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Charles Stross

(1964- )
Charles Stross was born in Leeds, England. He studied in London and Bradford, earning degrees in pharmacy and computer science, and has worked in a variety of jobs, including pharmacist, technical author, software engineer, and freelance journalist. Stross wrote six Hugo-nominated novels and won the 2005 and 2010 Hugo awards for best novella. He now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. You can read his writings about computer languages and learn more about his work at Charles Stross’ website.

The Atrocity Archives: A sysadmin saves the world

The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

The Atrocity Archives contains the first two novellas in Charles Stross’ THE LAUNDRY FILES: The Atrocity Archive and The Concrete Jungle. The series is based on the premise that, before he died, Alan Turing solved a theorem that proved that mathematics could be used to gain access to other space-time dimensions. Unfortunately, what’s out there is exactly what H.P. Lovecraft said there was — sleeping tentacled horrors that might be inclined to enter our universe if gateways were opened. To avoid mass panic, this has been kept secret from most humans. The ones who accidently find out are scooped up and brought into a secret organization where they are paid to help keep the world safe. In England, that organization is a government agency kn... Read More

The Jennifer Morgue: Ian Fleming meets H.P. Lovecraft

The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross

The Jennifer Morgue (2006), the second novel in Charles Stross’ LAUNDRY FILES, is a science fiction spy thriller that’s an obvious homage to Ian Fleming and H.P. Lovecraft. Bob has been sent to the Caribbean to try to find out why Ellis Billington, an evil megalomaniac billionaire, is interested in The Jennifer Morgue, a place deep in the ocean which may be an access point into our universe by tentacled eldritch horrors. For this assignment, Bob is paired up with someone from the American agency that deals with this kind of supernatural stuff — a gorgeous woman possessed by a succubus.

As usual, Bob has been insufficiently briefed about his mission, so he’s bewildered most of the time. What is he doing wearing a tuxedo to a casino and ordering vodka martinis (shaken, not s... Read More

The Fuller Memorandum: I can’t get enough of THE LAUNDRY FILES

The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross

I just can’t get enough of THE LAUNDRY FILES. This series has almost everything I want in an urban SFF adventure — an intelligent hero with a wry sense of humor and a great voice; an eclectic supporting cast; a fast pace with lots of action and plot twists; a cool mix of fantasy and science fiction; occasionally odd (and interesting) structural choices; a reverence for geek culture; and a smattering of computer science, mathematics, quantum physics and neuroscience. And Lovecraft. I love it.

In The Fuller Memorandum, the third LAUNDRY FILES novel, things start badly for Bob after he accidentally kills a bystander during a mission. He’s sent home to await an inquiry. That’s pretty bad, but soon things get worse. His enigmatic boss goes missing, there are R... Read More

The Apocalypse Codex: Bob takes on an American televangelist

The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross

Charles Stross continues to entertain with The Apocalypse Codex, the fourth novel in his LAUNDRY FILES series. I suppose you could read this without reading the first three books, but it’d be better to start with book one, The Atrocity Archives. For this review, I’ll assume you’re familiar with the story so far.

Bob has been unintentionally working his way up in the Laundry, the secret British agency where computer scientists, mathematicians, and physicists have, by accident, become sorcerers. For every case he’s been on, Bob has sort of bumbled his way into a successful outcome just by using his brains and creativity. Now he’s being groomed for a leadership position, so he needs some people skills. A lot of his preparation involves sitting in boring management training classes and seminars where he has to use role... Read More

The Rhesus Chart: Bob takes on a clan of vampire bankers

The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross

The Rhesus Chart is the fifth and most recent novel in Charles Stross’ LAUNDRY FILES. Bob Howard has been moving up the ranks in the Laundry — not due to any particular motivation or ambition on his part, but just because he has managed, so far, to stay alive as he and his fellow agents battle the eldritch horrors who are trying to find their way into our universe so they can eat us.

While doing some data mining in his office one day, Bob happens to notice a small but statistically significant outbreak of an illness that looks like Mad Cow disease in an area of London. Curious, he begins to investigate by consulting a neurologist, looking at cadavers, and tracing the habits of the people who’ve died of the disease. Eventually this leads him to a small group of data analysts who work for a London bank. One of them accidentally progr... Read More

The Annihilation Score: I like the different point-of-view character

The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross

The Annihilation Score (2016), by Charles Stross, is the sixth book in his LAUNDRY FILES series. Stross has hit on an interesting way to keep a series from flagging. He created a super-secret agency that fights extra-normal entities and events, and by doing this, he has a stable of characters who can take the lead in given books. Most of the LAUNDRY FILES books I’ve read featured Bob Howard as the main character, although there were other POV characters. The Annihilation Score has Dominique O’Brien, Howard’s estranged wife, as the main character.

This review contains mild spoilers for the previous book, The Rhesus Chart... Read More

The Nightmare Stacks: This one just missed for me

The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross

In my review of the LAUNDRY FILES book before this one, The Annihilation Score, I noted that there was a lot I liked and a few things I disliked. Unfortunately for me, my experience with The Nightmare Stacks (2016) was the reverse. There were a number of things I enjoyed, but overall I didn’t like this book very much. Charles Stross is a smart, funny, inventive writer, and it distresses me to give this book two and half stars, but it just missed for me, big time. Please note that people on Goodreads are giving it four and five stars, so clearly other people are enjoying more than I did.

I’ve prepared a PowerPoint presentation outlining my — haha, no, tha... Read More

The Delirium Brief: The Laundry’s in big trouble

The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross

The Delirium Brief, which is a finalist for the 2018 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, is the eighth novel in Charles StrossLAUNDRY FILES. Don’t even bother with it if you haven’t read most of the previous novels — you’ll be totally lost. (And, of course, my review of this installment will contain some spoilers for the previous books.)

For decades the Laundry, a heretofore unknown British government agency, has been protecting its citizens (and others around the world) from the eldritch horrors that exist outside our universe. In modern times, the way these entities usually breach the veil between worlds is through the activities of unwitting hackers, mathematicians, and philosophers who start poking around where they shouldn’t.

Unt... Read More

The Labyrinth Index: The American president is missing and that’s a bad thing

The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross

The Labyrinth Index (2018) is the ninth novel in Charles’ StrossLAUNDRY FILES epic. This installment features Mhari, Bob Howard’s psycho ex-girlfriend who we met back in The Rhesus Chart when she and her colleagues at a bank accidentally developed some software that turned them all into vampires.

Now she’s Dame Mhari Murphy – she’s been elevated to Baroness and she works for the new government in England. Her boss is N’yar Lat-Hotep, the Black Pharaoh, who’s been reincarnated as the new Prime Minister of England after the country was forced to make a lesser-evil type of deal with the ancient god to prevent the rise of Cthulhu.

The Prim... Read More

Equoid: You’ll want to laugh and vomit

Equoid by Charles Stross

Equoid is a novella set in Charles StrossLAUNDRY FILES world. It isn’t necessary to have read any of the LAUNDRY FILES novels, but you’d probably get a little more out of Equoid if you first read at least the first two novels, The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue. This story takes place after the events of the fourth novel, The Apocalypse Codex, and before the events of the fifth novel, The Rhesus Chart.

Bob Howard is a computational demonologist who works for the Laundry, the secret British agency that helps keeps the world safe from the eldritch horrors that lurk in another dimension. When curious mathematicians and physicists s... Read More

The Family Trade: Meet superwoman

The Family Trade by Charles Stross

In The Family Trade, Charles Stross brings together an interesting blend of several different fantasy subgenres. Most of the characters are enjoyable and make sense in their roles, but the main character, Miriam, seems to have left her blue and red superwoman suit in her luggage. She acquires an unending stream of skills and abilities when she gets in a tight spot. Sometimes, in order to be realistic, an author needs to let the hero flounder and fail a bit.

But I look forward to the next Merchant Princes book because The Family Trade has set a stage where multiple factions appear to be competing to eradicate Miriam, and I'm hoping that Charles Stross let's her accomplish goals through better collaboration and luck instead of a seemingly unending stash of specific expertise and spy/... Read More

The Hidden Family: Entertaining but average read

The Hidden Family by Charles Stross

The Hidden Family picks up at the end of The Family Trade and continues that story's basic premise, in both good and bad fashion. In the good, the story remains fast-paced, a quick and entertaining if not too deep read.

Stross introduces us to another world here, one that lies somewhere between our own and the Clan's both technically and socially, opening new and more interesting settings. Miriam remains an active, strong character, joined by others equally strong. Questions from book one are answered while new ones are raised. And as he did in book one with regard to the medieval setting, Stross continues to capture the gritty reality of non-modern times, unlike many fantasy authors, though at times he does so too obviously, as when he has one of his characters shrilly make that point in a lengthy paragraph.

On the bad, the stor... Read More

Glasshouse: SF to the extreme but with a social agenda

Glasshouse by Charles Stross

So chock full of the social consequences of nano-science and memory editing is Charles Stross’s Glasshouse, I’m still trying to pick myself up from the floor. In a whirl, I can’t decide whether the ideas were expressed in cohesive enough fashion to produce a book I can praise or if I’ve simply been blinded by an imaginative eruption that is worthy enough in itself of admiration. Beyond a dumb-faced sense of wonder, I’m also wondering if anyone else could have a more defined view after riding Stross’s tilt-a-whirl of futuristic possibilities…

Set at an unknown time in the far future, humanity — or what resembles humanity, considering anyone can edit memories or nano-dapt into any living form — is recovering from war. Infected via the A-gates and T-gates which humanity used for said alterations, society was attacked by rebels wielding viruses t... Read More

Saturn’s Children: Fun and adventure in a post-human galaxy

Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross

In the future of Charles StrossSaturn’s Children, humans have somehow managed to kill themselves off. But, before they did, they developed an array of artificial intelligence machines to serve them. Some were sent out to explore and settle the galaxy. The universe now contains all sorts of robots and cyborgs. They’ve set up a class-structured society with “aristo” robots owning those that humans had fitted with loyalty-inducing slave-chips. This strange new feudal society carries on with normal business, free from the oversight and lordship of humans.

Freya is one of these cyborgs. She was designed to be a “companion” (to put it nicely) for humans, so she is humanoid in appearance and exhibits most human emotions and motivations. She was spawned from a “mother” named Rhea and... Read More

Palimpsest: Needs to be a novel

Palimpsest by Charles Stross

Agent Pierce murdered his own grandfather to join Stasis, the covert organization which works outside of time to reseed the Earth with humans every time they’re about to make themselves extinct. Pierce considers himself a loyal agent, and he didn’t even realize that there is a group that works in Opposition to Stasis — he’s only in training. So, why is someone trying to assassinate him?

Palimpsest follows Agent Pierce from initiation, through his twenty years of training, to his gruesome graduation ceremony, and onto his assignments as a new agent. The segments involving Pierce’s progress are written in both second and third person and are occasionally interrupted by chapters of Powerpoint-style lectures which show glimpses of alternate histories of our universe and describe the way the galaxy was restructured so that it could last for trillions of years.
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The Rapture of the Nerds: Facilitates deep thought and plenty of laughter

The Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow & Charles Stross

The Rapture of the Nerds (2012) is an odd duck, and that’s probably the reason I’m struggling so much to write this review. On the one hand, there are some deeper themes that are absolutely fascinating. On the other, the book feels like a mashup of as many clever curses as the authors can possibly think of, with some odd situations thrown in. Is this good or bad? I can’t even seem to decide. There is a place for fun and funny books, but sometimes a person could wish for the substance to be a little less subtle and the humor to be a little less in-your-face. Basically, I think this is one of those books that will sink or swim based on the mood of the reader.

Cory Doctorow and Read More

Neptune’s Brood: Financepunk

Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross

Krina Alizond-114, a metahuman, is worried because Ana, one of her sibs, has gone missing. It’s not that Krina cares much about her sisters — they’re all just the spawn (and, anagrammatically, the pawns) of their scary overbearing mother and, besides, metahumans don’t have all that mushy emotional stuff that so frequently hijacked the thought processes of the “Fragile” race of homo sapiens that created them. The problem is that together Ana and Krina hold the key to a vast fortune and, if Ana disappears, Krina will lose the chance to get her hands on it.

Ana lives on a water world named Shin-Tethys and Krina must get there as fast as she can. First she gets a working berth on a spaceship that serves as a chapel for the remnant of the Church of the Fragile who are trying to find new planets to colonize with real human beings. When the chapel gets boarded by bat-like pirates who turn out to... Read More

Sympathy for the Devil: A collection of bedtime stories

Sympathy for the Devil edited by Tim Pratt

Please allow me to introduce Sympathy for the Devil, a fine new anthology filled entirely with short stories about the devil... who is, as we all know, a man of style and taste. However, you won’t just find the smooth-talking stealer of souls here. In addition to that famous version of His Grand Infernal Majesty, you’ll also find funny devils, monstrous devils, abstract devils and strangely realistic ones. Devils scary and not-so-scary, devils who are after children’s souls and others going after old men. Devils with a surprising amount of business acumen, and devils who try to get what they want, no matter the cost. There’s even one who engages in a competitive eating contest — the prize is, of course, someone’s soul.

Sympathy for the Devil, edited by Tim Pratt, offers up 35 very diverse short stories (and o... Read More

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction: Packed full of excellent SF stories

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction edited by David G. Hartwell

Twenty-First Century Science Fiction is packed full of excellent science fiction stories. I've been reading anthologies lately, partly to improve my own short story writing, and this is the best I've found so far. It contains stories by authors such as Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow, Catherynne M. ValenteJohn Scalzi, Jo Walton, Charles Stross, Elizabeth Bear... Read More

More speculative fiction novels by Charles Stross

Singularity sky — (2003-2004) Publisher: This much-anticipated debut novel is set 400 years in the future — and in the wake of perfected time travel, the ultimate advancements in technology and information, and the groundbreaking development of Artificial Intelligence. Is this all a great step for humanity? Or will it be our ultimate downfall? Singularity Sky is a truly visionary novel of the future, and already its author, Charles Stross, has become the most talked-about new voice in science fiction…

Science fiction book reviews Charles Stross 1. Singularity Sky 2. Iron SunriseScience fiction book reviews Charles Stross 1. Singularity Sky 2. Iron Sunrise

Halting State — (2007-2011) Publisher: In the year 2018, a daring bank robbery has taken place at Hayek Associates. The suspects are a band of marauding orcs, with a dragon in tow for fire support, and the bank is located within the virtual reality land of Avalon Four. But Sergeant Sue Smith discovers that this virtual world robbery may be linked to some real world devastation.

Charles Stross Halting State 1. Halting State 2. Rule 34Charles Stross Halting State 1. Halting State 2. Rule 34

Stand-alone novels:

Charles Stross AccelerandoAccelerando — (2005) Publisher: Expanding on his award-winning short story cycle from the pages of Asimov’s Science Fiction, Charles Stross delivers the story fans and peers have been expecting with Accelerando, a novel destined to change the face of the genre.

Charles Stross AccelerandoMissile Gap — (2007) Publisher: It’s 1976 again. Abba are on the charts, the Cold War is in full swing — and the Earth is flat. It’s been flat ever since the eve of the Cuban war of 1962; and the constellations overhead are all wrong. Beyond the Boreal ocean, strange new continents loom above tropical seas, offering a new start to colonists like newly-weds Maddy and Bob, and the hope of further glory to explorers like ex-cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin: but nobody knows why they exist, and outside the circle of exploration the universe is inexplicably warped. Gregor, in Washington DC, knows but isn’t talking. Colonel-General Gagarin, on a years-long mission to go where New Soviet Man has not gone before, is going to find out. And on the edge of an ancient desert, beneath the aged stars of another galaxy, Maddy is about to come face-to-face with humanity’s worst fear???

Saturn's Children Charles Stross Scratch MonkeyScratch Monkey — (2011) Publisher: The 2011 Boskone Book by Boskone’s Guest of Honor Charles Stross. It contains his previously unpublished novel, Scratch Monkey, an essay about writing the novel, and a second essay about a writer’s view of publishing. The novel is set in the distant future, when humans have spread through the galaxy, physically and virtually. We are not alone; we have created a race of AIs, the Superbrights, to administer and expand the virtual side of our presence in the Milky Way. Oshi Adjani works for a Superbright, traveling to worlds where her Boss cannot go, and solving the problems he has set her. One success reveals a secret of the Superbrights, so the Boss forces her into one last, deadly mission, with her freedom as her reward for doing the impossible.