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The Apocalypse Codex (UK cover)

I have a new book coming out in July: "The Apocalypse Codex", #4 in Bob Howard's working memoirs, the Laundry Files.

UPDATE: UK publisher Orbit are running a competition! Do you have what it takes to work for the Laundry? (Jobs—or other prizes—for the successful applicants.)

(The official publication date is the 3rd—next Tuesday—in the USA, in hardcover and ebook. In the UK, a production delay means it's due on the 19th, two weeks later, but you have the options of a paperback and a lower-cost ebook. And as usual, dead tree editions may begin to show up in bricks-and-mortar book stores a week or so ahead of the official date.)

Here's a list of places you can buy copies online.

If you want to order signed copies, right now your only option is Transreal Fiction in Edinburgh, who call me in to sign books. (I will normally sign anything you shove under my nose except a cheque, but I don't have a signing tour scheduled for "The Apocalypse Codex" and this is a nose-to-the-grindstone working month for me.)

If you want to know which sales channel give the author most money, the order is: ideally an undiscounted hardback from a small retailer (like Transreal), followed by a discounted hardback from a big box store or Amazon or the undiscounted UK trade paperback, then an ebook, then a discounted trade paperback from a big box store ... the book will be available as a mass market paperback or discounted ebook in July 2013, which makes the author even less money, but more than a remaindered copy or a pirate download or library loan.

Want a taster of the contents? Orbit, my UK publisher, are posting extracts over the next week, starting here ... or you can look below the cut!

Prologue: Office Job

Things are getting better: It's been ten months, and I only wake up screaming about once a week now. The physiotherapy is working and my right arm has regained eighty percent of its strength. The surviving members of the Wandsworth Cell of the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh have been arrested and detained indefinitely at Her Majesty's Pleasure, in accordance with the secret supplementary regulations in Appendix Six of the Terrorism Act (2003); and every day, in every way, my life is getting better and better.

(The happy pills help, too.)

Please ignore the nervous tic; it's an unavoidable side effect of my profession. The name's Howard, Bob Howard: I'm a hacker turned demonologist, and I work for the Laundry, the secret agency tasked with protecting Her Majesty's Realm from the scum of the multiverse. The nightmares, scars, and post-traumatic flashbacks are the fault of the bad guys, some of whom also work (or rather, worked) for the Laundry--which fact is currently causing a shit-storm of epic proportions to rage through the corridors of government.

Ten months ago, while seconded to the BLOODY BARON committee, I stumbled across evidence of a leak inside the Laundry. That sort of thing is supposedly impossible (our oath of office supposedly binds us to service on peril of our soul) but, nevertheless, Angleton--whose assistant I am, and who is not entirely human--set a trap for the mole, with yours truly as the tethered goat.

Things got a little out of hand, and before the dust settled the Black Brotherhood attempted to raise and bind an ancient evil called the Eater of Souls, using a ritual that required a human body for it to possess. (Guess who they had in mind for the starring role?) Luckily for me they hadn't quite worked out that the Eater of Souls already is incarnate in a body--Angleton's--but before the Seventh Cavalry arrived I discovered the hard way that Nietzsche was right: if you stare into the Abyss for too long it stares into you, and likely finds you crunchy with ketchup and a little relish on the side. Bad dreams ensued all around, and it left me with a disquieting new talent that I've been doing my best to avoid thinking about too hard.

Well, they arrested Iris and her surviving minions and sent them to a camp in the Lake District where it rains sideways five days out of four, all technologies invented after 1933 are forbidden, and if you walk too far beyond the perimeter fence you find yourself walking back towards it. I imagine that's where they live to this day, when they're not answering questions in a room where the patterned carpet makes your eyes burn if you stare at it for too long, and your tongue writhes like a tapeworm in your mouth if you try to stay silent.

As for me, I got to go home four months ago. I finished writing up my confidential report, and the nightmares have mostly stopped: I only dream about the fence of living corpses around the step pyramid on the dead plateau a couple of times a week now, and the hole in my right arm has mostly healed. So I'm all right, at least on paper.

A month ago, I went back to work. I'm on light duty for the time being, but I'm sure that'll change once management decides to feed me back into the meat grinder.

Before I continue, I've got a confession to make.

A couple of years ago, Angleton told me to start writing my memoirs. Which should have struck me as really fishy--why on earth should a junior civil servant in an occult intelligence agency be required to write a memoir? (Especially as ninety percent of the stuff therein is classified up to the eyeballs and protected by wards that will make steam boil out of your ears if you try to read it without the right security clearance.) But I'm older and more cynical these days, and I understand the logic behind it.

The deadliest threat to any covert organization is the loss of institutional knowledge that comes with the death or retirement of key personnel. The long-term survival prospects for those of us who practice the profession of applied computational demonology are not good. Let me put it another way: I've got a really generous pension waiting for me, if I live long enough to claim it. As we drift helplessly into the grim meat-hook future of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, the final crisis when "the stars come right," the walls between the worlds dissolve, and the monsters come out to play, we're going to need more sorcerers than can be trained by conventional methods;   we're going to have to drop a lot of our existing security practices, allow the stovepipes between departments to melt, lower the firewalls, and get these sorcerers up to speed and mixing new metaphors as fast as possible. These memoirs are therefore intended to feed into an institutional knowledge base that, by and by, will help my successors (including new operations management personnel) to survive by allowing them to avoid my non-fatal blunders--blunders I only lived through because I made them in a kinder, more forgiving age.

(Also, there is this: writing down nightmares is a really good way to exorcise your demons.)

However, as I record this account of the events surrounding the Apocalypse Codex, I'm going to have to take some liberties. For starters, even if I'm dead when you read this, other people affected by the events in this document may still be alive--and what you learn from it may hurt them. So I'm going to have to redact some sections. Also, I'm in line management these days, and although I debriefed all the surviving participants and read all the reports, I didn't personally witness all the action. In fact, I spent much of my time following the trail of broken bodies, explosions, and general mayhem that BASHFUL INCENDIARY left in her wake--and praying that I wouldn't be too late.

(Praying? Well, yes--metaphorically speaking. As you doubtless know if you're reading this memoir, there is One True Religion; but I wouldn't want you to get the idea that I was a follower of N'Yar l ath-Hotep, or The Sleeper, or any of their nightmarish ilk. My prayers are secular, humanist, and probably futile. It's one of my character flaws; I was a lot happier when I was an atheist.)

Anyway, I'm going to use a simple convention in this memoir. If it happened to me, I'll describe it in the first person, from my own point of view. If it happened to someone else, I'll describe it in the third person, from the outside. And if there's something you really, really need to understand if you're to avoid having your brain eaten by gibbering monsters from beyond spacetime, I'll take time out to harangue you directly.

Finally, if it happened to one of us but it has the potential to be damaging if disclosed, you'll have to come back with a higher security clearance in order to check out the version with the spicy bits.

And so, to business.

A month later.

Dear diary . . .

No, scratch that. Two months ago I went back to work.

The first month was light duty, pottering around the office, catching up on a backlog of training courses and paperwork, filling in time.

And of course I let myself be suckered into a false sense of security, into thinking that everything was, in fact, getting better and better. Despite the nightmares and the security protocols and the ever-present awareness of the fast-approaching end of reality as we know it--I began to relax.

Big mistake, Bob.

A lot of things can happen in a month. In the context of the last month, I have . . . well, I'm not dead, even though I've acquired my first gray   hairs. I'm not insane, or back in hospital, under arrest, or even slightly maimed. All things considered, that's a minor miracle.

A little light duty, filling in time. Ho bloody ho. "We want you to keep an eye on some departmental assets that are going walkabout," Angleton said, as if we were talking about paper clips or rubber bands. So of course I didn't think to ask what kind of assets he had in mind. Silly me.

The last month's asset-watching has been something of an eye-opener. I've got a whole new bundle of guilt, not to mention a bunch of secrets to see me through the sleepless nights. Assets, going walkabout. That's a euphemism, you know, as the actress said to the bishop. Sort of like the French prime minister describing an H-bomb test as "a device which is exploding."

So here without further ado is my recollection of the events classified under APOCALYPSE CODEX.

Chapter 1: Bloodstone Caper

A clear spring night over Bavaria, cloudless and chilly. The setting moon is a waning crescent, the shadows lengthening to the southeast. A distant propeller drone splits the sky above the foothills of the Bavarian Alps as a late-flying Cessna 208 works its way slowly northeast towards Munich. The single-engine utility plane is nearly six kilometers up as it cruises over the forested slopes of the west Allgäu.

It's cold and noisy in the unpressurized cabin, which is unfurnished and bare but for anchor points and tie-downs: this is nobody's idea of business class. Nevertheless, three passengers, all with oxygen masks, crouch on the floor. One of them wears overalls, a safety harness, and a headset plugged into the crew circuit. He waits by the cargo door, listening for a word from the cockpit. The other two passengers wear helmets and parachute packs in the same color scheme as their midnight camo overalls.

At a terse instruction from the cockpit, the jump-master leans forward and tugs the door open. As he does so, the taller and heavier of the midnight skydivers leans his helmet close to his companion's ear and speaks. "Are you sure this is entirely safe, Duchess?"

"Come on, Johnny! A midnight HALO drop over mountainous terrain, then a rooftop landing on a madman's folly guarded by unholy nightmares?" Her laugh is a rich, musical chuckle. "What can possibly go wrong?"

"It's not that." Her companion raises a hand, adjusts the fit of the night vision goggles that half-obscure the front of his helmet, lending him the face of a giant cubist insect. "I mean, it's the payload. We're getting a bit too damn close to the deadline, if you'll pardon my French."

"Oh, really." She looks out the door, at the screaming midnight gale and the invisible forest below, as one hand moves to touch the bulge at her left hip. "Yes, we are very late. Blame the ash cloud from Grímsvötn: we should have been able to do this last week. But if you think I am going to abort now, and risk landing at Franz Josef Strauss Airport with that thing still in my pocket--"

The jump-master interrupts: "Sixty seconds."

"I thought you'd say that," Johnny says gloomily.

"Relax. Everything will be fine once it's back in its wards. Just try not to get hung up on the battlements."

"Thirty seconds."

Johnny gives the jump-master a thumbs up and stands, holding the rail beside the open side-door. His companion rolls to her knees and tugs the strap connecting her harness to a kit bag the size of a large carry-on, then stands up behind him. Pausing, she turns to the jump-master and hands him an envelope. "For yourself and Darren," she says, meaning the pilot. "With my undying love, Oscar."

"It has been a rare pleasure, Ms Hazard." The jump-master raises his hand. "Five seconds! Three. Two. One. Go--"

And then he's alone with the night and magic.

Persephone is falling into darkness.

Kilometers below her, the tree-shrouded slopes of the alpine foothills are growing rapidly closer. The wind is a constant roaring drag at her arms and legs as she stops her spin, then scans the grainy green disk of her night vision goggles around until she can see a light green St Andrew's cross perhaps a hundred meters below her, and Johnny, free-falling towards the target. He begins to crab sideways, and she checks her altimeter and the compact GPS receiver on her wrist. Off course by a couple of hundred meters: Johnny has noticed and is correcting. She makes sure to keep her distance to one side. Despite her nonchalant act, she's keyed up and apprehensive: she'd think twice before trying to pull a caper like this with anyone else.

Nearly a minute later she's just two thousand meters above ground level. The target is in view over the ridge line as her altimeter begins to beep. She brings her right hand in and pulls the handle. There's the usual moment of screaming tension, then the whoosh and lung-emptying jolt as the chute opens--cleanly, no messing, excellent. The falling stone has hatched into a drifting feather, gently circling towards the ground. She reaches up and grips the rigging handles, spots Johnny's chute. She's fallen past him and he's now   fifty meters above her and off to the left. That's either too damn close, or not close enough--depending on how the landing goes. She spots a hand wave. He's aware of her position. Good.

One thousand meters up. The target is visible, sitting proudly atop a rugged hill overlooking the Alpsee and Schwansee lakes. Schloss Neuschwanstein was the last and greatest architectural folly of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, model for a million Disney fantasies. Today it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Germany, with a newly opened gallery of baroque art in the lower stories below the king's staterooms.

From the perspective of a nighttime parachute drop, the roofline is a nightmare--steeply pitched gables surrounded by pointed conical towers, like an enormous meat tenderizer poised to slam into flesh and bones.

Persephone focuses on the roofline, picks out the craggy pitch of the Palas with its gables and chimneys and turrets, and steers towards it.

Sane people do not go skydiving at night. They especially don't go skydiving at night over mountainous terrain, then try to land on the steeply angled tiles of a castle roof, with a twenty meter drop to a cobblestoned courtyard off to one side . . .

. . . But nobody has ever accused Persephone Hazard of being sane.

She flares and lifts her knees to clear the spine of the roof, spills air and drops towards the tiles, slides jolting sideways towards the cornice below--and is yanked to a stop by the cable attaching her harness to the peak of the roof by a specially shaped grapple. There is nothing random about the grapple: she and Johnny went to great pains to study the roof earlier, taking photographs and measurements from the Marienbrücke hillside. The grapple is locked to the roof, held in place by her weight. The chute, in contrast, drapes loosely around her. Persephone rolls, putting her back to the roof, and gathers in the chute with both arms. Thirty meters away on the other side of the roof, Johnny is doing much the same. She can see movement at the other end of the Palas, fabric sliding across tiles. Good. She relaxes infinitesimally. So far, the plan is on track.

Five minutes pass.

Persephone has rolled up her parachute, knotting it in its own cords, and secured it to the strap of the kit bag dangling below her. Now she begins to pay out one end of the loop of rope that runs through the eye of the grapple, lowering herself towards the edge of the roof. The nearest of the high skylights, surmounted by its own steep gable, is below her and only three meters to her left. Removing an anchor from her sling and reaching out sideways, she levers between slates, feeling for a roof timber to drive the anchor into. Working in darkness takes time: fifteen minutes pass as she crabs sideways in silence, driving anchors every meter and carefully moving her attachment away from the roofline grapple. Finally she is in position, ready to lower herself alongside the gothic arch of the window. And so she descends.

The window is leaded, with a cast-iron frame. There are no security contacts on the glass or its surround; who would break into a castle from the rooftop? Persephone peers inside, sees no telltale shimmer of infrared LEDs. The castle security is tightly focused on the lower windows and outer approaches, and the display cabinets and paintings. Up here there's nothing to worry about but the fire alarm. And the watchers.

A minute later, she lowers her kit bag and then herself to the parquet floor of the Hall of the Singers.

A shadow moves swiftly in the end gallery: "What kept you?"

"Bad positioning. Help me with this." She kneels and begins to unpack components from the bag while Johnny assembles them. He's still tightening bolts as Persephone removes her helmet, unfastens her harness, then unzips her coveralls. Beneath them she wears leggings and a black leotard; her dark hair is knotted in a tight chignon. She has a dancer's physique--but a dancer would not be wearing the equipment webbing and pouches, or the mummified monkey's hand strung on a leather cord around her neck. She puts her climbing harness back on over the leotard, dons the night vision goggles, then pulls a shoulder bag from the sack and stuffs her discarded overalls and helmet inside it.

"Okay, I think I'm ready, Duchess."

Persephone checks her watch, a Seiko chronometer, synchronized to a broadcast time signal. "We are running late--ninety-six minutes to the conjunction."

"Shit. Well, I suppose I'd better get moving, then."

Johnny pulls out a pair of bent wires from his pocket and walks to the end wall. Whistling tunelessly he paces backwards, holding them before him; then, having found his distance, he switches direction and moves towards the middle of the floor. "Let's see . . . just about here, I think."

Persephone, who is watching from the gallery, narrows her eyes. "Fifty centimeters closer to the window."

"If you say so, Duchess." Johnny squats and begins to work at the parquet tiles. They form a beautifully polished herringbone pattern in rich mahogany, glued to the floorboards below with hot bitumen. With less than two hours to do the job, there's no time for subtlety: Johnny systematically vandalizes them with the aid of a battery-powered jigsaw. First, he uses a cord to draw a circle a meter in diameter around his measurement point. Next, he carefully cuts a groove in the flooring.

Persephone, meanwhile, rolls the metal framework close to him. Then she pulls out a compact caulking gun, inserts a cylinder, and begins to draw a much larger circle on the floor around them. The oozing paste is silvery in the diffuse moonlight, gravid with metallic particles. She periodically pauses to draw arcane symbols around the outer perimeter. Once the circle is closed she retreats inside and then removes a ruggedized tablet computer from one of her pockets. It sports an expansion port, and this she attaches to the circle by a short cable.

"We're locked in," she announces calmly as Johnny pauses to empty the saw's dust bag again. The inner circle is two-thirds cut through.

"This will take another five minutes." He reaches into a pocket, pulls out a compact power screwdriver and a couple of attachment points, and screws them into the cut-out circle. Without looking up he threads a wire through the hook-and-eye attachments and fastens it to the metal frame. Then he picks up the saw and cuts out the rest of the circle. Another minute with a pry bar and then the hand-crank on the portable crane, and the disk of flooring is dangling on a wire.

"Allow me." Persephone leans forward and shines a penlight into the dark recesses below the floorboards. Thick timber joists as strong as a ship's yardarm run from side to side of the dusty under-floor space, half a meter apart; it stinks of mouse droppings and ancient history. About forty centimeters below the floor there is another surface--the ceiling of the Arbeitszimmer, the royal study.

She winces slightly at the thought of what she's about to do to the gloriously paneled and painted interior of the royal suite. Mad King Ludwig bankrupted Bavaria building this castle; he spent over six million marks on it--close to half a billion euros in   twenty-first-century currency. But there's a job to be done, and the price of failure is even higher.

She reaches into the pouch on her left hip with one gloved hand and pulls forth a velvet bag. Opening it, she teases out a chain of bright-polished white gold, each link of which is encrusted with glistening emeralds. She lowers the bag by its chain over the dust-strewn roof below. It stirs slowly, dangling away from the vertical. "The amulet points to the warded containment," she says quietly. "We are out of position--at least two meters, perhaps three. Pass me the hand drill."

"Are you sure? It's no bother to raise another lid--"

"It may not bother you, Johnny, but I don't like desecrating a work of art. Pass me the hand drill and hook me up."

"It's your funeral." Johnny passes her the drill, then ropes her harness to the crane. Persephone takes a deep breath, then worms her way underneath the floor boards.

They have been on, in, and under the Hall of the Singers in the Palas of the Neuschwanstein castle for nearly an hour at this point. There are no burglar alarms on this upper story.

That does not mean, however, that there are no guards.

Persephone Hazard is at peace among the dust-bunnies of the under-floor spaces, mentally and physically in the zone as she worms her way towards the ceiling directly above the amulet's indicated spot. Every fifty centimeters she stops and uses the drill to tap a hole in the floorboards above her, then screws another anchor into the woodwork, and walks one of her load-bearing cables forward. It's slow, laborious work, and the palace is not cold--with the central heating running, so too is the sweat.

The amulet is dangling straight down now, and Persephone has begun to orient herself, rolling over to face the floor below, when the hair on the back of her neck begins to tingle. She reaches her left hand up to grasp the monkey's fist at the base of her throat. A thrill of terror washes through her for a moment before she forces herself to stillness. Whatever is happening overhead, she can't crawl backwards fast enough to be out of the hole in time to help Johnny deal with it. But there are other options. She rolls onto her back, raises the hand drill, swaps out the bit for a thirteen-centimeter-hole saw, and applies it to the boards above her.

Meanwhile, Johnny--Jonathan McTavish, accomplice and loyal lieutenant and sometime adjutant in the 2ème Régiment Étranger de Parachutistes--has become aware that he is no longer alone in the ballroom.

No door has opened, nor window slid ajar. No human lungs breathe the still, nighttime air with him. Nevertheless, he is not alone. He knows this by a prickling in the tattoo on the biceps of his left arm, by the warming of the warding amulet on the chain around his neck, by the goose bumps in the small of his back, by the strange blood running in his veins. And he knows it by the faint luminous glow coming from the warding circle that Persephone inscribed around him before embarking on her dive beneath the floorboards.

Johnny slowly scans the room, looking for traces. His nostrils flare. This is not strictly a visual talent, nor does he expect his night vision gear to spot the heat trace of a living body in the gloom. He and the Duchess are here tonight to lay something to rest; there are beings that will not appreciate this work. Entities that will go unfed if the amulet is restored to its rightful place in the display cabinet of King Ludwig's study, replacing the artful forgery that a long-dead cat burglar replaced it with decades ago. Things that do not appreciate the way amulet's power is blocked   while it is confined in this place.

Johnny has what used to be called Witchfinder's Eyes by the old women in the highland village where he was born. And there are some kinds of trouble he can see in the dark with his eyes closed. The gothic architecture and baroque decorations in the Hall of the Singers cannot disguise one aspect of the design of the room--that it is essentially a box chock-full of right angles.

The Schloss is a museum and a tourist attraction by day, a small and significant part of Bavaria's cultural heritage owned and maintained at arm's reach by the agencies of the state government. But it wasn't built here, in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, solely for the picturesque view. Ludwig Friedrich Wilhelm II was not known as the Mad King by reason of mere psychiatric diagnosis alone, nor was the coup and subsequent assassination that ended his reign a matter of mere realpolitik. The Schloss was not   built to be a temple to the Moon King's Wagnerian fantasies. Tonight, on the eve of a certain recurring celestial alignment, the temple's night watch are padding through the passages and stairs of the castle on black velvet paws, their eyeless muzzles questing for the stink of fear.

There is movement at the end of the room.

Johnny raises his hands round the back of his neck: he draws a pair of strange knives from their sheaths, their twin blades carved from flat slivers of some black glassy material.

Claws click on the parquet floor as a doglike darkness stalks into the hall.

There is no panic, but Johnny wets his lips. These things have no ears or eyes, but rely on other senses to find their prey. "Duchess," he says quietly, "we've picked up a hound."

The dog-thing fades in and out of view as it walks towards the warding circle. Shards of leg and head and torso ripple and stretch, rotating and distorting around an invisible reference point as it moves. When in motion it is an occult blur, but when it pauses its entire body is visible: a nightmare-black dog-shape, a gaunt eyeless hunter that doesn't seem to be all there.

The ward is doing its work, for by its movements the hound appears baffled and uncertain. Nevertheless, Johnny tracks it tensely, throwing knife raised and ready. The knives snarl silently, eager to drink souls. They carry words of banishment, hopefully enough to send the hound back from whence it came . . . but perhaps not. One thing is sure: the instant one of the knives crosses the perimeter of the ward, the ward's protection will vanish. At this range, if he misses his target, the hound will be on top of him within two seconds. And while Johnny wouldn't blink at facing off against a timber wolf, these things are different. Even a momentary skin-to-skin contact with its rippling integument means death. He's only going to get one shot at it.

The hound casts its blind muzzle from side to side, then pauses a couple of meters short of the ward, right in front of Johnny. It lowers its head towards the floor, and freezes, muzzle pointing straight down.

He throws once, in a blur.

There's a blue flash as the knife splits the warding circle; simultaneously, a loud thudding noise comes from the vicinity of the hound. The dagger strikes the hound directly, splashing ribbons of green light from its flank. But it isn't the hungry knife that causes the hound to thrash wildly and keel over, huge jaws snapping at its own belly. There's another door-slamming sound. "Clear!" he calls, pitching his voice low as he steps over the shorted-out warding circle and approaches the hound, which is lying still now, limbs twitching tetanically. "It's not quite gone yet," he adds, as he sets the point of the other knife to the side of the hound's throat and pushes.

There's a moment of resistance, then he topples forwards, reaches out to catch himself with one hand against the floor. Of the hound there is no sign, save the knife and the splinters around the firing hole Persephone had drilled beneath it. "It is now," he adds.

The rest of the operation goes exactly according to plan.

Using the amulet as a guide, Persephone drills a thirteen-centimeter hole in the ceiling of the Arbeitszimmer. She fastens the amulet to a fishing line and lowers it through the hole. Peering through a compact fiber-optic probe, she lowers her payload towards a display cabinet in the shape of a grotesque miniature oak chapel that squats beneath a mural depicting scenes from the legend of the Holy Grail. There is a glass screen and velvet ropes to keep visitors from getting too close, and there are under-carpet pressure sensors and infrared body heat detectors--hence the ceiling approach. The amulet descends towards the front of the cabinet, tugging like a magnet beside an automobile. Then there's a sudden yank on the cord, a crunch of fine woodwork and a shattering of glass. The amulet slams into the center of the display, where its identical twin rests on a velvet pad; the replica is sent flying as the wards inlaid in the floorboards under the parquet around the cabinet flash lightning-bright.

Persephone tenses; but there is no shrill of bells. Pressure plates are seldom tuned to hair-trigger sensitivity, lest the security guards are called out every time a mouse scurries across the floor at midnight. Nor do body heat detectors work on pieces of extravagant jewelry, whether or not they are imbued with grotesque and unpleasant powers by their former owner. She permits herself a sigh of relief. Then she turns her attention to retrieving the replica of the Moon King's amulet from the bottom of the cabinet: a fiddly fishing job, but one familiar to any child who has wasted their pocket money on an amusement arcade grab-machine--and far more rewarding. It's just like old times, really.

Finishing, she coils up the fishing line, weights it down on top of the ceiling boards with her hand drill, and retreats back to the Hall of the Singers--making sure to take the spent cartridge cases from her silenced pistol with her.

"Done here," she says as Johnny pulls her out of the hole in the floor. "Just the one hound?"

"The next time I see 'em hunting in a pack will be the first." He checks his chronometer. "Thirty-two minutes to alignment. Is it in place?"

Persephone glances at him, scrutinizing his face: he's as stoical and imperturbable as ever. "Ever walked past a big electromagnet with a ring of keys? It knows where it belongs. The wards still work after all these years. Nothing to worry about." She smiles, buzzing with exultation. The amulet is back in place, another chink in this world's defenses repaired just in time. The replica installed in place of the stolen original by an uninformed but highly proficient jewel thief is safe in her bag, earmarked for delivery to its final resting place. The incursion will be exposed tomorrow, recognized for what it is by security guards boggling at the ingenuity of the cat burglars who came so close to stealing the Mad King's crown jewels the night before.

"Let's go!"

Persephone gathers her climbing ropes and stalks towards the windows, ready to abseil to the forest below in preparation for the long midnight walk to the rented safe house in Füssen. Tomorrow they will dispose of their equipment and meet with an agent who will take the not-invaluable forgery (itself containing over a hundred carats of blue diamonds and black fire opals, supplied to the jewel thief by a very special collector to whom the original was vastly more interesting than any collection of unenchanted gems) and make it disappear. Then they will depart by light plane, and it's back to the cover of the everyday whirl of the celebrity culture vulture circuit for her, and the adventure tour business for Johnny.

As she pauses on the window ledge to check her harness, Persephone feels more alive than she has in ages.



Already pre-ordered the e-book... looking forward to this. Over the past month, I've gone on a bit of a binge reading your books ;) It's a shame you've got so many universes open, as they're all quite compelling - I read your post where you described why you did that (the whole 'it's probably not going to succeed, so I'll try something else in the mean time' sort of view), but now I keep wishing you'd just write faster ;)

Good luck with the sales on this one!


just checked my amazon account to be sure and yep, got the hardcover on pre-order, so everything is sorted there.

really looking forward to this one!


I keep wishing you'd just write faster

Alas, ain't gonna happen. You might not have noticed, but I'm 12 years older than when I began selling novels, and one doesn't get faster and more energetic with age. Also, the easy stuff is already done. I can at this point either start phoning them in -- basically extrude cookie-cutter novels -- or I can keep trying to stretch myself, which means subsequent books are harder to write.


One bonus of ordering my hardcopy from a small retailer... they actually got it in a few days ago and let me have it before the release date! Good to know you profited from the arrangement too. ;)


Third of July's a Tuesday - I should know, it's my birthday. ;)


BASHFUL INCENDIARY == Modesty Blaise ?


Okay, so ... who has the handy dandy cloning machine at the ready? (It's about the only solution I can think of offhand.)




Pre-ordered from AMZN, but might not have done if we'd known of the delay earlier and I trusted Waterstone's to actually have it in stock!


Also the really attractive and eye catching cover Illustration and design of the American Hardback Edition of "The Apocalypse Codex" looks like a rather nice tribute to the Cover illustrations on the Souvenir Press hardbacks of the Modesty Blaise series, most notably perhaps that of " I Lucifer " .. which HB cost 25 shillings net when it was released back in 1967.

Where did all the time go?

Anyway, my copy of "The Apocalypse Codex" hb has been on order with since Amazon reneged on my order from the UKs

If Amazon send my copy in a capsule towed by trained dolphins .. as another tribute to the Modesty Blaise series ...then I may get to read it before the delayed UK dead tree edition comes out.


Does Forbidden Planet count as a 'small retailer'? For me, it's either there or a Waterstone's that I'll be buying from.


Yes, FB counts as a 'small retailer'. Waterstones, on the other hand, have 40% of the UK high street market ...


Is the official US publication date the 3rd or next Friday (the 6th)?


@13 Amazon says it's the third. Anyway, books in the US almost always come out on Tuesday.


Already pre-ordered through iBooks. Looking forward to it!


Will there be an audiobook too? With the same narrator of the last three books :)


Audio rights are sold separately from paper/ebook rights. I can't remember if I've signed a contract for this one but going by previous form it's probably in the pipeline. No idea how long it'll take. No idea and no say over who the narrator is, either.


I'd be really curious to know what cut you get from each of those different formats side-by-side with what I as a consumer pay. E.g., maybe you get moderately more for a hardcover, but I pay out the nose for the difference.

I understand you probably can't or won't provide those figures for a variety of reasons, but since I don't care whether I get hardcover or paperback, I'm basically wondering: If I pay extra for a hardcover, does that extra amount mostly go to you, or am I largely just paying for extra paperboard that I don't need?


I get between 6% and 20% of the retail price, depending. Ebooks get 20% but are sold cheaper than hardcovers which get 10% to 15% depending on sales volume. All royalties are subject to a discount if the publisher has to take a deep discount.

Before you assume this means the publisher gets 80-94% of the take, you should bear in mind that the retail chain actually accounts for the lion's share; if you buy a US ebook from Amazon for $12.99, I get around $2.50, the publisher gets around $2.50, and Amazon gets everything else. To make matters worse, in the UK ebooks (but not paper editions) are subject to VAT -- sales tax -- at 20%, which is included in the price. So for a UK ebook at £4.99, the tax man gets around £1, I get £0.80, my publisher gets £0.80, and AMZN gets around £2.20.


Waiting for library to get in a copy, looking for a 5-bob note to pop in the mail. (They're scarce here in the Excited Snakes.) Does your local pub take PayPal?


Pre-ordered from Barnes & Noble, and shipped last Saturday from Edison, New Jersey (about 5,000 km from here) via UPS ground. Tracking shows it passed through Illinois on Wednesday, and it's scheduled to be delivered to me by end of day on Monday, July 2. Why yes, I am getting a little obsessive about getting it in my hands and reading it.


Great Darwin's Ghost, he's done it again!

Does this come in a hardback edition? I might splash the big bucks for it in that case, rather than waiting a year for the El Cheapo paperback version.


The American edition is hardcover; the British one is a trade paperback. I believe the US hardcover can be ordered in the UK from (but not from


Thanks for that.

The trade paperback phenomenon annoys me. "It's like a proper hardback, just not as good."


The UK market conditions make it pretty hard to sell hardcover genre fiction right now -- only seriously high-selling books need apply. I reckon "Fuller Memorandum's" sales track in the UK was dented at Waterstones by parallel imports of US products from earlier in the series; it's taking time for sales to rise to a level that would justify a hardcover run. Meanwhile, with the series established in trade, why rock the format boat?


Roger that.

Would the end of the Net Book Agreement have anything to do with this (and with this sort of thing)?

Or would things still be pretty much like this in the book trade even if the NBA was still with us?


"Also, the easy stuff is already done."

How would you define easy? When you get an idea for a story, what makes the difference between throwing it back in the water or declaring it a keeper?


Having read the 'teaser' I'm really glad I've ordered it. For me, The 'Laundry' books are pure catnip. I sincerely hope you make the money you richly deserve from them.


The end of the NBA has been pretty catastrophic for book sales across the UK. (Especially as the equivalent of the NBA is still in force in France and Germany -- funnily enough EU anti-competition dictats don't seem to ban it there.)


How would you define easy?

Similar to stuff I've already done.

I have a comfort zone. I can either write endless permutations of themes I'm already proficient in, or I can look for stuff that's challenging. Which means moving further outside my comfort zone. Which is hard, especially as change becomes more difficult the older you get.


How do you feel about books ordered online from Foyles?

From a buyer's perspective they're excellent (discounts for online purchase, very good range including US published stuff, and genuinely helpful customer service staffed by well trained real people who give customers the benefit of the doubt).

I almost always buy from them for all of the above reasons, plus because they're not Watersones or Amazon. But I don't see how their business model works, and I'm curious about your end.


Foyles are fine. Nearest thing the UK has got to Powell's in Portland, OR.


Darn it. Now I'm really looking forward for the book to arrive.


Congratulations! Much looking forward to it.


Good stuff! A couple of typos that it is much too late for you to do anything whatsoever with:

"not-invaluable" should probably be "not valueless".

"Things that do not appreciate the way amulet's power is blocked while it is confined in this place" is apparently missing a "the".


This extract is from the copy-edited manuscript; the MS went through a further series of checks after this iteration, but I don't have access to the source of the page proofs (other than in the form of a PDF of the entire book).


Pre-ordered ages ago (it feels like). And I'm looking forward to this.

The comp on Orbit looks amusing and it'd be trivial to win. But if I did I'd be drafted so I won't even try... Not that I think this stuff is real or anything, or think it should be.

I'll get the hardback next time I'm in Cambridge 'cos Stevenage lost its last Foyles a while ago and alas it's Kindle for the pre-order. Mind you the pound shop opposite is about the only place you can get Vesta packet meals these days...

So two questions, if you have the time & inclination:

(a). Do you see The Laundry series going forward post CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN (if that's what actually happens)?

(b). More generally, would you do a co-author thing with Pratchett (go on, everyone else does) given the opportunity, money aside to an extent?


"Similar to stuff I've already done. I have a comfort zone. I can either write endless permutations of themes I'm already proficient in, or I can look for stuff that's challenging."

Look, all we want you to do is write exactly what you've done before: fresh, challenging, original views of the future delivered in a comfortable, familiar, easily-digestible fashion. And don't be boring and predictable when you do it. And once you are old, fat and rich, you can find other authors who still retain a shred of creativity and they'll ghostwrite your books for you.

This extract is from the copy-edited manuscript; the MS went through a further series of checks after this iteration, but I don't have access to the source of the page proofs (other than in the form of a PDF of the entire book).

Erm, if you want to forward the Ms, I'd be delighted to look at it for you..!


Looking forward to receiving my order from Transreal...


(a). Do you see The Laundry series going forward post CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN (if that's what actually happens)?

Yes, definitely. There's a 9-book story arc planned (and probably a couple of branches off the main story line): CNG happens around books 5-6.

(b). More generally, would you do a co-author thing with Pratchett (go on, everyone else does) given the opportunity, money aside to an extent?

No. However, I am considering a new collaboration with someone else. And there's the co-authored novel with Cory Doctorow we've got coming out this September ...


(a). As we say in Stevenage, "Fucking A!!!".

(b). I'd be curious to know why not if you're willing to say though having read "the long earth" I'm not suprised albeit that I thought the Science of DiscWorld series was not at all bad and Good Omens was almost superb. Mind you that opinion is coming from someone who will argue, after only two pints of Abbott Ale, that Small Gods is the most moral book ever written...

(c). I really like "A Colder War". Which was what originally turned me on to you (via Audible!).


Yes, definitely. There's a 9-book story arc planned (and probably a couple of branches off the main story line): CNG happens around books 5-6.

Huh? Really? I thought the CNG will just get postponed every book, forever. Isn't CNG the point where everybody gets slowly eaten by Cthulhu?


Simply, I don't think PTerry and I think the same way. I suspect we'd annoy the hell out of each other if we tried to collaborate. Or I'd end up riding his coat-tails, sharecropping my way to glory. Life is too damn short: I have my own stuff to do, and I don't need the money that badly.

On the other hand, when I collaborate successfully with another author it's usually a situation where we bring different strengths to the project and can chew it over and strike sparks, effectively giving birth to a third authorial identity who does something that neither of us can achieve on our own.

I'm going to say no more on the subject for now. I have had a hard day of wrangling pirate space bats around, and I need to clock off and hole up with some recreational reading.


CNG should be end of the line, no more story. That it could happen only halfway towards the end of the series is not just unexpected but fascinating. Very curious to see how that would play out.


Cool. Thank you very much for that.


Well, there's always this.



On a more pedantic note, I wanted to be the first to point out that a waning cresent moon sets during the afternoon.


Your quotation above, from Nietzsche about the abyss, was something Nietzsche took from Poe before him.


I'm not sure it's still valid, but back in the beginning of the noughties, you could make a pretty good correlation between the degree that all EU regulations were enforced nationally, and how much popular dissatisfaction with the EU there was.

I think Sweden, Denmark, and the UK made up the top three on both lists. Italy and Greece was IIRC on the bottom of both.


"CNG should be end of the line, no more story.'

If monsters slither out to eat you, they become you themselves.


Charlie, this might annoy you unduly, but "from whence" is redundant. Whence itself implicitly contains the "from".


"From whence" is acceptable due to "poetic license." (In particular, it has a lot of history with demonic / occult references.)


Don't change a thing, Charlie! And don't let US/multinational publishers talk you into publishing cookie-cutter novels, as you say, for a less hip audience. (I think your readership must be hip and somewhat above average in other ways, viz. your fan Paul Krugman.)

An old friend, with whom I had briefly practiced the horizontal mambo in college, told me years ago that she had worked with her publisher and learned how to write a best seller. Indeed she had, and she used her dreadful facility to write a book together with my ex-wife. Circumstances of ill-omen, I'm sure you will agree, and it was a very bad book. Eldritch horror, all round!

Your faithful readers feel protective of your good soul.


Conan (not your real name, I perceive), the phrase you used is not correct. The currect usage is "fuckin' A".


Your quotation above, from Nietzsche about the abyss, was something Nietzsche took from Poe before him.

Source, please. (I'm not challenging your comment, I'd just like to know.)


As in "...from whenceforth came..."


As a big fan, I appreciate the effort you're going to to write books outside your comfort zone. We might have to wait a little longer for each new book, but it's made up for by how new and good and brain-expanding it is when it gets here.


OK, here we have this hot girl prancing around in a leotard. And what do the UK and US covers show?

Conan (not your real name, I perceive), the phrase you used is not correct. The currect usage is "fuckin' A".

I'm always keen to learn the currect usgage. Thanks!


You're welcome! Another useful phrase is a hybrid with a similar idiom: "Fuckin' A right!". From my youth, 55 years ago. Further back, I'm guesssing; maybe WWII.

But I digress. Enough, self!


@ 41 etc (re. Co-Authoring) A wonderful, obviously PTerry line from The Long Earth "Oh don't be absurd, man." The PM sat back. "We can't just ban a thing because we can't control it." The minister for Health & Safety looked startled: "I don't see why not. It's never stopped us before." And also: " ... out to worlds so remote, he didn't have to worry about the crazies, even the crazies with badges & warrants." Oops, is that the phrase?


Charlie, your book is popping up on Amazon UK at the head of category lists. such as Kindle > SF > Coming Soon

And that one isn't simply ordered by release date.

I know what you have said about the relative benefits to you of the different sources and formats, but the cover is popping up all over the place on the Amazon site. Whatever system they use to decide these things, you seem to be "it".

Hmm, I wonder what could go wrong with a large-scale book-selling operation on the internet, which might end up involving Bob Howard?


I notice that it's selling really quite well on for a book that isn't out for another three weeks.

(Real bestsellers frequently hit #1 on AMZN salesrank a week before release. I'm not actually a bestseller. Nudging towards the top 1000 dead tree products three weeks out is, however, pretty good.)

((The Kindle salesrank is a festering pit of uselessness these days, and has been useless for guesstimating one's sales figures ever since AMZN started mixing in self-published £0.69 titles with, ahem, books from Real Publishers.))


Somewhat related: I was reading Jennifer Morgue yesterday and thinking: "What's with the stupid James Bond references all the time? This is going overboard!" about a paragraph before that got cleared up and I felt stupid/clever.

Good book though. I am very much amused.

If monsters slither out to eat you, they become you themselves.

Ever read James Blish's "Black Easter" & "The Day After Judgement"? The ending of the latter story makes some interesting comments on that line of thought.


"Der Mensh ist, was er isst."


I have always thought those Blish novels would make a good movie.

Huh? Really? I thought the CNG will just get postponed every book, forever. Isn't CNG the point where everybody gets slowly eaten by Cthulhu?

Well, that was one of my theories, though in Charlie's take on the Mythos there appears to be some possibility that humankind will, if not triumph at least survive in as much as James Jesus Angleton (aka the Eater of Souls) thinks we're if not the favourite then at least in with a chance. Though it might be a million to one shot[1].

It's a generic problem with the format but from the point of view of the Laundry series I think CNG is very difficult (!) because if CNG happens (and we survive more or less intact) then the whole Computational Demonology thing is exposed to everyone and the whole nature of society changes where part of the attraction of the Laundry series is the hidden side of reality is accessible to only a few.

-- [1]/. Which as all Pratchett fans know happens 9 times out of 10.

I have always thought those Blish novels would make a good movie.

Yep. Right up there with "The Forever War". But I think "A Case Of Conscience" might have a few problems these days.


"Fookin' eah!" is also accepted usage.


Not necessarily, since it's maybe not just computational demonology that becomes more powerful, but also the ways to contain it. Another possibility is that the stronger thaumic laws have a belief feedback loop (somewhat akin to the Technocracy/Paradox thingie in Mage: The Ascension), so if most people don't believe into demonology, there is some barrier effect. That doesn't save us from Hounds of Tindalos tunneling in more, of course, though those cases are more severe than and leave no witnesses.

Another thing is that IMHO CNG is somewhat akin to the Singularity (yeah, I said it, you can stone me now), so we might get:

a) senior level wizards becoming ever more powerful till sealing off their own pocket dimension (yeah, I stole that from Sir Pterry's 'Sourceror') b) strange things becoming more common place, but gross reality excursions somewhat lead to their own reset. Know these nice hypn(a/o)gogic thoughts when you're falling asleep and you think you just thought something important or strange, and then the logic auditors kick in? This kinda thing. CNG might be the ultimate of these. c) Come on, you really thought Siri was an expert system? Yeah, this only works for Arthur C. Clarke.


"If monsters slither out to eat you, they become you themselves." That might be an entertaining explanation for some of the "Business Creatures" here in the Benighted States and elsewhere.


As she pauses on the window ledge to check her harness, Persephone feels more alive than she has in ages.

heh. Vampire or zombie?


I'll give you this much for free: the first line of Laundry Files book #5 (title: either "The Nightmare Stacks" or "Case Nightmare Green" - not decided yet) is as follows:

"Don't be silly, Bob, everyone knows vampires don't exist!"

(And you've already met the Laundryverse take on zombies.)



... But before I write that book I have to finish NEPTUNE'S BROOD (sequel-of-sorts to SATURN'S CHILDREN) and write THE LAMBDA FUNCTIONARY (#3 in the Halting State trilogy).


Charlie @ 75 And the Laundry take on Weres is?


Not going there. Lycanthropy just doesn't make much sense in the Laundryverse.

Unicorns, however, are another matter.


There are so many possible speculations, and that would certainly be interesting, different from the usual movie-standard Count Dracula vampire. If it isn't the story Charlie tells, it could be one another author might.

But there are other sorts of undead. Might she be Egyptian in origin?

I expect you're only going to get an answer if you read the book.


Dude, it's a Modesty Blaise tribute novel. Undead or supernatural she ain't.


I'm delighted there's a new laundry novel coming - I've read the previous ones back to back and thoroughly enjoyed them and I plan to move right into the new one. excellent writing ith great command of character. I know this may be sacrilegious but I'd be happy for Charlie not to stretch himself too much and just pump out more stories - i just think the quality of the writing is so good he could still produce excellent work even if it wasn't ipushing his personal boundaries - but I recognise it's simply not as simple as that.

Disappointed that Charlie gets so little from the ebooks. May have to buy a hard back as a donation...


I suspect if I pumped out Laundry novels every year the quality would probably suffer. I'm not certain of that -- but TAC was written only 2 years after TFM, and it felt like a bit of a grind at times.

So there's going to be a gap of at least 36 months before the next one (although if I can claw back some time there'll be a novella in the middle of the gap).


Not that it matters, but I vote "The Nightmare Stacks". Keeps with the theme: Archives, Morgue, Memorandum, Codex. Or at least it seems to me.


You might be putting out books faster than I can read them. That's nice.


Somebody once asked how I was and I said OK except for a touch of lycanthropy. They asked if it was serious. I should have answered "yes, but only for those around me". Anyway, if you are into mythological archetypes expressed through people werewolves are low intelligence violent psychopaths.


So do we get to take bets on how Bob's line manager will bag it this time?


Thank you for the delightful sample!  Now salivating in anticipation of reading the entire work, to point that drowning self a risk if hardcover should fail to arrive in local bookstore per schedule (still three more days to $release_date{'US'} pantpantpant). 

Also feeling rather daft — at what point does Ms Hazard fire her pistol?  [ref: spent casings]


Shockingly, in this thrilling episode, Bob's line manager does not die!


Yes, I've read Black Easter and The Day After Judgement. Thanks for reminding me about them.


I see two possibilities (and Charlie might see more): 1) The ending Theodore Sturgeon used in To Marry Medusa, AKA The Cosmic Rape. Humans are absorbed, and take over.

2) The trope first used (as far as I know) in Michael Shaara's short story "All the Way Back," and in my opinion best done in Colin Kapp's novel The Transfinite Man. Humans are the most powerfully evil beings in the universe/universes; we were bottled up, and deprived of our memories of past power.

For the Laundry series, this would require that not only humans but all the lesser evil beings have been subjected to a highly successful disinformation campaign.


I'd love to see it entitled 'Case Nightmare Green'. A satisfyingly weighty phrase for those of us who've been following the series. Even those who haven't might find it evocative in the same way that the classifications in 'A Colder War' were: reading about something classified GOLD JULY BOOJUM gave a clear indication of the situation before one even knew what it contained.

And a case is often something in which information is stored - like archives, morgues, memoranda, and codices - if anyone was contemplating such a progression.


"Dude, it's a Modesty Blaise tribute novel."


If you go on saying this pretty soon the fanboys will be clamoring for a book cover with Persephone on it, in a black leotard.

The publisher will hate you, the illustrators will love you.


Are you sure?

There's enough ambiguity in the Modesty Blaise canon, about her apparent age, that when you shift the idea of MB into the Laundryverse, anything might have happened.


Great and enjoyable competition! Book dully ordered


Charlie @ 78 Yes, but will they be sparkly unicorns? The hound(s) referred to in the excerpt seem to be similar to the "Black Dogs" of Essex/Suffolk legend and lore. Given the (Dunwich) location of the Village, I'd be fascinated to know more.

JPR @ 83 Scroll? Type-Pad? undead-Pod? Tablet -(as in "of stone" that is)? Record?

I'll try to do as Charlie suggested, and get a copy from "Forbidden" rather than my local Waterstones ..... Or doesn't it make that much difference in actual cash?

There's enough ambiguity in the Modesty Blaise canon, about her apparent age, that when you shift the idea of MB into the Laundryverse, anything might have happened.

Yes, it's odd that many heros &c don't seem to be subject to age. I mean, look at Nick Fury, he's been around since WWII, not to mention Bond. Clearly there is more to this than meets the eye.



But it's a job only slightly less dangerous than drummer for Spinal Tap.

(Though I guess only lasting 10 months would be pushing it.)


Given the (Dunwich) location of the Village, I'd be fascinated to know more.

Not to mention the proximity of the Sizewell B nuclear power station to The Village. Perhaps the location of the station isn't unconnected in logic to the location of French nuclear power stations and the reason posited by Bob for the retention of the British nuclear deterrent.

Yes, but will they be *sparkly* unicorns? The hound(s) referred to in the excerpt seem to be similar to the "Black Dogs" of Essex/Suffolk legend and lore.

As I understand it there is only one qualification that allows one to control a unicorn. I'm not entirely convinced that Modesty Blaise/Persephone didn't loose that qualification in a winning match some decades ago. How this might apply to black dogs, I hesitate to speculate though apparently it works for tigers (viz, Forbidden Planet).


I haven't read any of those which shows that my education in this area is sadly lacking. But the wonders of the modern age being what they are I can download it for only 4.99 ... must resist temptation except that I don't want to, so thanks for that!


there is only one qualification that allows one to control a unicorn

In the Laundryverse that is a gross over-simplification. Emphasis on "gross".

(I brainstormed the Laundryverse unicorn life-cycle with Peter Watts. He seemed quite taken with it.)

In the Laundryverse that is a gross over-simplification. Emphasis on "gross".

I like gross over-simplifications as long as the gross part is explained in sufficient detail albeit that the net result is important (as Mo observed when looking at the replication of the machine that kills demons)! Certainly that's been the case with the hand of glory, zombies, and various other traditional fixtures.

Peter Watts, eh? I look forward to be suitably disturbed if BlindSight, Maelstrom, Starfish, etc are anything to go by.


Unfortunately, Charlie's already used Palimpsest in a title. I suppose Megillah instead of Scroll would lead to too many gorilla jokes. How 'bout Tractate? A nod to M.R. James? I don't have a thesaurus handy. Nevermind.

I'd be afraid that calling it "CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN" would raise expectations too much.


I read a fanfic once that posited Bond as a Time Lord. I really did like that take on Bond. As for Fury, there is so much going in the Marvel verse that any and all explainations are possible in some timeline or other.


Bond as a Time Lord? That would require regenerations.

Oh, I see.

I read a fanfic once that posited Bond as a Time Lord. I really did like that take on Bond.
As for Fury, there is so much going in the Marvel verse that any and all explainations are possible in some timeline or other.

Bond as a Time Lord?! Well, that explains the future-tech and Charlie has of course already broadly hinted at this in the appendix to The Atrocity Archives! And it's a strangely attractive idea though having read all the Bond books years ago I did form the idea he was a borderline psychotic with Sir Stephen type tendencies. But he's our borderline psychotic and that's good enough for me...

I was really taken by Marvel since the comics started up in the UK (though TV-21 did buy in the Silver Surfer IIRC) but my all time favourite was Dr. Steven Strange (I think issue #6 US didn't have the comics code approval, because of what Ben Franklin & Clea got up to).


I believe the Hound is a "Hound of Tindalos", the reference to the roof space having lots of right angles in the roof space.


It depends; if you stick to the Fleming Bond, 1953 to 1966. Suggested birth year from Fleming's writing was 1920 or 1921, and a 45-year-old Bond is possible.

Modesty Blaise, on the other hand, ran as a comic strip from 1963 to 2001. You can make a handwave about story-telling speed if you like. I don't think background details in the strips match with real time, but she still lasts a long time without apparent aging.

Simon Templar changes, as a character, rather a lot over the years.

They're all people you would find hard to pin down, and Bob Howard does have the example of his boss to bias his theories. Persephone might be just an independent sorcerer, or she might be something more, but he has seen how these things work.

Am I recalling right that this is the first time Charlie has used the key character, rather than just echoing styles and themes and stuff? It does change things. But there in the basic ideas of the plot are things which would restrict Tarrant's options just as in the Laundryverse they restrict Angleton.


Modesty Blaise is the Wandering Jew. She no longer disguises herself as a man.


Hah, Flint is the Wandering Jew though this does put a new context on "Requiem for Methuselah".


I brainstormed the Laundryverse unicorn life-cycle with Peter Watts. He seemed quite taken with it

The phrase "run for your lives!" springs to mind.

Am I recalling right that this is the first time Charlie has used the key character, rather than just echoing styles and themes and stuff? It does change things. But there in the basic ideas of the plot are things which would restrict Tarrant's options just as in the Laundryverse they restrict Angleton.

I think you're right, IIRC. But we have to read the book to be sure!! Anyway, Persp might be her daughter!

More generally while I really like the idea of the Independent Sorcerer in the laundry universe: you'd have to be good with a 6502 processor, or subverted the entire computing capacity of J. Lyons & Co way back when. Nice idea to play with...

... Got it: MB is Turing's daughter! Or MB is Ada Lovelace who ran code in her head with unexpected and novel results.

Oh, and I was really, really, really, pissed off when the Evening Standard (London) dropped the MB cartoons (when it went to a free-sheet, and they dropped Larson as well...).


If we go the Ada Lovelace Connection, we quickly get to characters that have been done to death in phantastic fiction. And beyond.


Come on, unicorn taming virgins and the IT department, the joke is so old, it's not even funny anymore, which brings us too...

One could rationalize that of the things that is common for virgins of both male and female persuasion and your standard nerd is the ability to focus on some subject for a long time, though whoever spent time with some 14-year olds sees the flaws in this argument. Might be the stories about 'only the virgins' was an oversimplification of this. Another ideas might be that unicorns like their meat untainted by sex hormones...

Another ideas might be that unicorns like their meat untainted by sex hormones...

Erm ... that only works for prepubescent virgins.

... if you stick to the Fleming Bond ...

On first pass I read this as "Flaming Bond" and spent quite a bit of time with a kind of Necker illusion of mental images, switching between 007 on fire and 007 swivel-hipping around in leather and chains.


Maybe Charles next blog could be about those total fucking bastards behind Libor


She rolls onto her back, raises the hand drill, swaps out the bit for a thirteen-centimeter-hole saw, and applies it to the boards above her.

D'oh!  Much clearer when one actually reads ALL the words, or considers that a silenced pistol fired in a tightly confined space might well sound like a slammed door. 


With the usual fun, e.g. androstendiol etc., yes, but there are some precedents that might be suitable starting point for some handwavium. Though all of those have some exceptions, e.g. a slight aversion to the oxytocin remnants of pair bonding might leave you with some virgins, excluding the ones who fell into love, and people on the autistic spectrum, prolactin might mean only virgins that never had an orgasm, or sufferers of anorgasmia, lack of antibodies for sperm, cervix etc. (this seems to be a somewhat complicated area, vide might mean non-penetrative sex or concoms are OK etc.

BTW, wasn't there something that human sacrifices are more effective in the Laundryverse if the nervous system in question belongs to a virgin? Or has this part of my brain been eaten by K syndrom?


Charlie I have all the previous Laundry novels in mass paperback and I wanted this one in hardcover (yes, a signed one too). But I don't like the US cover. Any chance the UK publisher will go hardback sometime in the following months?


Does the "Seventh Cavalry" have some significance in UK history that would cause Bob to refer to it above? In US history they are most famous for being wiped out under Custer at Little Big Horn - not quite the cavalry riding to the rescue 8-)


Any chance the UK publisher will go hardback sometime in the following months?

None whatsoever.

The order of publication is: hardcover -> trade paperback -> mass market paperback. If a step is skipped, it never goes into reverse: because that's also the order of descending cost, and sales fall off a cliff once a cheaper edition is on sale.


I ordered my hardcover from Words Worth Books in Waterloo, Ontario. It arrived on Tuesday, I picked it up Friday, and finished it by Canada Day (July 1)! I quite enjoyed it.

Semi-hypothetical question: If I have a bundle of your novels that I want signed, can I ship them to you with return-postage included, or is it simplest&best to buy new ones that are already signed (i.e. Transreal fiction)? (Cost does't bother me.)


Maybe unicorns are a sexually transmitted infection with a long incubation period, and a very messy birth process that make "Alien" and "The Thing" look like kids stories*.

A multi year gestation period with synchronised "births" and lax moral standards could leave virgins as the only survivors of a localised unicorn apocalypse.

Given the way HIV has spread around the world it could be about to go global.

*featuring unicorns no doubt.


I thought that unicorns mated with lions.

The two seem like equal size jerks, so a pairing should not be a problem.


I thought it was only teenage girls who were obsessed by unicorns, and middle aged men who were obsessed with virgins.


Looking forward to Laundry.

Regarding your old discussion on DIY drones: "Export restrictions are hurting this industry in America without making us any safer," Wesley G. Bush, Northrop's chief executive, said at a defense conference this year. "The U.S. is struggling to sell unmanned aircraft to our allies while other nations prepare to jump into the marketplace with both feet.... Already, Israel is making drones and selling them to several countries, including Azerbaijan, India and Ecuador. China has more than a dozen drones in development.",0,3539035.story


Typo?: "Things that do not appreciate the way [the] amulet's power is blocked   while it is confined in this place."

Charlie, have you ever seen the US TV show "Archer"? I think you would enjoy it. Similar dissection and inversion of spy tropes to what you do...


Regarding your old discussion on DIY drones...

Minor topic drift, but the idea of technology running away with a DIY hobbyist goes back a ways: X Minus 1: How-To from 1956.


I don't know why. I logged off completely and it still works fine for me. I also tried it in two different browsers, and the link worked fine each time.


Works fine for me too. A momentary disruption in the aetheric flux?


ADJUDANT (not adjutant) is the proper name of the rank between sergent-chef and sous-lieutenant in the Légion étrangère (and in the French Army and Air Force)


If I have a bundle of your novels that I want signed, can I ship them to you with return-postage included

No, definitely not!

This is why I am not at home to sign books people mail me:

I live in an apartment 64 steps above ground level, with no elevator and not a lot of storage space: if you mail me books you'd be torturing the postman. Then I'd have to sign them immediately (see: "not a lot of storage space") and take them to the post office, which is inaccessible by car -- parking hereabouts is worse than in Manhattan -- which therefore means a half-mile uphill walk involving, according to my fitbit, the equivalent of climbing 12 flights of stairs. Finally, I get to queue at a counter for half an hour. Then Royal Mail lose the package and I get to do it all over again ...

Your cheapest/fastest way to get the books signed is to buy new ones from Transreal. Failing that, I should be in Chicago in early September for Chicon 7, the worldcon, and will be signing books there; if you enjoy SF conventions that's another option.


And I have the first error to fix in the paperback! Thanks.

137: 29 and #50 - The trouble with the UK has always been that we actually impliment EU dictats.
138: 37 Para 3 - Do I take it that you also think that these meals fill a space in the market, in that they actually taste good regardless of authenticity?

And, of course, some of us want all 4 last month, rather than drip-fed to us over the next 3 years!! :=D


Well, we have to go with the data from folklore, though that one is bound to have some facts wrong:

  • it is a creature from the wilderness, so it's not to be found close to human settlements, and/or it's not necessarily human (though DEEP BLUE might have their hands in it)
  • it's a symbol of purity and grace, were 'grace' or 'blessing' are quite close to 'damnation' in some metaphysical systems, and with purity, it might mean they reproduce asexual, it might mean they are seen as something of a punishment for 'wicked' ways, or it might mean they are exempt from original sin, e.g. knowing good from evil, just as your basic sociopath.
  • they can only be tamed by a virgin, which might mean a lot of things, especially given the different ideas about 'virginhood' that are the background of e.g. the alma-parthenos fun.
  • some depictions of the horn have a somewhat overtly phallic aspect to them...
  • we had some discussions about the ghastly ways of some marine parasites here, e.g. Sacculina

    that implements a quasi-gender change in crabs, or one fish-parasite that mimicks a tongue

So, it might be that our unicorn is a somewhat parasite specialised for young female homininae, where the main host is the genus Homo.

It attaches itself to the vagina of the victim (sorry if that's exploitation genre, but you can go only so far from the source material) and orchestrates some metabolic changes in the victim that amount to a physical and physical virilization. The parasite itself metamorphs to a quasi-penis which incorporates the clitoris. BTW, the fact that the unicorn is an old symbol for Jesus, real parthenogenesis in organisms using the XX sex chromosome system only yields females and Jesus was male makes for quite some heretic ideas.

Now the next round of the life cycle begins, the victim impregnates other females, well, it sure knows how females are thinking, and thus the next generation of womb bursters is about to emerge; usually, the quasi-pregnant victims go into the wilderness before the actual emerging and die either from bleeding or are eaten by the womb bursters. The bursters emerging are the sexual generation, giving birth to the asexual unicorn generation. And thus the drama restarts...

Not that original an idea, but well, one could start from it...


Hmmm. Not sure if mention of "SOE X" on that page is a typo, part of a Clue, or the effect of a perception-tweaking geas on my thinkmeats...


The American Book Center here in Amsterdam had TAC waiting for me Wednesday before last...and I don't even remember ordering it. I must have, at least that's what I keep telling myself.

As for BASHFUL INCENDIARY, those books are hard to find at the used book stores here, I got lucky closer and found the second book, Sabre Tooth. I'm about a third of the way through and it's awesome. Well-written, good attention to detail and tells you only as much about Modesty and Willie as you need to know. They're a great fit with the Laundryverse, with their respective histories updated to fit the current era. Thanks to the political spasms of the 1990s, not much tweaking was required.

The Modesty Blaise movie (Monica Vitti, Terence Stamp and Dirk Bogarde) has very little to do with the books. It's really camp. But more or less in the same period, Bond competitors Matt Helm and Flint were played for laughs too.



But more or less in the same period, Bond competitors Matt Helm and Flint were played for laughs too.

Derek Flint was made-for-TV, as far as I know. But Matt Helm was created before Bond mania took off, and anyone who picked up Donald Hamilton's "Death of a Citizen" after seeing any of the movies made in Hollywood would surely have been greatly confused. (Matt Helm was middle-aged, married, had three children and a cat, and made a living writing Westerns and doing photography.)


"But Matt Helm was created before Bond mania took off"

Hmm, the first Matt Helm book was written in 1960. The first movie was in 1966. The first Bond was 1953 and the first movie was 1960. By 1966 we already had 4 Bond movies.

"Matt Helm was middle-aged, married, had three children and a cat, and made a living writing Westerns and doing photography."

See, also, Len Deighton's spy books ("Deighton's spy is described as working class, living in a back street flat and seedy hotels, and shopping in supermarkets. He wears glasses, is hindered by bureaucracy, and craves a pay rise." - Wikipedia) to bring it full circle to Charlie's Laundry series :-) The IPCRESS file was written after the first Matt Helm book, but made it to the screen a year before the Helm movie. Heh. I've not been able to get my girlfriend to watch this (heck, it's been decades since I last watched it!) despite her being a fan of both Atrocity Archives and Michael Caine.


You mean he didn't look like Dean Martin? I'm shocked

@OGH and other mods: I've given up signing in for now. The last dozen or so times I tried to sign in to comment, the Hypno-Wheel of Progress spun so long it bored holes in the computer screen.


Along the lines of creepy girls, ever hear of the anime and manga Elfen Lied?

The gist of it is "if you think little girls can be creepy, this is nightmare fuel."

There are humanoid creatures, origin unknown, called diclonius. At this point new diclonii are born to human parents, perfectly human except for two bony horns.

Everything goes fine until they're a few years old and their vectors form. Vectors are invisible phantom limbs that vaguely appear like ghostly hands in just the right lighting. These things have a finite reach but are capable of everything from fine manipulation to omnicidal gore-splatter.

If the doclonius passes a vector through a man without murdering him, any children he sires afterwards will be born as doclonii.

This is pretty much a modern spin on very old nightmare fuel, the whole changeling myth, monsters substituting cuckoo monsters for our own children. It's damned effective.


The changeling myth - memories of the future?


UPS just dropped off my copy of The Apocalypse Codex. The dogs are satisfied that their barking scared the delivery guy away, so I didn't explain it to them. I'll be off the air for a bit while I read about Bob Howard's latest IT challenges.


Please, tell we poor benighted and late receivers of the Codex nothing until after the 19th!!!


I saw the first few minutes of an 'Elfen Lied' episode some time ago at a Lan party. I think your description is somewhat correct. g


Mine came via USPS just 20 minutes ago :-)


Hooray! TAC has arrived early for me. However, after reading the first chapter (as above), I've spent all morning trying to remember where I'd heard of a jewel theft at castle involving parachuting onto the roof. Finally: I suppose I can do some work now.


There's. simple solution to writing many many more books. Many people in India,to spite the reputations earned by really bad call center reps named "Steve from Cleveland" actually speak and write English,fluently,the British dialect of English no less. Furthermore,they will work for pennies a day,or more accurately tiny fractions of a penny per word.

Now keep in mind,your fans like your work,and want "more of the same" Now,many of your fans enjoy your well written thought provoking novels and stories. However,its likely that some of your fans may be mindless fanbois who will buy anything you write now that you have a reputation of being a good author. Proper marketing can increase those numbers.

Here where "more of the same" come in. You could write ,or pay some Indian programmer to write if your really getting into the spirit of the whole endeavor,a program tight mines random paragraphs from your previous works. Your army of poorly paid writers would then use them to churn out via vaguely Strossian novels,which would be proofread by fan who were duped into doing so by being "chosen" to receive early copies. (the only thing better than exploiting workers for pennies a day is to get them to do it for free)

With this technique you should be able to slap your name on dozens of poor quality novels a year. Even if each is a quarter of the quality of what you normally produce, since you can churn out ten times the number of novels,that's actually a net increase of 2.5 times your previous quality throughput!

You can be the "RCA" or "Magnavox" of authors,a once great brand,now hollowed out,and used as an inexpensive conduit used to make a low quality product manufactured in the third world appear to be more legitimate,while enriching the brands owners.


Read it a couple of times already (my Kindle ran out of power on the train to work, which is not a problem you would have with the hardback edition).

Charlie, you bad bad man. The mechanism by which the victims were "saved" made me twitchy. In fact, I had to stop for a moment or two after I figured out what was happening. Ten years of therapy, wasted!

I've enjoyed the previous Laundry books, and appreciate the stylistic differences between them. I've always looked forward to the next one with enthusiasm. But this was the first of the books where I got to the end and wanted MORE right now. I want the next scene NOW, and I don't want to wait two years for it.

An excellent story, well told. And it bears up well under re-reading.

Cheers Nigel



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on June 29, 2012 10:41 AM.

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