Mary Poppinsn it’s easy to infiltrate the family but there’s something her boss didn’t tell her about the children.
On another story thread we have Jennifer and Amy who are the HR department of the FlavrsMart supermarket in a London suburb. Amy gets tasked with giving Adrian in the Textured Deli Goods section, think 3d printed foods, the push for unspeakable acts. They are also trailing a new scheme where the Government’s DSS Department sends them people who are on their final warning before their benefits are cut. With a little electric shock guidance, they can manage the menial work.
Yet another story thread involves Eve Starkey who’s the PA to the CEO of Bigge Organisation. He’s presumed dead, so Eve has taken over the CEO role and quite a bit more that she doesn’t know about yet. Eve’s wayward brother Imp and his entourage of misfits are also not going to mis out on the fun.
All of these characters and a few more besides are drawn slowly together. All of them are Trans-Human which means they have occult powers of some description. It’s not going to end well for some of them. Quite a few of them, in fact.
While it doesn’t feature Bob Howard, ‘Quantum Of Nightmares’ is a worthy addition to the ‘Laundry Files’ series. It is markedly different to the earlier books in the series where the occult was largely kept out of undercover, so the normal folk didn’t notice. Things have moved on since then.
The book is well-written and I spent the first half wondering how he was going to pull all these story threads together but he does. All of the characters are interesting in one way or another which means you take an interest in them. I particularly enjoyed the Mary MacCandless character. If only Mary Poppins had been more like her. No doubt we will see the survivors in another episode or at least I certainly hope so. Highly recommended.
(pub: Tordotcom, 2022. 435 page hardback. Price: $27.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-250-83937-4)
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