Monday, January 18, 2010

If you are looking for an Ian Fleming/HP Lovecraft mashup

I recall someone, I think it was Bob Baer describing the new hire experience at the CIA. He said new recruits go expecting James Bond and find Dilbert. Charlie Stross has a series of novels and short stories that start with Dilbert and end up in Lovecraft. His spies are IT workers and mathematicians who use their craft to battle other spy agencies as well as dark horrors from deep space and other dimensions. The most recent book is the Jennifer Morgue. It is a somewhat unfortunate title since it refers to one of those meaningless code names governments and corporations use to hide the true nature of their activities.

This particular novel is a send up of a Bond story, and Stross's characters are explicit about it. At one point, his hero, Bob Howard, muses whether his demon possessed American counterpart is a "good" Bond girl or a "bad" Bond girl. Which way she falls will determine her fate, he tells her with a hint of sadness. He is also to given to all sorts of jokes like naming a government agency TLA. If this sort of self aware meta humor is your thing, you will get a kick out of this book. Most of the fun is with Stross playing with many genres, from the spy novel to the horror tale.

If you come looking for actual horror, there isn't any, really. The cosmic baddies are here, but the emphasis is one humor. The same goes for the action. Howard is thrust into situations for which he is unprepared and is saved by luck, friends, and his smarts.

The book goes on a bit too long for my tastes. It's light entertainment, so the brain won't be too taxed as you giggle through the pages.

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