The Labyrinth Index
November 1, 2018 9:37 PM - by Charles Stross - Subscribe

Since she was promoted to the head of the Lords Select Committee on Sanguinary Affairs, every workday for Mhari Murphy has been a nightmare. It doesn’t help that her boss, the new Prime Minister of Britain, is a...

It's been a year and change since we last chatted about Mefi's Own (tm) cstross's Laundry series, and there's a new one, so, let's hit it.
posted by Alterscape (10 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a little bummed that we got Mhari POV for almost the whole thing, and only a couple of throw-away lines about the status of Bob and Mo after the rather world-changing climax to the last book. I'd also complain that the A-plot was almost entirely unsuccessful, in that the Black Chamber's master still seems to be in charge in the US, except Mhari clues us in that the A-plot mission was probably secondary to her other task. A couple of long-term characters got offed (or nearly so, or soon to, as it were), but that's fairly typical for the series at this point.

I'm not sure how I feel about the elf-on-the-spectrum bit. On the one hand, inclusive characters, yay! On the other hand, it felt kinda stunty, since we've already seen Cassie's interior monologue in a similar assimilating-an-alien-human-personality situation, and made me moderately uncomfortable in terms of reading another instance of "white male author writes minority viewpoint." I'm also a white dude, so I'd be curious to hear how it worked, or didn't, for others.

It felt like a lot of this was just moving chess pieces around to prepare for the next volume, though -- reference a couple of conversations with the Senior Auditor. Which would be fine, if I didn't have to wait more than a year for the next volume! :P
posted by Alterscape at 9:51 PM on November 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have it but am currently embroiled in another book. Soon, though, soon.
posted by Samizdata at 3:47 PM on November 2, 2018

I enjoyed this. I particularly enjoyed the details about Concorde - I hadn't realized how much more capable it was at supersonic flight than military jets.

Reading on the Kindle with the ability to select some words and instantly preview them on Wikipedia proved extremely useful.
posted by simonw at 11:50 AM on November 3, 2018

Speaking of Concordes, the way CStross keeps bringing up 304 and its unspeakable payload makes me think there is some serious Chekov's Gun stuff going here. The White Elephants have been a plot point in at least one other book now, and I can't imagine all that setup going nowhere in a Laundry novel.

I'll admit I guffawed when I realized they were setting up for a Fulton pickup. I actually didn't twig to the flying-superhero-instead-of-balloon bit until it was happening, though.
posted by Alterscape at 1:53 AM on November 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Reading on the Kindle with the ability to select some words and instantly preview them on Wikipedia proved extremely useful.

I think it's fair to say I have an exceptionally large vocabulary — CStross's is the only fiction I read that uses multiple unfamiliar words per book (not counting nonce vocabulary). I like learning new words.
posted by thedward at 6:07 AM on November 4, 2018

Yeah, I was a bit uncomfortable with the “elf-on-the-spectrum,” if only because she had so many things going on in her fairly small stage time that it felt — tokeny? On th other hand, Stross has a history (and not a bad one) of presenting diverse characters and letting them be themselves as the plot rolls along. I also agree with the book feeling like it was mostly laying pipe for the series, but it was fun and atmospheric, with some good set pieces — the fight in the restaurant, the radio station sub-story, and the stuff with the Mouthpiece.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:33 AM on November 7, 2018

I also enjoy the normalcy of the new government, the way people shrug and get on with their lives as they slip literally toward the Abyss. It’s trenchant any (usually) understated commentary. I wonder if the events of the last two books have been Stross’s way of trying to find a more malign political situation than the one we found in 2016. It’s hard too be more malevolent than the world we currently inhabit.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:50 AM on November 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

I wonder if the events of the last two books have been Stross’s way of trying to find a more malign political situation than the one we found in 2016.

Definitely, to the point of having to having to run to catch up:
The point at which the published version of The Delirium Brief departs from the pre-Brexit draft is the moment when Bob is arrested—and, subsequently, the entire agency is shut down and goes on the run, with Continuity Operations in effect. None of that featured in the first draft (nor the tank-v-Mercedes chase on Salisbury Plain). It gave the post-Brexit draft a degree of tension and jeopardy that the earlier draft lacked, and a lot of added foreboding and darkness: the re-appearance of The Mandate, the rehabilitation of Iris Carpenter, and the ghastly hospitality suite at Nether Stowe House all emerged fluidly from the new sense of impending catastrophe.
I enjoyed being in Mhari's head, instead of Bob's, for a while- as cstross puts it in the same post, "Bob in particular has "leveled up" so far that he's quite hard to use as a sympathetic viewpoint character in a work of fiction"
posted by BungaDunga at 7:36 AM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I particularly enjoyed the details about Concorde

To me, those chapters read like a love letter.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 8:45 AM on July 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I once went to an aircraft museum in Seattle with a UK fan. When we reached the Concorde, he stood in front of it, threw out his arms, and shouted “my taxes paid for this!” with glee. He badly startled a number of other visitors.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:24 AM on July 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

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