Review: The Fuller Memorandum

The Fuller Memorandum is another Library Files novel from Charles Stross. I like the Laundry Files because they seem like Stross is having great fun writing them.  On their surface they’re exciting stories set in a well-imagined modern fantasy setting seasoned with the sorts of geek culture that appeal to me.  They’re much more than simple time-wasters, though.  Each one I’ve read so far is actually an almost mimetic commentary on some form of adventure genre or author.  The Jennifer Morgue played with the James Bond franchise with verve and insight.  The earthy, trust no one spy thriller a la LeCarre gets the business here.

Accordingly, the mood in Fuller is more oppressive than in Jennifer.   If Fleming and his cinematic heirs  are escapist, LeCarre and his camp are brutalist. Bringing the same set of characters through those sets of tone is a beautiful display of  writing skill.  Sometimes I think that Stross started writing these to practice exactly that sort of flexibility.  If so, he’s gotten remarkably good at it.

In addition to putting the Laundry folks through a wringer where actions have more consequences and trust is scarce, Stross shows us the whole Laundry world from a more depressing angle.  The feeling of whistling past the graveyard is more one of staring thoughtfully at the stones.  A universe with such a Lovecraftian epistemology is bound to be depressing, and the tone lets Stross run with it.

All of this is actually quite fun, though a different kind of fun than Jennifer. Everyone is still recognizable as the engaging characters from other Laundry novels, and there are still plenty of winks, nods, and in-jokes running around.  In addition to the (meta-)commentary, it’s a taut modern fantasy thriller.

Strongly Recommended.

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