Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: The Fuller Memorandum

The Fuller Memorandum is the latest in Charles Stross' Laundry Novels, the first two being The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue. While having read the previous two books will catch you up with the characters in double quick time, it is not necessary to read either of those books to enjoy this one.

If The Atrocity Archives was about HP Lovecraft meets Charles Babbage, and Jennifer Morgue was James Bond meets Cthulhu, then this novel is Allan Quartermain meets Le Carre. Another novel with a similar theme is Tim Power's excellent Declare.

I fully expected to enjoy this novel as much as the others. Unfortunately, I think this novel was a case of over-reach by the author. Stross cannot do the cloak and dagger stuff well. So instead of methodical deduction, investigation, and a gradual unveiling of mysteries, we get treated to one dose and another of Raymond Chandler's prescription: When in doubt have a man walk in through the door with a gun. Even the villain's motivation is not fleshed out, and we never do get a good idea of what the plot really was.

Nevertheless, long time fans of the series will be treated to answers to a few questions that they might never have thought to ask. For instance, who is Angleton? And what is the nature of Mo's violin? Unfortunately, it seems as though Stross is also bored with the characters, so we never do get a sense of character development. In at least one case, even the foreshadowing fails.

Worse, the physical binding of the hardcover version of this book is terrible. After cracking the spine a few times so it would lay flat, the pages started falling apart! All in all, I would have bought this novel at $9.99 from the Kindle store, but the publisher set the price at $12, causing me to wait for the library to deliver it to me. After reading it, I'm glad I waited. It wouldn't even have been worth $9.99. Not recommended except to die hard fans of the series.
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