Thursday, June 30, 2016

Reading, Reading

     I often have two books going at the same time, between the Kindle and physical books-with-pages.  Right now, they're Sir Terry Pratchett's Equal Rites and The Nightmare Stacks, the seventh (!) of Charles Stross's "Laundry Files" novels.

     This makes for some odd resonances; despite differences in tone, style* and setting, both are lurking on the edges of H. P. Lovecraft's universe, peering out at it from very familiar bastions: a hidebound (in fact, stuffy) University culture and stifling-yet-muddling-through bureaucracy as only the UK can truly achieve.†  While Sir Terry's world was slowly hauling itself into a modern age -- Century of the Fruitbat, after all, one must keep up -- and Stross's is teetering on the brink of cosmic annihilation, their characters face the challenges with similar determination and (occasionally reluctant) verve.

     --I highly recommend both books.  If Charlie Stross's politics/SF alignment bother you, you're missing out.  I read authors all across the Puppies mess (maybe not at the very farthest extremes) and my head ain't totally exploded yet.  Good fiction is good fiction and some dude voting (and being kinda unhappy just now) in the UK is no threat to domestic U.S.politics.
* Although I must admit that both of them have the same thing about asterisks that I do, or similar anyway.  Make of that what you will.  
† In the States, we create all manner of end-runs, work-around and clear-cuts when results are desperately needed; the Russians clamp down, empty the prisons of the clueful and pile up bodies until things work and the Germans throw ideas at the wall while going down in flames.  If you want to gather a skilled group of amateurs and invent, oh, RADAR or scientific cryptography, you need Her Majesty's Government and a tall stack of forms that have very little to do with the task at hand but must nevertheless be properly filled out.  I have no idea how the French cope with similar circumstances; they all clam up and pretend not to speak English when asked, which may in fact be a large part of their method.  Anyone with a freestanding 1000' tower over a hundred years old in their capital city is welcome to criticize this approach.


rickn8or said...

Along with Her Majesty's forms you can be assured that the British solution will at some point involve Whitworth spanners and Lucas electrics.

The Jack said...

How does the Nightmare Stacks stack up (pun unintended) with the previous books in the series?

I found the The Rhesus Chart to be going through the motions and the Annihilation Score to be very annoying. (Mo came off to me as preachy, hypocritical, and outright racist (well the scifi equivalent). And the plot, I felt, kinda fell apart at the end.)

So that, more than Stross' politics (which includes him recently demanding the FBI go after the NRA on RICO charges) made me not as inclined to shell out the money.

But if this book acutally recaptures the enjoyment I had with the The Fuller Memorandum or the Jennifer Morgue that'd be nice.

Anonymous said...

The whole Sad Puppies/Hugo/Nebula kerfuffle has put me off SciFi/Fantasy for awhile. (And I got conned into reading something that sucked because it won some now-useless award. - Stay away from "The Name of the Wind.") Back to mystery/adventure. The Detective Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch stories. Starting "The Prey Series" by John Sandford.

IF they hadn't made another Jack Reacher movie, I might read some more of those.

Roberta X said...

The Jack: I dunno. If you wanted more Bob Howard, you might not like it; if you enjoyed Pratchett's "Lords and Ladies," you might like it. The main protagonist is a 20-something with PHANG Syndrome, dragooned into the Laundry as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN -- or was it RED? -- really heats up. Madcap hijinks ensue.

That said, I liked "The Annihilation Score" plenty. Stross throws in lots of inside-cosmic-horror cross references and that carries it over the rough spots. (Also, my rough spots are not always the same as the typical SF reader's; I *like* Mo Howard.)

Rickn8: Prolly.

Anon: It periodically puts me off, but I have a couple hundred mystery/thriller books and several thousand SF books. A bit late to change.

The Jack said...


I was looking forward for more Bob. But more nightmare green might be intriguing.
Alas Lords and Ladies doesn't really stick out as especially noteworthy in my Prattchet memories (that's not to say my memories of it are negative).

May check out the kindle free preview and see if it catches my attention.