|The Atrocity Archives is an unusual and
entertaining mix of Lovecraftian horror, computer geekery, spy thriller, and the black
comedy of public service bureaucracy. After unwittingly dabbling in some rather dangerous
mathematics, Bob Howard is forcibly recruited by the Laundry, a top secret organisation
dedicated to defending the world against unspeakable monstrosities from other dimensions.
This would be rather more glamorous if it weren't for all the departmental meetings, lousy
coffee, and paperclip audits. But after showing an aptitude for field work, at least he
gets opportunities for travel, albeit accompanied by mortal danger.
Though told with a
sense of humour, there is a solid story here, and the villains of the piece human
and otherwise are no laughing matter. The Laundry's universe is convincingly
realised, and populated with a memorable array of characters. Bob is a likeable, competent
geek, and his narration sells the horror of the extradimensional entities and the people
who deal with them very effectively. Recommended.
The book also includes the novella The Concrete Jungle, another
assignment for Bob taking place some time after the events of The Atrocity Archives.
While by no means a bad story, it feels rather inconsequential after the epic main event,
and if you're not expecting it, its inclusion can make the ending of the main novel feel a
bit abrupt with a hundred pages still to go.