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

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe 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 Russian KGB agents and members of a cannibalistic doomsday cult sneaking around, a secret document called “The Fuller Memorandum” disappears from the laundry archives, and Bob’s wife (Mo) is involved in something that’s got her scared for her life and she can’t talk about it. And what the heck is “Teapot”? And why is paperclip usage being audited? Bob, who’s getting a little paranoid, has to unravel all this mess before…. well, he’s not sure before what, but whatever it is, he knows it’s going to be bad. Like, end-of-the-world kind of bad.

As with the previous LAUNDRY FILES stories, the plot of The Fuller Memorandum is fast-paced, unusually structured (Stross likes to play with the narrative perspective), completely unpredictable, and contains a bizarrely disparate set of elements that somehow works together in a way that’s quirky and juuuusssst manages to not go over the top. Stross has a great sense for when he’s about to cross the line.

In this story we learn about sympathetic magic (this is why paperclips are counted), what Mo’s violin is made of (uh… yikes!), and some of our questions about Bob’s inscrutable boss are answered. None of this disappoints — it’s all wonderfully weird and makes us want to find out more about the Laundry’s history.

Not only is the plot entertaining, but the LAUNDRY FILES novels are also funny. Bob has a great sardonic voice and he loves to take opportunities to spout his cynical opinions on just about any topic. In The Fuller Memorandum, he makes particular fun of our obsession with the iPhone (“Precious!”), which he insists is injected with some sort of glamour. He calls it a “Jesus Phone” and when he buys one (the glamour made him do it), he christens his iPhone with the name “The NecronomiPod.” In one hilarious scene, the bad guys who are torturing Bob discover the phone (“Oooh, shiny!”) and get distracted from their work as they start pressing the icons. And I also gotta love that Bob reads THE DRESDEN FILES on the train and makes allusions to THE LORD OF THE RINGS, Philip K. Dick, and other much-loved speculative fiction.

I can’t wait to see what Bob and The Laundry get up to next in The Apocalypse Codex. I’m listening to the audio versions of THE LAUNDRY FILES which are fabulously narrated by Gideon Emery. He’s captured Bob’s voice and tone perfectly, and his performance adds a lot to my enjoyment of these stories.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. That title is some nice wordplay on THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM by Adam Hall (another spy-thriller series, and Stross clearly knows it!)

  2. I think I’m going to have to add The Laundry Files to be TBR list–you make them sound so appealing!

  3. Hans Smedbol /

    “…I just can’t get enough of THE LAUNDRY FILES…”

    you and me both…just can’t get enough of Bob Howard and his eclectic adventures in Charlie Stross’ plausible alternate reality series, wherein he manages to save the entire human race at least once per book…all the while working away as a minor bureaucrat in a covert ops subsection of Britain’s GCHQ, or MI6 or whatever….there are a lot of plays on, or homages to previous secret orgs, like SIS (“the Circus”) as described in John Le Carré’s spy novels…and Charlie’s heroes are just about as colourless as George Smiley in Le Carré’s works…

    just another bureaucrat, simply doing his job….

  4. Hans Smedbol /

    another interesting homage to the Secret Services of the US and the UK was Charlie Stross’ use of the name James Angleton for Bob’s “boss”…”Teapot”, who goes missing in the book, for a while…as i understand it, Angleton was a real life CIA actor…pretty high up in the organisation…went a bit nutty in the end when his mentor, friend, and drinking buddy, Kim Philby openly defected to the Commies in Moscow….

    • Thanks for that reminder, Hans. I had a feeling there was something to the name “Angleton” and I while I was reading I made a note to myself to look it up, but I forgot to do it.

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