Jason Edwards's Reviews > The Atrocity Archives

The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross
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Jun 18, 12

Read from June 05 to 11, 2012 — I own a copy, read count: 1

My goal is to read 52 books this year, and it turns out The Atrocity Archives is really two books, or maybe even three. But I had no idea, going in, that this was the case. Some other review said “Terry Pratchett mixed with Mark Leyner” and my response was “sold!” So I jumped in and halfway through, I was on the denouement, wondering how the heck this Stross guy was going to keep it going. I started in on the second story, and couldn’t figure out what it had to do with the first… and when I got to the end of that one, I realize the bulk that was leftover was an essay on the co-mingling of the horror and detective/spy story genres.

So, on the one hand, you get your money’s worth (in the e-book edition, anyway; can’t vouch for others) but on the other hand, I wish I had known all of this before going in. (Which is more a reflection of me than it is of this book.) Add to this that I do notagree with the assessment that this is Pratchett mixed with Leyner, and you can get a feel why I’m only giving this 3 stars instead of 5. I’m way too biased by a mild disappointment.

That said, These so-called “Laundry Files” stories have a lot of potential, so I willread more of them, the sequels and such. What I’m hoping to see is better development—the risk when mixing two genres is you get the boring, pedestrian parts of each and no synergy. That’s what I felt was going on here. I’m no Lovecraft expert, and I’ve only reads a handful of spy novels, so maybe, again, it’s just me. But I didn’t get a sense of either genre, really. I did like the inter-office politics that Stross plays up as a major plot point, so I’d love to see more of that.

I know Stross is getting raves for his more recent works, so if nothing else, reading this older stuff is prep-work to get a feel for his style. The Atrocity Archives is readable, funny in the right places, descriptive, and the actions scenes don’t get bogged down in details. Some of the reference to magic and the mathematics of quantum mechanics are a bit glib, but then if he got too specific, the book might become unreadable afterall, so credit goes to finding the right balance.
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