The Nightmare Stacks (Laundry Files, #7)

By Charles Stross

Rating: 4 stars

The Laundry Files rumble on and volume 7 is narrated by Alex the vampire PHANG, who first made an appearance in The Rhesus Chart. Here, Alex is sent to Leeds, along with his friend and mentor Pete the Vicar, to scout for a future northern headquarters for the Laundry. What he doesn’t know, is that the city has already been infiltrated by the vanguard of an invasion from another reality and that CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN isn’t the only threat in that spectrum.

Well blimey! I swear that every Laundry book will be the last one that I read (I’m really rather squeamish and horror isn’t my preferred genre. The Laundry got its tentacles into me when it was still masquerading as humorous urban fantasy), and yet every one has enough in it to make me want to read the next. And blimey, what a punch this one made. The last third or so of the book is a full scale running battle, told from multiple viewpoints, as the invading force tries to attack the Laundry headquarters at Quarry House in Leeds, Alex off on his own, probably suicidal, side track and a disastrous decision to trigger MAGINOT BLUE STARS in an urban area.

It really felt like the invaders had the upper hand a lot of the time, so every time the human defenders got a score in (by accident or not), it was a punch in the air moment. Stross is really good at these battles (partly because he’s a military hardware buff in real life, so he knows his Starstreak from his ASRAAM. But also partly because he splits up the viewpoints, giving us multiple viewpoints on to the action, juggling the threads very well.

Back at a human scale, it was nice to see Pinky and Brains back, and getting more screen time this time – Pinky even going out into the field. And the romance between Alex and Cassie is very sweet and awkwardly believable (the scene with meeting the parents in particular was made of cringe). It was a way to keep the focus human even as Leeds is crumbling around them.

So yeah, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and Alex is a great new character, although I do miss Bob and his very informal narrative tone (he’s back next year’s The Delirium Brief, though). Oh, and it’s slightly hilarious to see just how much awe that he and Mo now inspire in the likes of Alex. He regards Bob (sorry, Mr Howard), the way that Bob regarded Angleton. So I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how the Eater of Souls 2.0 copes, after tentacled horrors from beyond spacetime, with being grilled by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight.

Book details

ISBN: 9780356505343
Publisher: Orbit
Year of publication: 2016

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