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Laundry reading order

UPDATE: This is obsolescent. Here's the latest updated version.

Some folks seem to need this, so:

The Laundry series of stories and novels follows a chronological sequence (Bob's gradual rise through the ranks). The sequence so far is laid out below the fold.

The Atrocity Archive — short novel, in which Bob and various other major characters are introduced.

The Concrete Jungle — novella, set around 6 months after The Atrocity Archives

(These are collected in The Atrocity Archives)

The Jennifer Morgue — a novel, set around 3 years after The Concrete Jungle

Pimpf — interstitial short story set within a year of The Jennifer Morgue

(These are collected in The Jennifer Morgue)

Down on the Farm — novelette, set approximately 2 years after Pimpf. Collected in the short story collection "Wireless".

The Fuller Memorandum (surprise!) — a novel, set roughly eight years after The Atrocity Archives

(Published as The Fuller Memorandum)

Overtime — a novelette set less than 18 months after The Fuller Memorandum. (Not yet published in book form.)

The Apocalypse Codex — not yet published (it's due out in mid-2012[*]); a novel, set roughly nine months after The Fuller Memorandum

I also have tentative plans for a couple of novellas that fit in the gap between The Fuller Memorandum and the as-yet-untitled novel that comes after The Apocalypse Codex, but I don't want to speculate about stuff I haven't yet written or begun to write.

[*] The long wait is down to my 12-month publication cycle; there's another book in the queue that's due out in summer 2011.



Not wishing to seem picky, but the above sequence says that "Overtime" happens 18 months after TFM but before TAC, which happens 9 months after TFM....


Brill. That helps me finally sort out the time lines for the character in my Laundry RPG campaign. Jamie is 5.


No. It says less than..
Three weeks is less than.


I appreciate that you aired out your laundry...


on down on the foam u can scroll all the way to teh end of the story and on overtime you have to turn the pages? weird, man thanks for putting that up i would of missed out on reading this before i order the fuller memorandum this week.


Does overtime contain any spoilers for the apocalypse codex?


Nope. Indeed, earlier stories in this chronology contain no spoilers for later ones because (at least up to this point) I've written them in linear (temporal) order.


Thanks for posting this. When it came time to make a Christmas list, it took me at least 10 minutes of digging around to realize The Atrocity Archive was the book I wanted to introduce me to the world.


Will we ever read the story of how Bob first got involved with The Laundry? (The long version, not his quick summaries.)


Probably not, because it is Boring and not very complicated. I may have Bob explain it to one of his minions in a future novel if I feel the need to slow the plot down.


Alternatively have mo explain it as an 'and when I can't get to sleep I just have bob tell me about his first day at work and drop right off...'


That's quite a long stretched timeline there, longer than I thought it actually was. Ahh well.

As for how Bob got involved in the laundry, it is dead simple - he was playing around with some fancy mathematics on a computer and either they noticed him using a computer for this or his preliminary work sent out some sort of signals which they picked up on, and so they went and spoke nicely to him.


Yes. The timeline for the Laundry stories is roughly tracking wall-clock time at a 1:1 rate. Bob, by "The Apocalypse Codex" (pub. 2012), is about a decade older than he was in "The Atrocity Archive" (pub 2002).


Better get it out before 21 December 2012 and CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN


Thank you! I had missed the TOR web site ones. Bummer that "Down on the Farm" doesn't have an ePub or PDF download :(


The Calibre ebook software is free, and does a reasonable job of converting decent HTML to epub. Though it can still take you longer than just reading the web-page.

Windows, OS-X, and Linux.

Worth a look, at least.

I'll not do more than mention Charlie's patient explanations of why ebooks are not a zero-cost publishing option, but trying to do the job brings it home to you.


Finally got round to reading Down on the Farm and found the answer to one of my (very few) little annoyances in the Laundry universe - where Angleton's name came from. I'd recognised it from somewhere but couldn't place it.

Thanks Charlie.

Now if I could just find which book has the reference to minus 290 C (!) - Glasshouse, I think - I'd be happy.


So, if Overtime is after Fuller, Bob got better from his ... malaise?

(No status on his marriage on the story, but he seems back to work and less depressed)


I just wondered because overtime is nearly 9 months after the next installment of the series. Wonderful read though, i do love the laundry series!


Slightly off topic, but ... Discussing tha nature of reality, as the Laundry does, by assuming mathematics is Platonic, and not a construct. AND Tying into a thread from a couple of weeks back: For those in the UK, and those able to look at BBC iPlayer ..... THIS PIECE at about 18-20 minutes in ... Demonstrates the Double Slit experiment with single visible-light photons. There must be some phenomenon that we do not understand going on, either a hidden variable, and/or a deeper level of QM and/or anothe completely different explanation available.

Interesting, huh?


Excellent - I was going to post and ask for this myself as I've been keen to know where to start! :)


Update at about 40-45 minutes, the idea that the U is "holographic" is discussed, with mention of a possible experimental test for this, presently under construction. However, at about 49 minutes one Prof. Max Tegmark proposes that the Laundry idea (well-done Charlie) is the "correct" one. The reason that the U is expicable by maths is because the structure of said U IS maths ...

Cue " ... time & space don't exist" "They don't, then whar did we just have breakfast in?" "Just a mathematical experssion, dear. Nothing more"


"There must be some phenomenon that we do not understand going on, either a hidden variable, and/or a deeper level of QM and/or anothe completely different explanation available."


The universe at large has no obligation to be comprehensible. To insist that we must be able to find a single model which provides accurate prediction and explanatory power across a range of scales is to go very far beyond anything objectively justifiable: it's a theological position!

This is not, of course, the same as refusing to seek to improve actual, specific, models. But anything that replaces QM will still be weird and paradoxical and require us to believe absurdities, because that's what the data shows.


This week's New Scientist talks about the various interpretations of QM. I think you've just illustrated the 'Shut Up and Calculate' version.


For neat freaks who want to target PDF and ePUB, the docbook-xsl-ns stylesheets are another option.


Ture as far as it goes. However, the fact that you are looking for something that doesn't exist (a single coherent mathematical model of the Universe) does not mean that the very fact of searching will not improve the mathematical models that you do have.


Thanks for the heads up on these, Charlie. I had read all of them except "Overtime". Not sure how I missed it until now, but it was a great Sunday morning present.

I like that these stories are progressing in 'real time'. The only other series that I can think of that does this is Ian Rankin's Rebus series.


paws4thot @ 26 And how do you know that a single coherent mathematical model of the U doesn't exist? Who elected you god, to make such a definitive ex cathedra statement, then, and on what priveliged information can you base that categorisation? Do tell, please.

All we do know is that so far, every single time, it has proven possible to provide suitable math-models for the phenomena we observe. And that, given our present state of knowledge, there is no reason, whatsoever, for that not to continue to be so.


What I said is apparently not exactly what I meant; make #26 read "...looking for something that may not exist ..." if it suits you better.


So Charlie, I have a question about an issue into which you might be running in the near future.

One thing that keeps a sense of "stakes" in the Laundry is both the power of the Enemies (and their minions) and also the fact that all signs point to Case Nightmare Green being close.


Given that most of us here will go out and by the next Laundry novel the very second it comes out, and given that that represents a reliable revenue stream, do you ever deal with the temptation of dragging the series into a continual "further adventures of Bob Howard" for the duration even though eventually such a system would gradually dull the tension?


paws4thot @ 29 MUCH better! Rather like the supposed Higgs Boson, in fact .....


ISTR that Charlie's already said that he's planned a 7 book Laundry series.


Ah, well, that show's how much attention to detail I pay...


More like nine, plus probably a book of novellas, if I don't lose interest first.

When you're a novelty addict like me, anything over half a million words on the same topic qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment ...


Well, he mentions that she's at her parents' for the holiday, giving the assumption that she would be with him otherwise.


Well, there are a few interesting Stross/Laundry comments over at slashdot: (or: Knuth's volume 4a is out - how does the laundry react? ;-) )



Easy. It's not the same Volume 4. Finding a new subject, researching it and writing a book can take a while. Especially when you have a class 4 abomination pointed at your head.


wow that down on the farm reminds me of the time i posted some comments on wired about corrupt law enforcement and then all of a sudden i became insane and wound up at a va psych ward courtesy of the moles!!!!!!!!!!!!


also in america its illegal to ask someone out to the movies just ask the cops in costa mesa...


that also reminds me of sum crook we use to work for they had a print side and a web side and supposedly the duped one side of software, to work for theother side and ( this is what we heard) so you have dopplegangers workeing for some crooked gooks, and when your online it can tell, so they worked out some agreement, so much for crooks...


i used to be a file clerk too for some law firm one summer, i also found out its illegal to send flowers and poems to people...


G'day Charlie,Australia calling.I missed you in Australia,had no idea you were here until you had left in fact,but am glad you graced our shores with your presence.Loved the Laundry books,eagerly await the next one and am wondering if Hollywood are interested yet.Done properly,this series could make an excellent film or maybe a series on HBO or AMC or wherever.Keep up the good work mate and maybe I'll get to have a beer with you next time you visit the sunburnt country...


they should have bob go into an isolation tank, br dr. lilly, we read about these guys in the service, there are some really interesting factions out there doing some sirius flirty work...


"When you're a novelty addict like me..."

Here's the internet's strategic novelty reserve: Rex Research. It consists of virtually every wild tech idea that anybody has tried to make happen over the last 130 years or so - with the proviso that the gizmo or process must not be in general use today. 90% is cranks - but oh, what cranks! And there are enough gems in there to keep me clicking like a wirehead monkey on a randomized switch.

My latest find: foamed silly-putty for superhero suits ("PALMER : D3O Energy Absorber"). Also: One-step ore to steel using microwaves. Curiously fashioned pumps, transmissions, propellers - some of which even work. Many weird aircraft. Transmutation with chickens. Transmutation without chickens. Several types of time machine. Inertialess drives. Countless perpetual motion machines, overunity generators, and esoteric thingamajigs.


flotsam @ 39 / 41 / 43 Uh? What are you on? Or are you a SPAMMER?



You missed the earlier post of his. Rationality seems to decline with successive posts

Personal theory is the correspondent has escaped a psych ward by hiding in an office with 'net connection and he's overdue for his lithium (at least he doesn't appear to be in a restraint vest, spelling seems to be okay but could be due to the spell check).


flotsam: this is your yellow card.

Kindly take a rain check on posting here until you're stable again and on your meds, okay?


Apropos of nothing, but will it be a sign of the apocalypse if Bob has a positive interaction with HR?

Just curious.


Nope: that happens fairly early in "The Apocalypse Codex". (However ... Bob is now somewhere in the lower levels of middle management.)


You know, I keep meaning to ask, but why the name "Pimpf" for that short story?


I assumed that it was from a combination of "Pimple-Faced Youth" - the BOFH's sidekick, and the source of Peter-Fred's initials - and a German slang word meaning "kid".


For some reason, I didn't actually notice the title when I read it. So I had no idea what people were talking about when a Pimpf discussion started, a while back.


So this thread is really about... The Laundry List?


(slightly more) seriously I suppose the reading order of the Laundry books must be very important - read them in the wrong order and who knows What = or Who - may pay attention.


And if you read them backwards you get to roll a saving throw vs. madness? Or does that just mean that Paul is dead?


As opposed to the Library washing schedule, one supposes ......


Not that I'm a gamer, but I would have thought the opposite - that not working your way into the madness slowly would mean you are faced with the worst of it without any previous experience.


It's sometimes said of a popular author that if he published his laundry list people would read it. I guess Charlie has now proved it.


"My latest find: foamed silly-putty for superhero suits ("PALMER : D3O Energy Absorber")."

That's actually the focus of a fair bit of UK MOD development into applying it to helmets and body armour. I think the next generation UK helmet will be using it.

(Disclaimer: I know D3O vaguely)

60: 48 and 49 - Surely the answer is "No; positive interactions with HR are much rarer than apocalypses!"? ;-)

Forgive the stupid question, but I was browsing in the local Waterstones and thought that Wireless and Fuller looked excellent in the slightly larger UK paperback format. Have they told you of any plans to reissue Atrocity and Jennifer to match? It sounds petty, but they're more aesthetically pleasing, usually have slightly larger type, and I need something to read after Merchant Princes...


While we're discussing developments in The Laundry...

Rumour has it that the current regime's deficit reduction program demands for budget cuts have gone absolutely everywhere...

Do anyone's sources within The Laundry have anything to say about Angleton's response to demands for an overnight 30% reduction in funding for preparations for CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, how Bob Howard feels about having to help draw up documents to support opening his department's IT provision to competitive tenders from private sector contractors and sharing infrastructure with other government departments, or how Dr O'Brien feels about cuts in Arts Council support for writing and performance at the more extreme end of the "Avante Garde" spectrum?

Any comment as to why senior figures within the coalition and in certain parts of the civil service might be so keen to see The Laundry's activities circumscribed[1] and subject to closer oversight? :-)

P.S. I've also heard tell that Julian Assange's current legal difficulties have nothing whatsoever to do with diplomatic communications but are actually linked with a package of very odd files which almost made it to Wikileaks from an extremely unusual source...

[1] Presumably within the bounds of a circle with all kinds of funny gothic curlicues, odd symbols, and unfamilar glyphs tacked on...

-- JG


Consider the following possibility: that as we get closer to CNG, the powers-that-be are ramping UP the secret budget allocated to countering it.

That money has to come from somewhere.

Perhaps that's the true reason why there's less money elsewhere.

As for the odd glyphs and symbols, that's still pending the correct typeface. You should be OK for now, at least until Wingdings 7+1 is released.


I like the way you're thinking. :-D


thats what Wingdings is, its the font THEY type in


The internet demands you now go forth and flesh out these tantalizing ideas in the form of 500 pages of well written fan fiction, to be delivered no later than 30 days from now. No "if"s or "but"s, you brought this on yourself.


I'd always assumed that THEY would have used Comic Sans.


Actually, they use Jokerman, because that particular script has a fractal dimension of e, which means that the many-angled one can actually read what they typed (or had us type).

Some of the old gothic scripts and copperplate variations were used for much the same reason. Perhaps you wondered what all those serifs and curlicues were for?


They're ebil, not just vile! ;-)


Actually you are missing the possibility of it all going the other way round. After all the Laundry are in the unusual position of having to provide a job for life +10 for its work force so unlike every other government department, they can not reduce over heads by sacking people.

However they do have a large number of 'menials' sitting around doing bugger all so what is more likely to happen is that they will tender out thier services to other organisations to generate in 'out-going cash balance deficit' to off set some of the costs.

Of course their are security implications which mean they could not work in their usual field, but there are plenty of other 'business support services' they coudl branch out into using their experiences and skills...

And you think it's hell calling a call centre now to sort out problems with your mobile phone or bank! Wait until CLS-commercial division is mhandling it. Then you really will be talking to a zombie.

(In the RPG game I'm running we had a major plot device that revolved around the Laundry selling off 'surplus to requirement property' in light of the cuts without any one in H.R. Telling the people living there in advance.)


Ah, well ..there are worse places to be.

I well remember my Mentor and Senior Technician back in the mid 1960s plodding across a building site toward ME, the carrier and Keeper of the Teams ..both of Us .. Photo gear, which was not light-weight, and absolutely CREASING himself with Mirth as he told me that it had just been suggested to him that a Really Inexpensive way to get an overhead view of the Vast Building Site upon which we were located would be to hoist ME with the Cameras in a Bucket on a Crane ...they were perfectly Serious ...this was a GOOD IDEA and they couldn't see why my senior wouldn't agree with them.

Ho, Bloody, Ho HO - and Very Funny .. but not helped by the fact that my Boss was wearing Wellington Boots of Vast Efficiency whilst I ... well HE said that I should wear BOOTS ... was wearing my new suede boots .. very fashionable at the time but not very MUD proof! or as my, Ex of the R.A.F., and vastly experienced Boss did say ..' Ah, Well we've all got to learn ..and about this Bucket ? '


paws, greg @28, 29, 31

I beg to differ. I think one can safely say that no one complete and consistent model to describe the U can be developed.

The fact that mathematical models themselves are necessarily incomplete (see Goedel) implicates that any description they provide is also incomplete.


Does the fact that "mathematical models themselves are necessarily incomplete" necessarily mean that current models might at some in-principle unpredictable point, if sufficiently investigated, throw up something that will overthrow the model from which the overthrow oginated?

Which reminds me (I always like to get opinions on this):

It's said the universe had a cause and must have a cause. Which on the face of it seems fair enough.

But as I understand it (which may be, and almost certainly is, badly) causality is a property of the universe so to assume that the universe has a cause is to assume that causality was in some way pre-existent to the universe.

That said, I hadn't come Overtime before. But it can't be canon material, can it? Unless Teapot is much more devious than is possible for any human, or wannabe!



"That said, I hadn't come Overtime before" should have read "That said, I hadn't come across Overtime before".

Except in fairly personal circumstances. But you really don't want to know about that.


Greg @ 20: FYI, the double-slit experiment demonstrating single photons probabilistically interfering with themselves was a very early prediction of quantum mechanics, and the experiment was done in many forms a long long time ago, even prior to quantum mechanics.

Wikipedia says 1909: "When a great number of photons are sent through the apparatus one by one and recorded on photographic film, the same interference pattern emerges that had been seen before when many photons were being emitted at the same time. The low intensity double-slit experiment was first performed by Taylor in 1909,[17] by reducing the level of incident light until on average only one photon was being transmitted at a time.[15]" ... "It was shown experimentally in 1972 that in a Young slit system where only one slit was open at any time, interference was nonetheless observed provided the path difference was such that the detected photon could have come from either slit.[19] The experimental conditions were such that the photon density in the system was much less than unity. A Young double slit experiment was not performed with anything other than light until 1961, when Clauss Jönsson of the University of Tübingen performed it with electrons,[20][21] and not until 1974 in the form of "one electron at a time", in a laboratory at the University of Milan, by researchers led by Pier Giorgio Merli, of LAMEL-CNR Bologna."


Anything is possible.

Goedel doesn't disprove there is such a thing as "ultimate truth" (he doesn't try to), only that axiomatic systems are by necessity unable to prove (or disprove) themselves, and are therefore incomplete. Just to make sure not to be misunderstood: I believe that mathematical models are most reliable way to model "reality".

But then, if we could fully comprehend reality, would we need a model? A model, after all, is just a piece of prejudice, constructed from previously observed patterns of cause-effect relationships.

Now put this into perspective by remembering the most popular current model of space/time postulates that time and its first cousin, causality, only started to "be there" some nanoseconds after the universe itself came into existance (HEH!, but not a joke).

Could try to say more, but won't, there are people more apt to explaining this than I am on this forum,


There's a class of current quantum gravity theories in which space and time are consequences of causality. That is, the arrow of time, and the distinction between timelike and spacelike intervals are macroscopic emergent characteristics that result from a microscopic (um, maybe "zepto-" or "yoctoscopic" would be more appropriate here) network of events connected by causal arcs. I think it's an elegant concept. Of course it may not be strange enough to be true :-)

From this point of view, the creation of the universe resulted in events and causality being created first, with space and time coming after.

It's said the universe had a cause and must have a cause. Which on the face of it seems fair enough.

But it isn't necessarily true. I find it difficult to see how it would not be, but failure of imagination on my part is certainly no hindrance to the way the universe is set up. And there is a problem with it: unless the universe has existed forever (which does not seem to have been the case) then there must have been a first cause, before which there was no previous cause. Clearly there's something about causality and the history of the universe we don't understand very well.


Clifton @ 76 "Statistically" one-photon-at-a-time is a long way from genuinely o-p-a-a-time. The real wierdo is that if you fire pohtons individually, an interference pattern slowly builds up. But, if you put "proximity" detectors in place by the slits, the interference pattern vanishes. I am strongly of the opinion that QM, as we know it is NOT a complete description. There is an underlying level of order/prediction/whatever that we presently do not have a description of.

@ 79 and others ... This is Aristotle and Thomas and Aquinas "First Cause" (which is "god" in the second two cases, of course) But there's no evidence for it - or against it. It's a postulate. Scientists, generally, are mostly content with the universe as it is, and was - back to within considerably less than a second after the "Big Bang".

But, this is where the problems with First Cause / QM / Q-gravity and other theories and hypotheses interact. It is beginning to look as though we may have to "choose" between causality and locality/non-locality, unless we get a much better understanding of "true" reality. Hence my earlier reference to the BBC Horizon programme on this very set of problems.


I have a question about Life on the Farm (so watch out for spoilers). I understand Renfield needed old tech to fill out patient and facility information, but wouldn't she need a computer to fill out her own HR forms? Since she's not a patient, she still has to be ISO-compliant, right?

Okay, maybe even though electricity was permitted in the staff offices, a data connection might not be. So if she had to go to an offsite location to process her own forms, wouldn't someone else in the Laundry notice the geas?

Also, when is the Laundry gonna get some kind of geas-proofing already? They should put all of their personnel under a trump-card geas to immediately report any subsequent geasing they receive.


I'm still waiting for cosmology to get beyond the following model

A) Stuff just happened. B) But saying that isn't enough to let me keep my job.

Therefore: C) we need a more complex theory to justify my salary, and the math needs to be sufficiently complex that I will have job security explaining it to everyone else.

I'm not going to anger anyone by asking how many tenured jobs have been built on the above model.

Or, as a biologist noted: It's hard to be a physicist, when the universe is made of collectible stamps.


But, if you put "proximity" detectors in place by the slits, the interference pattern vanishes.
I'm not at all surprised - you're interfering with the path.

If it were possible to detect a photon without affecting it in any way (something at which Heisenberg would be rather surprised), then something different might be seen, but that would be a different universe, with different physical rules. In this one, 'a' can't affect 'b' without 'b' affecting 'a'.

For your amusement, an experiment where things are back to front: yes, diffracting fullerene molecules off a standing wave of light.


They are scientists, refining ideas an improving on their models is their job.

A lot of non-scientific jobs are similar in that way. If a client came to us saying "our software is deficient in this way or that" and I replied "well, that must suck pretty hard for you, bye" I wouldn't be doing my job very well, either.


You mean that you've never reported a software problem only to be told "that's a feature sir"? I get it way too often.



'best ps3 game' at #86 and #87.

(I paused half way through typing the alert text. No, I really don't want to consider SPAM ALE, and I suggest you don't mention it to F.)


Both appear to be gotten now.


I was going to ask where "A Colder War" fits in, but then did a little research and found a reference (via Pikiwedia) to the Laundry editor stating clearly that it's not part of the Laundry universe. Similar, but not the same.

Which is a relief; I'd hate to see Bob go that way.


Hi Charlie and Co. Great blog. I've been browsing here a little while. Introduced to your work via Singularity Sky. Recently FWIW, discovered you have sevearl titles in Ibooks as Epub versions. As a blind Ipod Touch owning guy, this was a very happy find. (Works well with Voiceover and I can get them near instantaniously.)

Recently read Glass House. Currently, almost through The Atrocity Archives, checking where I need to go nnext. Does it go with out saying, I find the execution of your rich imaginagnings, provoking, entertaining and amuzing. Well I've said it anyway. IN a roundabout way, you've also inspired me to take up learning programming again.


Chris, Bristol, UK.



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