The Atrocity Archive – Charles Stross

I promised it wouldn’t take long, didn’t I?

This is only going to be a quick review as I’m meant to be asleep right now. I did, in fact, go to bed, and then couldn’t sleep so read. And read some more. And finished the book. OH WELL.

From that, you can take it that the book is very moreish. Indeed, I have purchased the sequel (a sequel, anyway… I couldn’t tell if it was the direct one but I don’t think it really matters). It is infectiously good. I’ve also recommended it to basically everyone I’ve spoken to since I started reading it, and to someone else by letter. All this suggests that I should be massively enthusiastic about the book and wonderfully effusive about its glories.

But I’m not. And I don’t know why. I mean, it’s good. The writing is excellent, well paced, descriptive and explanatory while also not too detailed and tedious. The main character is very sympathetic and fun. He wanders the nice mean between unrealistically unemotional and completely wet. The plot is good, unpredictable, silly and clever. The setting is amazing. And yet, I can’t bring myself to be hugely enthusiastic. Which is very odd.

The blurb, such as I would put it, runs: Civil service mathemagical-computer-nerds summon (or prevent others from summoning) tentacled beasties from the nether regions of the multiverse, using secret equations supposedly discovered by half the great minds of the last century, while also kicking ass (or whatever occult nasties have by way of posterior anatomy) and being excellent.

It seems to have all the makings of excellence. Some alternate history shenanigans where cool dudes secretly worked on occult-summoning stuff (Turing, Geiger… that sort of person) as well as what they did in their day job, as well as action scenes, explosions, quips, gadgets and general esoteric-flavoured James Bondery. But there’s something missing. It’s really hard to put my finger on it. Some spark of genius that could pull it all together and make it the wonderful, magical, brilliant, hysteria-inducing thing it so desperately wants to be.

Maybe I’m just tired. Or maybe I’ve spent too long reading this book (three days now, I think… ridiculous) and my enthusiasm just got too stretched out. I don’t know. But it doesn’t quite do it for me. I’m going to read the sequel anyway. It’s not brilliant, but it is /good/ so its sister maybe has that magical spark. And even if not, I’ve wasted £4.99 on some good entertainment that I’ll probably read again. I’m just not in love. I want to be. I really, really want to be. But I’m not.

That said, read it. You might love it.

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About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
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