The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross
I’ve been reading the Sword of Truth series along with this series, and it’s impossible not to scream out loud with the skill and differentials. In particular the review that will follow this one for book 10.
Stross sets up his events, no matter how crazyballs they tend to get. There are sudden surprises and plot twists in Fuller Memorandum that don’t feel like cheats because they’ve been established and balanced and nuanced. For example, we found out what makes Angleton so Angleton-y. We get his backstory and the reveal about his actual identity and why he seems ageless and out of time. And it doesn’t feel like some kind of ret-con shoehorned in to serve a sudden whim of the author. Masterful authors can pull this off. Not so much for others.
This story deals more with the relationship between Bob Howard and his now wife Mo — and the constraints and challenges put on it due to the fact that they are both involved in the Laundry. I like Mo because she’s simultaneously a badass with a mind-scrambling magic violin of doom and someone fragile enough to collapse under stress, and it gives her nice balance with Bob. Bob’s the fumbling emotional wreck who bumbles about like some sort of nerd-embossed combination of Mr. Bean and James Bond. It’s a nice dichotomy that plays out from the events of the previous book.
So even when the big reveal at the end play off something that could feel like a running joke but is really a deftly handled plot device, and even when things go completely insanely bonkers with blood magic and zombies and soul transmogrification, it all feels grounded in stuff that Stross has long set-up in early books and stories.
It did go so far off the rails that it was a bit much, that’s true. But that’s the kind of thing you deal with when you fight the squiggly eldritch things from beyond the void.