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Spoiler Thread

For the folks who've been asking for somewhere to talk about "The Rhesus Chart" after they've read it, here's a spoiler-full discussion thread. Warning: if you haven't read the book and still plan to, don't read the discussion here! It's going to be chock full of spoilers within 2-3 comments at most.

(As usual with such threads, I'll monitor it for flaming; however I will only dip in to answer questions when I am asked directly -- this is your discussion, not mine.)

346 Comments

1:

THe ending is pretty heavy.
Also GAH!
I'm really hoping the Armageddon score patches up the final scene in Rhesus chart. I don' wan' Bob and Mo to seperate.
and I wonder how much of Angleton's job he's inheriting?

2:

On the ending: Charlie, you are a bastard. :-)
Will we learn more about Spooky (and his thumbs)?

3:

I can't wait for what Bob is going to see with his new super powered 3rd eye.

Also OMG can CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN happen already ? Now that Bob is a super powered soul eater i'm guessing his power also increases when The Stars Are Right.

4:

yeah, my though by about p121 was '****. This is the start of the CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN acceleration.'
And I totally want Bob to be running around on Mahogany row with Mo as his partner. I can just see a story with CANDID, HOWARD, BASHFUL INCENDIARY and JOHNNY PRINCE being hysterial. (In all senses of the word.)

5:

Eventually.

I can confirm that Spooky plays only a minor role in "The Armageddon Score", and none whatsoever in "The Nightmare Stacks" (hint: the narrator of the latter, book seven, is Alex). Spooky will have to wait until book 8 ...

6:

CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN actually started way back, in "The Fuller Memorandum". It's a slowly accelerating process, taking a period of years. By book 6 this should be obvious: if not, then book 7 will ram the point home with a sledgehammer.

7:

So, If I may: Roughly where in the Armageddon score is the ending of the Rhesus chart going to be? Towards the moddle or the end? ;)

8:

almost none of my friends read the Laundry books (not for lack of my trying) so yesterday I tried to pique/troll them by Facebooking that "If the Laundryverse was GoT, then The Rhesus Chart was our Red Wedding".

9:

I possess only two criticisms of the book. One requires a Word of God to determine if it's a valid one.

1)One possible reason for mass vampire creation, especially young and stupid? Feeding deaths do not cause necromatic backlashes and thus don't attract other feeding entities (or at least attract them faster than the alternatives). Turn them loose in locations where you have a huge human population and let them cull the herd (and reduce your overall exposure from CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN).

2)It's a technique thing for me, but the ending where the second vampire attacks the New Annex...call it me, but having Bob show up just enough behind the attacker to hear and see the results, but not able to do anything, would be much more horrible-and would require him to write that entire section in the third person dryness of an after-action report (with PTSD flashbacks of little details). Because if he tried to internalize what happened that day, he'd be requisitioning a pistol and a single banishment round. It would also make the final confrontations at the end more powerful that his world has completely fallen apart.

Otherwise, good book...and waiting for the next one with baited breath.

10:

I hope you increase to Equoid levels of squick. I feel the horrors from beyond space time aren't horrible enough! Tho CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is amping up, what sort of changes does it actually entail. More and worse possession or will some necromancers actually be able to hurl bolts of undead energy around?

11:

The thing I keep coming back to is K-Syndrome and its effects on what Bob may or may not be, given that he has been...excised from his body and bound back to it.

Which puts question to whether or not he counts as a human to things that might eat a human brain, or otherwise occupied, as the vampires are, to things that eat brains.

When he's looking into Mhari, she's looking back into him, and she sees something that doesn't look to her like Bob, and does that mean he's just grown up and aged a lot, or is Bob, dare I suggest, some sort of Lich?

12:

Yeah, THat's a question we /might/ get answered: Considering what Bob is, /is/ he vulnerable to K-syndrome? I suspect not, considering some of the stuff he can do now.

13:

I am somehow confused by the new tastes acquired by Bob after he, erm, fully acquires the power: during the bank visit, he nearly breaks his mental teeth on a vampire's soul, and at the end finds Mhari's mind somehow appetizing.

I kind of expected the Eater of Souls to experience the feelings similar to those at the end of Fuller Memorandum, only stronger, making normal humans too eatable to share a home with. This would make a non-human an obvious match for him. Or is this the case where we should not rely too much on the narrator describing the whole truth?

14:

Yeah, the first chapter and the last couple pages were really quite dark and a downer. A friend who just finished it basically asked where your sense of whimsy went. I said "CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN".

Overall, loved it.

Given the multiple comments from Bob about Spooky, I figured it would be a larger plot point.

And since you've said who the next narrator was (was arguing with friend over Pete vs Alex)... what's the next genre you're going after? Or does The Muse decide when she starts kicking?

15:

The ending gutted me.

And left me with so many questions!

If I understand correctly, the next book will not be from Bob's point of view? Will it be from Alex's?

Are there any further short stories planned to bridge the gap between books? Will any of these be focused on Bob?

How central to CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is the violin? Am I right in suspecting that it's going to be the villain of the next book?

16:

Yeah, that was my thought too. Despite Bob's worry that he will develop K-Syndrome it doesn't seem like he is really at risk any more. If Angleton didn't get it, he likely won't.

Bob died a while back, what we have now seems to be a human soul mutilated into the shape of a preta bound to Bob's body and with Bob's memory. That it is Bob's soul that was mutilated and bound means there is a connection to the human being we saw in the first book, but he is even less human now than the PHANGs are.

Presuming something bigger doesn't eat his soul, Bob may well be able to survive human extinction at the hands of elder gods, floating around whatever universe such entities live in when disincarnate until summoned by some alien necromancer in the distant future leading up to their own world's demise.

17:

As horrible as Bob finds the violin, it is not entirely obvious that it is evil. It hungers to destroy two inhuman monstrosities -- Mhari and Bob. Only Bob is more powerful than it is.

Though that may also be because Mhari and Bob are the largest, juiciest meals around.

18:

I think I can answer this.

He is, as the apprentice eater of souls, entirely unable to eat a vampire, because they are not human anymore. They are...well, not being eaten, but at least being ridden by something else from beyond our spacetime that the eater of souls does not eat, or which is armoured very heavily against him.

What happens, next, is that he eat and absorbs not-marrianne, gets to know her in that moment, and feels, from his ingestion of her person, as though vampires are quite tasty...However, I am entirely discounting the fact that he has leveled in some way during the fight, so upon his next meeting with Mhari, it may well be that his expanded job as replacement for Angleton does mean that he eats vampires now.

Still, A: he ate not-marriane and picked up her tastes and B: may or may not have changed when Angleton dissapeared to be able to eat vampires.

19:

Bob is kinda too powerful to make a good narrator now. He's at demigod levels -- look at how he shredded the vampire hunter with a thought, getting only a nasty taste. His base power is equal to vampiric necromancers who have spent centuries studying the occult, except that he also has the knowledge to also draw on modern technology and IT. Where they might need an elaborate ritual for something, if he can't just do it with his mind he can make an app.

20:

Since it doesn't seem like Angleton can eat vampires (or he would have just eaten Old George), I don't think Bob can. Unless that arcane singularity was Old George's last ditch effort to stop his soul from being eaten...

21:

The end of "The Rhesus Chart" is about two chapters into "The Armageddon Score". (Yes, you get to see that particular scene through Mo's eyes, this time around.)

22:

Note, however, that he doesn't have the experience base of a centuries-old necromancer.

Bob's next book will be book 8, if plans come to fruition; and the threats he has to confront won't be the kind that are amenable to soul-eating.

23:

You already told us that the next Laundry book (#6) will be "The Armageddon Score" in 2015. So the working title of #7 is "The Nightmare Stacks"? Will it be released in 2016? I'm asking for the Wikipedia. :-)

24:

Yeah, I think future books wouldn't be narrated by Bob. This was mentioned by Charlie way back in Inside the Fear Factory, I think: Bob's now an authority figure, not a trickster-hacker. His role is to sit down and disseminate the institutional knowledge that nearly went to waste when Angleton discarnated. (And that was thoughtful of the old monster, leaving a contingency plan for the Laundry for when he's no longer around. After all, wasn't it just last book that Angleton pointed out that the greatest threat to an organization was the loss of institutional memory, and who has more memory than the ancient monster of the Laundry, the Eater of Souls? Loyal unto death and beyond: somehow Charlie's gotten his readers attached to a preta, that we can genuinely mourn his passing.) The role of the newbie hacker, too clever for his own good, digging up secrets where he shouldn't, falls to Pete, Alex, and (to some degree) Mo and Mhari, so it'd make sense the narrative shifts over to them. Since Bob's taken up the role of Smiley, they're the Peter Guillams telling the story.

Anyway, had another thought regarding our PHANGs. The sheep's blood and goat's blood that they tried didn't work for their parasites; they found that out early. But--those were from dead sheep and dead goats; a dead human's blood doesn't feed the V-parasite either. I think the logical next step would be to test their abilities on blood drawn from living livestock. It's not quite the same as the soul of a living human, but it might be enough to placate the V-parasite for that much longer.

25:

Yeah, I suppose it comes down to which work better old tricks or new. :)

Bob's character seems to be at the point where he is basically a superhero - and one of the more powerful ones. Threats need to be within the blindspot of his powers in order to be interesting to readers.

26:

Another thought I had about the vampires is what would happen if you pooled the blood of a lot of people. Maybe not the sort of experiment that the Laundry would want to run, but if multiple vampires feeding off of one victim speeds up death, what about one vampire spread over thousands of victims at the same time?

And who's to say the Laundry is the only group looking at using vampires as agents? A country with a large prison population might be able to field large numbers of vampires if they could spread out the feeding over millions...

27:

So. Book 6 Mo, Book 7 Alex, Book 8 Bob. Awesome. ;)
though I have been wondering:
At the /start /of the book: Does Bob outrank Andy at that point?
And by the end of the book: Is he /literally/ gonna be stepipng into Angeelton's shoes, in terms of his job as head of counter-posession and a DSS?
Thinking on it, I think he's now the senior surviving member of the CPU.
Which would be a good place to put the PHANG's, come to think it. They are presumably immune to feeders in the night, if their immune to Bob, they have a natural talent for in-the-head necromancy with no risk of K-syndrome, innate access to class 2 glamours, and superstrength/speed.
So a crew of PHANG's reporting to the Eater of Souls. I can see that. It's horrifying, but I can see that.

28:

And that makes me hopeful that by the end of the Armageddon score, we will have resolved the issues that force Bob to move out....

29:

Provisionally, yes, but don't take this as official: there'll be an official announcement in due course, when everything's locked in. Right now, this is just forward planning.

30:

Angleton planned for his departure (I'm sure that "death" is a wrong term here) at least since the Fuller Memorandum. I suppose that Bob won't find any off-limits files on his Memex this time around... And well, if Mo, who sees lies and truths as different colors and kills demons for 5+ years, can narrate a novel, then why Bob, in his future medium-level executive capacity, cannot?

31:

Idle Thoughts:

1. Why not resummon Teapot? Would he not be Angleton without that particular body? Or is the ritual just too horrible (which seems reasonable for Bob, if not others)?

2. The above assumes Angleton is 'dead' which is by no means a given.

3. So is Bob ageless as well now? If so has he been for a while? For that matter, why did Angleton going bye bye jump him up in power (apparently)

4. Where the hell are Pinky and the Brain? Or Barnes? This is a kind of criticism - the book felt kind of claustrophobic in regard to the actual Laundry. I never get a sense of what must be a goodly chunk of people being there actually being present in the novels. This mostly doesn't matter, but the climax here was weakened a bit for it.

32:

Really, really impressed by this book. The mention of the strategic reserve of steam engines got a giggle, coming from a railway anorak family (it's unture, but was the stuff of legend and mass onanism among enthusiasts for decades). Though Barry Island would have been a better location.

I'm certainly curious about spooky's hands and funny shape. And indeed why Mhairi stayed at Bobs house when he told her to sod off, meaning Mo found her. Was she up to something? It was already established vampires don't sleep, so not like she was having a kip.

I'm guessing Angleton was somehow limiting Bob deliberately whilst he was under training. I wonder if he'll get summoned by someone else with less morals than this country-maybe the Russians, given their prior interest?

Anyway, as I say belting book, really looking forwad to more. Any more short stories lined up?

33:

Anyway, as I say belting book, really looking forwad to more. Any more short stories lined up?

Right now I am working on finishing a Merchant Princes trilogy. Then I have to redraft and finalize "The Armageddon Score". That should take me through to November. So nothing this year.

I have a couple of ideas for Laundry novellas, but that's a long term project -- remember, I have to write "The Nightmare Stacks" before November 2015, and I have another side-project (non-Laundry, non-Merchant Princes) on the back burner.

34:

He still can, and I don't doubt that Charlie can pull it off, but it wouldn't be the same as the earlier novels. He wouldn't be playing the same role as an outsider delving into forbidden secrets; Bob's now an insider. Instead of digging up classified reports, he'll be the one releasing the information to others.

It'd still make for wonderful stories, but Bob's not playing the trickster-hacker role anymore. To quote the essay: "Some day Bob will grow up, fully understand the ghastly responsibilities that go with his job, shut the hell up, and stop digging. But until then, let us by all means use him as our unquiet guide to the corridors of the Fear Factory." Sure sounds like what's happening to him now--so it'd make sense that we'd have Mo, who may be deadly but who is also a comparative outsider compared to Bob, and Alex, who fulfills the outsider role perfectly, take over for Bob while he gains more and more nightmares taking on his new job as the keeper of the secrets.

35:

After finishing Rhesus Chart up this lunchtime over coffee I'm feeling a teeny bit smug at my comment from 2012:

Of course I'm almost certainly misreading what OGH has in mind for our happy crew in the Laundryverse - but what I see is this.

Bob - who has become better and better at saving the world by become a little bit more monstrous.

Mo - who has become better and better at saving the world by killing monsters.

Yes. That'll end well.

;-)

36:
Mo, who may be deadly but who is also a comparative outsider compared to Bob

Hmmm… I wouldn't be so sure about that. I always read Mo as being on the 'inside' — just a different 'inside' from Bob.

She's in a different chain of command. If I was a betting man I'd wager that the Armageddon Score is going to reveal how out of touch Bob actually is with some of the stuff Mo has been doing.

Bob has often survived by luck as much as judgement. From all that I can remember, with the exception of what she went through in The Atrocity Archive, Mo has survived by being very, very good at her job.

37:

If I was a betting man I'd wager that the Armageddon Score is going to reveal how out of touch Bob actually is with some of the stuff Mo has been doing.

That's not a bet I would advise anyone reading this to take, because it's bang on the money.

Bob is a very unreliable narrator, with quite a talent for self-deception. Mo has ... different ... quirks, but self-deception is not one of them.

38:

Poor Andy. I've always liked him. Not playing the office politics game, not trying to be the hero, not messing with Bob's head to teach him things... Just a guy trying to do his job to the best of his limited ability.

Then the follow up that he is the only one there whose children were still kids.

:(


That whole scene was absolutely brutal. It reminded me of reading the police report walkthroughs of the school shootings or workplace rampages that we have far to often here in America.

39:

Huh. It just occurred to me that you have, in fact, set things up such that all of humanity could be destroyed due to CNG, and Bob could still document and narrate it.

Clever of you.

40:

A couple of questions for Charlie:
1. In one part of the finale, it's claimed that items were discovered on Old George's person, but later it says that they can't find Old George's corpse because they believe it's within a containment ward in room 202. Was this a mistake, or am I missing something?
2. In chapter 13, the secret meeting between Angleton, Lockhart, and Dr. Armstrong strongly suggests that they've been monitoring the local vampires despite Basil's geas. (I interpreted this scene as the reason that Angleton knew Old George's name in their final confrontation.) If so, it seems like Angleton and the Auditors' plan to deal with everything was mortally stupid. If Angleton and the Auditors were monitoring Old George and Basil, how did they let themselves get killed? Shouldn't they have given BOFH more information if they wanted to stay alive? Why did they assign new codenames to vampirism if they've already been aware of it since at least the 1960s?
3. What part of Fuller Memorandum suggested that CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN has started? I think I missed that.

Thanks for the fantastic series that makes me ask so many questions!

41:

Page 64: "Alex had coughed to" -- is that a typo or a British version of "copped to"? (Google was no help on this one.)

43:

Dear Charlie,

Will Bob be taking any trips to the Dreamlands? Perhaps with an Ultharian guide?

44:

Observation #1: Love the book, but holy....

Observation #2: Bob has the worst luck in managers, dotted line or otherwise.

Observation #3 is actually a question for Charlie about chronology.

If I've got my timeline right, the main action of the Apocalypse Codex happens in February (pg 41 of the Kindle edition), and takes place over something like a week (two, if you count the previous week when Bob is in the training course). Rhesus Chart starts in "early Autumn" (Kindle location 120 of 5483), which I have to presume to be the same year, unless Mo really holds a grudge or Bob seriously punted on talking/apologizing to Mo about Pete.

So does the end of Rhesus leave us in September/October 2013?

Observation #4 is a minor quibble about the timing. In Codex, Sandy is ten weeks along and it's late February. In Chart, she is due in two months and it's early Autumn. Are Pete & Sandy going to have an eleven month pregnancy?

45:

Indeed, the Mahogany Row in general seems to know too much about vampirism and two great vampires of London to allow the events of the last two chapters. BTW, K syndrome is a long-term effect; you need to monitor a vampire for decades to learn about K immunity. And Bob can see the vampires using "inner eye" — therefore, Angleton was able too. And exactly how many people were in continued service at Laundry since WWII?

You might almost get an opinion that Angleton used Basil and Old George for a kind of assisted suicide.

46:

justinjordan@31

My mind wanted to have Barnes running the OCCULUS truck that was already at the New Annex when Bob came back, but we can't really tell. Given how bad things were, Alan was probably very busy with after-action stuff.

Guess I have to reread it. Darn.

47:

_ieronim@45,

I'll have to reread it to see how similar the containment field with presumably Angleton and Old George in it is to the one holding the boy at the KGB.2.YA archive, so the reports of Teapot's death may be greatly exaggerated.

As for Angleton using the old vamps as assisted suicide, let me propose that he set himself up as bait in order to take out both vampires, leaving the Laundry in possession, if not outright control, of the other known vamps in London. To take a page from the Le Carré, specifically The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, or perhaps Frank Herbert: "wheels within wheels within wheels".

48:

Sorry - repeat question ...
When is the super-duper luxury "Equoid" coming out?
[ Yes, I have got a copy on order ]

49:

As both Bob (partially) and Angleton (fully) are aspects of the Eater of Souls (who would be a city-landscaping nightmare if not constrained by human flesh), I seriously doubt that Bob could have misunderstood Angleton's demise.

50:

huh. It occurs to me that (I'm trying to read your mind here, Mr Stross) Mo's book could be seen as 'Here is how other chunks of the laundry work, and another look at problems/solutions in bob's private life' then Alex would be, Since I presume as a /very /smart maths gee kwhose immune to K-syndrome, a 'Here is a look at how the non-computational sorcery works in this day and age' - the stuff Bob has been learning, and seems to have gotten a mass download off at the end of Rhesus Chart, such that if we get the notional book 8 Bob, that's stuff that needs less explanation.

51:

Just finished.

+ Vampires doing Scrum!
+ Spooky kitty!
- Chapter 9: "our clearance overlap but are disjoint sets" - I think Bob needs a refresher on set theory and the concept of "disjoint"...

52:

Chronology question: sigh. Where were you when I was having my test readers kick the tires? Yes, it seems to be an 11-month pregnancy ...

53:

Note that Basil had been weaving his you-can't-see-me geas into the premises occupied by the Laundry and its predecessor agencies for nearly a century before the Eater of Souls came on the scene -- initially somewhat impaired.

Note also that the Auditors aren't in the habit of sharing everything they know with everyone else working for the agency, even when the consequences may be fatal -- if, in their judgement, information disclosure will result in a worse long-term outcome for the nation. (Remember the availability of British intelligence warnings of the bombing of Coventry based on ENIGMA intercepts, and Churchill's decision not to beef up the defences around the city lest it tip off the Luftwaffe's high command that they had a leak.)

Finally, note the point that, as Bob remarked earlier, the biggest risk to any intel organization is the gradual loss of classified or unwritten institutional knowledge as staff age, retire, and die: it doesn't matter if the organization "knows" something if the knowledge is locked away in a dusty TOP SECRET CODEWORD file that nobody now working there has ever read.

54:

September. Can't ship before then (Tor.com purchased an exclusive 12-month lock-in for the electronic-only edition).

55:

Okay, that Chapter-9 bit is going on the snag list for fixing in paperback (because it's a one-word fix, unlike George Stephenson's name or the 11 month pregnancy).

56:

I don't know how the Big River copes, but I got my copy via the fruity people and iBooks pushes updates quite happily for all kinds of things. I get a few most months. It would be nice to have disjoint corrected there too please, although my set theory is out of date too. I have very vague memories for 3 decades plus ago in A-level Maths classes.

57:

The post-turned Scrum meeting, and the descriptions of Spooky were hilarious, and classic CS. And the plot was satisfying convoluted. Unfortunately, those were the only bits I really enjoyed. The Iran part seemed totally extraneous and was not believable--the FCO never knew they were executing drug traffickers left and right? And finding out, that was enough to threaten stopping the cooperation? It did not stop them in Thailand with Thaksin's war on drugs, and it does not stop them from cooperating with the Saudis now. The ending seemed really implausible--after building up how the Ancients had survived by staying under the radar, they both accepted putting themselves in positions of directly confronting the Laundry, with the results they had wanted to avoid. After two + centuries of avoiding it! it just seems as if they magically did a 180. Basil seems to have played George way too easily.
And this is the first time in any of his novels where I noticed CS stopped the story on multiple occasions to review the "story so far". Is this because he is Imitating someone else's style (à la previous Deighton or Fleming) and I am just not well read enough to pick up on it?
Also disappointed to learn up thread that Spooky will not be a player till book 8. Both here and in the Jennifer Morgue CS clearly shows he knows exactly what cats are. Oh well, on to 2015 and hope the next one works better.
And hope he magically does a 180 and returns to the Halting State universe, which novels I enjoyed far more than the Laundry or The planet children.

58:

On a more general note, I liked all of this.

Even when I disagreed with Bob's decision not to tell Mo about Mhari, I understood it. I certainly understood Mo's reaction to finding Vampire Mhari in her house when she got home.

I liked, but have my suspicions about Spooky. The references to Acoustic Kitty were fun though.

Someone's got to do an experiment on living large animal blood. But given the references to computational power I'm guessing it won't work, or won't work well, because animal brains aren't computationally complex enough. Which is arguable but for values of mathematical computational ability I don't think you'll get many people maintaining the argument for all that long. But the energy/blood pumped to the brains of large herbivores and large predators suggests it's pretty hard work keeping a cow, horse, lion, tiger and the like alive and working. There's lots of cows out there...

If I was a nasty suspicious type, which I am, I might suspect Angleton's set this up to stop Bob running to him for help. There were enough references to training wheel exercises - this is the apprentice to journeyman or journeyman to master equivalent. Bob obviously can't be sent to journey and learn to be self-reliant out in the world, The Laundry won't let him for one. But by taking Angleton out of the equation for a while and making Bob cope for himself and The Laundry cope, relying on Bob then Bob will have that inner self-belief. And when Bob works out how to free Angleton he'll be that much more mature, confident and able in his abilities. (I suspect it's also pretty safe in terms of other sides getting his power because performing TEAPOT isn't an option. The Eater of Souls isn't free to be summoned, he's locked inside a high-powered ward after all.)

As I've said before, I'm less devastated than most at Bob and Mo splitting up. I still don't really know why but I just didn't really feel it. So them splitting up didn't affect me as I might have expected it too. I was more sad to see Pete turn up for induction and get exposed to the Auditors so early.

59:
"The Iran part seemed totally extraneous and was not believable--the FCO never knew they were executing drug traffickers left and right?"

My reading was that the mass executions weren't the problem. Getting agent CANDID, a "major offensive asset", in under false pretenses into a potentially dangerous situation was the problem. Nobody cared about the executions. They cared about the deceit.

60:

Indeed, Iran's penchant for mass executions is all over the newspapers here in the UK, if you know where to look. Lying to people you do business with is much more serious, in diplomatic terms.

61:

... or an early miscarriage followed by a new pregnancy. That does happen, and I think the timing could allow that, depending on how late in early autumn it is.

62:

I'm missing any effects of Bob's transfer to External Assets at the end of TAC.

63:

Do errors marked up on a Kindle ever percolate up to you? And to know of any updates of your works sent out by Amazon?

64:

I think possibly because It's only a month after it happened, so he's still filling in all the paperwork, and getting settled in: The immediate effect seems to be that Lockhart is now in his vhain of command. The practica leffect, I suspect, Is he'll be sent out on the really /horrible/ stuff people like BASHFUL INCENDIARY deal with - out introduction to the Invisible college, I suspect.

65:

Thanks
SNIFF - can't bring it along to Loncon_3 ....
P.S. The Beer arrangements & putative pub-crawls for said event are getting interesting.
Suffice to say, something will be organised (!)

66:

First off: I read the book in a day, which pretty much proves that it hooked me. Like others, I liked the way the new vamps systematically investigated their condition; it seemed like exactly what a bunch of smart new vampires would do. The ending worked for me (I'm surprised that anyone would be surprised when Angledore died. At some point in a series getting rid of the hero's mentor is a necessary part of raising the stakes).

There were a few bits I had trouble swallowing. The Scrum never asked about or thought to investigate other vampires. The fact that English has the word "vampire" is pretty strong evidence that they aren't the first.

Also, the elder vampire in the Laundry shouldn't have shown up at the climax. Why would he put himself in harm's way like that? Nobody was expecting him there. Sending not-Marianne alone would have been a better play.

Re: Mo's violin. I would have thought that strengthening the bindings on that particular supernatural horror would be well within the Laundry's capabilities. Routine, even.

Still, good book. I note that Bob doesn't have a codename yet (like CANDID or BASHFUL INCENDIARY). I suggest TEACUP.

67:

Easy fix. In the next Laundry story, have one of the characters mention something about how, as it gets closer to CNG, "even time itself is starting to unravel", and you have a get-out-of-jail free card for any chronology errors you might miss!

68:

With Old George, just changing the last name to Stevenson or Stephens would probably do the trick. Doesn't look like anyone famous with those names was born in the 1780s.

69:

Charlie@52

I've been reading/listening to all the titles in the series in the run-up to The Rhesus Chart, so the chronology was much fresher in my mind.


Jay@66

Bob does have a code name: HOWARD. It's used in the meeting between Angleton, Senior Auditor Not-George...-Smiley-Or-Otherwise, and Lockhart, but I would totally vote for TEACUP. :-)

As for the Erich Zahn, my interpretation is that its repair would require both knowledge of the correct bindings, but also more physical materials, which the Laundry might be unwilling to manufacture or even just locate and preserve:

"As I said, a preliminary estimate of the cost of repairing such a . . . relic. A half-gram sample excised from the corpse of another identical instrument. All necessary materials to be provided by the customer. If you can assess the nature of the bindings that hold it together, my employers would like to be able to replicate them." [quotes in the original]

The Fuller Memorandum. p. 96, Kindle Edition

The instrument is indeed made of bone, preserved and treated to give it a rigidity and resonance similar to mountain maple. The treatments that modify the material in this way are applied while its donor is still alive, and in excruciating pain.

Ibid, p. 101

70:

With Old George, just changing the last name to Stevenson or Stephens would probably do the trick. Doesn't look like anyone famous with those names was born in the 1780s.

71:
As I've said before, I'm less devastated than most at Bob and Mo splitting up. I still don't really know why but I just didn't really feel it. So them splitting up didn't affect me as I might have expected it too.

Ditto. I think because the proximate cause wasn't some horrible chain of events involving Bob sleeping with Mhari, but "it's too dangerous for us to live together right now", and hence recoverable. (Not that I expect we've seen the last of angst involving Mhari.)

The methodical investigations of the Scrum vampires reminded me of Miriam's approach to her talent at the start of the Merchant Princes.

Great stuff. Roll on DSS Howard.

72:

I think my favourite trend was the much stronger characterisation of the Auditors. It makes complete sense for them to seem more human to Bob as he climbs the organisational ladder (not to mention becoming less human himself).

It felt as though they were operating outside their usual remit by actively organising missions rather than ensuring absolute truth in records and correcting things after the fact. Is this just something Bob hadn't been in much of a position to notice before, or is it an all-hands-on-deck effect of CNG?

73:

The fact that the Auditors are human, apparently, and of human longevity, is the biggest surprise to me as I ruminate on the novel.

I'd long felt as though they were something else, something more like Angleton, things that have come down to earth and decided to try to keep some humans alive, or something more sinister, like the poison pill at the top of the organization, waiting for a point deeper into CNG when their plans come to fruition and they get to find humans crunchy with ketchup.

They tend to talk about "the Adversary" as though there is a specific thing, and there was an instance of their involvement with the Black Chamber a few novels back where a very biblical name was tossed around.

The fact that they are apparently humans is just..surprising to me.

74:

Calling a Code Blue on his own cognizance then walking into a nest of bankers vampires solo and surviving doesn't suggest something to you?

Bob is an unreliable narrator, especially on his own behalf, and suffers from a bad case of polite English understatement.

75:

Don't know why, but there was something about the way Basil was introduced that I saw him coming from a mile away.
Also, is the senior auditor by any chance related to Dumbledore?

76:

I'm going with the theory that pretty much everything that happened was orchestrated by TEAPOT as part of its own CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN planning.

At the end of RHESUS POSITIVE EPSILON, TEAPOT has a thoroughly trained, durable human asset, to run around during CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, while reducing its own attack surface to effectively zero by means of a magical nuke proof bunker.

77:

oh, it did, but I'm one of those fun people with a sleep disorder right now in the 'messes with my reasoning' phases, so I was not perhaps expressing myself as best I could. I admit, though, I associated the calling code blue with being.. what, an SSO4(L) now?
And walking into the nest and surviving - what more would we expect from the Eater of Soul's Disciple?
Since I don't believe I've said so yet, incidentally.
Got the book yesterday, have now read three times. Very good book. ;)

78:

Is a Code Blue some British thing I should know about? It makes sense to have a code for an urgent situation, but it didn't seem much more than that to me.

Also, walking into a vampire nest and surviving isn't that impressive if the vampires aren't hostile. They mostly weren't.

79:

I wasn't talking about fixing it, I was talking about binding it into compliance. Bob was able to do a minimal binding offhand at the end of the book, and there all sorts of precedents for the Laundry compelling hungry entities to service (RHRs, TEAPOT, PHANGs, &c).

80:

Is a Code Blue some British thing I should know about?

It goes all the way back to "The Concrete Jungle" (part of "The Atrocity Archives"). Laundry internal alert, significance: enemy action on home soil, outside defended installations.

Code Red is of course enemy action one home soil, within the defensible perimeter (i.e. "shit just got real").

81:

Given how unreliable Bob's narrative has been so far, I reserve judgement about his night with Mhari. This is even more the case given his ramped-up powers and quite sudden change of attitude to Mhari as potential food. This seems to be an explicit authorial signal, not a continuity error.

We'll just to have to wait for the next one to find out if Mo actually came home to find B+Mh in flagrante, or worse...

82:

I got that much. From the way you talked about it a few posts ago, I wondered if Code Blue was some form of British war-on-terror gibberish.

83:

Not a spoiler, but you might want to know that at least through B&N (and thus in the US), the ebook has DRM on it. Getting this to work on my linux tablet was a pain. (An I understand it may be a publisher requirement, just a heads up)

84:

Before I asked what had become of Bob's ex-girlfriend, and I like to think my question was properly answered.

My new question is, will we see Peter Fred-Young, Bob's intern, ever again?

85:

Well I didn't fall into Boston harbour but I did stay up till 2am EAST to finish the book, so thanks Charlie. :)

86:

Note that Bob Howard is not Bob's name. So yeah, Howard IS the codename, HOWARD in Laundry parlance.

I think.

I'd need to read the section again, but I think Basil's plan was to actually not be present and Bob got there sooner than expected.

And notably, he apparently had absolutely NO idea that Bob was anything but a normal (by Laundry standards) agent. And Bob would have been screwed were he not an Eater of Souls(Jr) - it's not actually a terrible idea to be there personally if all you're expecting is human agents.

87:

Fabulous if a bit of a "hrrk" moment to end with... dammit.

So anyways, yeah, Basil was MORE than enough to deal with a squad of humans, and psychogirl was quite capable of dealing with them AND vamps.

Bob showing up and not being susceptible to suggestion and having a basilisk in his pocket was a big screwup there.

Basil and Bob have had little interaction, Basil obviously doesn't hang around Angleton much given that they would both immediately recognize what the other is, and the only reason Bob didn't notice is due to the "static" in the offices making it easy for someone who has spent over a century hiding among sensitives to keep doing just that, though without the geas to enforce it.

Once Basil started going on about Python though I started suspecting him, but I was sure it had to be someone higher up for a while.

Love the TEACUP codename change suggestion btw!

88:

... And the escalation continues. The whimsy has gone, but we get high-quality horror in its place.

I really enjoyed this. Vampire project managers are a brilliant idea - it'll be difficult to attend backlog grooming sessions at work after this. Did we get a burndown reference in not-Marianne's technique for victim disposal?

Merchandising suggestion: can we get "Don't be silly Bob, of course vampires don't exist" on an official T-shirt?

89:

Yes: the Laundry Files books are published by Ace (part of Penguin Random House) in the USA/Canada, and Orbit (part of Hachette) in the UK/EU/rest of Commonwealth. Both these multinationals insist on DRM on everything.

This goes for all my SF novels.

The exceptions ... Tor.com publish many of the short stories as stand-alone ebooks and these are DRM-free -- as is the mini-anthology they published last week. Other DRM-free Stross titles are: "The Rapture of the Nerds" (co-written with Cory Doctorow) and the whole of the Merchant Princes series. These are all published by Tor, and this is no coincidence.

As and when my other publishers relax their insistence on applying DRM to all ebooks, I'll do my best to get it removed.

Until then, google "apprentice alf drmtools" if you need to transcode or read DRMd ebooks on an unsupported platform.

90:


Nice theory, allows for the possibility of Angleton making a reapperance later down the line. However it would suggest that either, Basil or George and Angleton were colluding and this seems unlikely or that there is some deeper level of manipulation that we will learn about later.


91:

Sigh. The T shirt should read "Don't be silly Bob. Everybody knows vampires don't exist". Serves me right for not getting enough sleep due to spending too much time reading.

92:

@perpetual motion#76: That seems like a stretch, even for Angleton. Except for that damned "We'll talk later"...

93:

A more worrying thought: just how close was Bob entangled with Angleton, and is the Teapot now riding Bob (unknown to Bob, of course)? I'm sure we'll have to wait for the next installment before they get Room 203 cleared and the remains of Old George disposed of safely - unless our favourite DSS set a boobytrap the sucked them both into another universe and then pinched it off from reality, hence the event horizon.

94:

Would a copy of RotN with DRM would rip a tear in the universe?

95:

>.< Minus the second would... as for Angleton, not sure if he meant it as an actual "we'll talk later", but I guess "brb black hole" would be a bit messed up.

96:

Re The Scrum not looking at other vampires

It was a 1 week sprint on this spike - not enough time I would suggest for them to work out all the angles - they covered the basics what can they can and can't do - does the type of blood matter to the hunger, etc etc. further questions would be in a different sprint/iteration. OIther things got in the way .

I'm only just getting into this methodology ( XP rather than SCRUM but the same principle applies) .

Re the naming of Old George - surely it says names are changed to protect the ... ? Or have I missed something about it ?

I wonder if the 'not Marianne' character will be explained - is she just a vampire death orgasm junkie or some other kind of magic aware entity ?

Code name HOWARD ? only 2 reasons behind it I can think of Howard the Duck and Howard from Never decreasing circles . Why I don't know ...

CANDID - well it seems Mo is somewhat straightforward and doesn't dissemble ....
My feeling is that since TFM Mo has been increasingly worried by Bob and his powers, now Angletopn is gone who knows what he is capable of ...

TEAPOT - what is more classically British?

All the semi-jokey names of missions ... lovely .


Loved the book, read in one sitting today (finished under an hour ago) . Now have to impatiently wait ...*taps foot*


98:

Charlie,

I loved the book - consumed it in a day or so. I enjoyed the fast moving plot line very much. I am not upset at Angleton's demise as it is a logical progression in the growth of Howard's stature and role. The epic climax battle was well presented in the "post-mortem." I am pissed at you for ruining the marriage. Very uncool. I was very happy to see that your novels did not require the oh-so-common theme of good guy never gets to enjoy a happy relationship with a spouse or sig-other. Ho-Mo was a powerful combo that I enjoyed a lot. Flexible options.

I would ask that you repair this problem in the next book.

99:

Said much better than I said it. Though Im' not as upset as you are, it still was a 'Gah!' moment.

101:

Actually his name is Bob Oliver Francis Howard.

I too thought of the other connection, but no.

102:

I only got that on my third read of TJM , so then it would be TRAVAGLIA rather than Howard ...

Just wondered why Howard rather than Hewlett or Herring or anything beginning with H ... thus the doh ,..

103:

When Mo was introduced, didn't she talk about her research into working out probabilities without prior evidence? Meaning, the same thing the wunch of bankers was working on as a "Holy Grail," and the thing that turned them?

And separately, is the wiki still in the works? Cataloging the CODEWORDs is tempting, along with the minor characters.

104:

Loved the book. Stayed up late to finish.

Re Spooky:

There is a not too uncommon condition known as polydactyly (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polydactyl_cat) which imitate a "cat with thumbs".

Is this the case with Spooky, or are we talking actual opposing thumb cat here?

And why did Spooky register with Bob? Do all cats have that effect, or is Spooky the first? If all cats do it, then Bob must lead a cat-free life to be surprised when it happens.

Is Spooky an agent, or perhaps an emissary, from some world where cats are intelligent, or more likely uplifted?

Or to follow the pattern laid out by Charlie so far, are there other-dimensional entities that inhabit animals, making them "familiars"?

Re Bob and Mo: I don't see this as an end to their relationship. It's a unique obstacle. Bob can't trust the violin for good reason, and Mo can't give up or destroy the violin for good reason. So they have to separate until some workaround is found.

105:

Whoops- unintended double-entendre. How about Ro-Mo?

106:

Brain click time. Idea for a short story/novella, set a month after the events in this book. British MI-6 agent in the US, not inside but knows enough to serve as a canary in a coal mine, i.e. "If you start seeing weird Doctor Who or X-Files things happening in your AO, you report here." He observes something during a video of an execution in Texas. Namely, due to the camera angle, it looks like somebody has a vein tap on the condemned prisoner. Almost like somebody is drawing out blood, not putting stuff in for the execution...

From this incident, he starts to investigate, and begins to notice that a lot of the same people showing up at executions all over the United States. All arriving and departing by SUVs with tinted windows and Federal agency license plates. And, of course, he just got the memo that there is such a thing as vampires...

(I fully release all rights to this story idea, to Mr. Stross and only request that he keep the body count to under four digits.)

107:

One maybe nit: In the Fuller Memorandum , Warrant Officer Howe answers to Jim (Kindle, p238, loc 3925.

108:

Silver ?

I do not remember any mention of Silver in vulnerabilities of the V's. Is it just Silver Crosses, or a more general sensitivity that V's are supposed to have ?

I liked the book, I read it at medium speed to retain content.

The ending did not bother me, after the second divorce the idea does not surprise me. Besides, primary motivation is self preservation. With a bastard infernal child out for my blood, I would move out, too.

109:

I saw HOWARD in caps at one point like a codename, but discounted it. Howard is a reasonably common name, and using it as a codename in a large organization would just cause confusion. There's a reason people don't use common word combinations for codenames; imagine how aggravating it would be to coordinate a four-car tail for a subject called WHITE SEDAN.

110:

Yeah, I was aware of the Baster Operator From Hell, but as the code name is HOWARD, it seems like a reference to both.

111:

@mrtact.com#92:

Apologies in advance as this answer somewhere between "comic book guy" and "fanfic."

OK, let's roll back a bit to the novella "Down on the Farm." If you haven't read it, there's a link from the "Bibliography and online fiction" link on the sidebar.

At one point in DOTF Bob goes to Angleton, explains the situation and gets given a copy of the power and cooling manual for the IBM S/1602-M200. Think about what's implied in that. Angleton deduces, correctly, that the entity bound to Matron is making an escape bid; he recalls specific details of a decades old summoning grid setup; and he accurately predicts that the key piece of information Bob will need is the ability to recognise the power supply for Matron's summoning grid. This reasoning process is carried out in seconds.

Next, look at Matron. A relatively weak demon, who's only computing resource is an IBM S/1602-M200, and whose only research resource is the ability to spy on psychiatric inmates nevertheless comes up with a pretty effective escape plan in less time than Angleton has been around.

It seems unlikely to me that a TEAPOT class entity, running on a massively parallel wetware super-computer and with access to the research resources of The Laundry would be constrained by the bindings and geases of TEAPOT BARON TYBURN for any significant period of time.

I conclude that TEAPOT has remained corporeal in order to pursue it's own agenda. The most visible aspect of that agenda is the creation/training of a human asset to serve as a minion/avatar, codename TEACUP(hat tip to @Jay#66).

Agent HOWARD is the first person to survive the TEACUP vetting process.

I believe the events of RHESUS POSITIVE EPSILON are largely the result of TEAPOT actioning the second phase of its agenda, by exploiting the opportunity presented by the elder V-Symbiote feud.

My current hypothesis is this:
Upon becoming aware of the V-Symbiotes, TEAPOT discovered their identities, and the nature of their feud, much sooner than anyone else at The Laundry (he calls Old George by name during the Code Red).

It chose to exploit this knowledge to lure Old George onto TEAPOT's home turf and to provide a live fire final exam for TEACUP.

TEAPOT deliberately placed Basil onto the DRESDEN RICE committee (as he did again with PHANG Asset Murphy) with the specific goal of compromising BLUE DANDELION's final operation and creating a "worst case scenario" for Agent HOWARD to sink or swim with; a characteristic training technique employed by TEAPOT.

The final showdown at the Watford warehouse is what is traditionally known as FUBAR.

Agent HOWARD and his support team went into a situation facing an enemy who was:

- trivially capable of defeating the strongest magical protection they could bring with them and of suborning the entire support team.

- fully inside their OODA loop.

- in possession of unanticipated powers (the ability to resist prolonged exposure to UV light) rendering key contingency planning moot.

In spite of this Agent HOWARD prevailed, signalling his success to TEAPOT with the Code Red call.

Upon confirmation of TEACUP's operational readiness, TEAPOT began phase 2.

It sent Dr. Carroll to face Old George with the full knowledge of what she was up against, and the expectation that before she was killed she would inflict sufficient damage to severely weaken the elder PHANG.

When Old George entered Room 202, TEAPOT surprised and overcame him, then used him as a ritual sacrifice to create a magical "fuhrer-bunker" to wait out some or all of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

112:

Some thoughts.

re: Spooky: well, there is a fairly benign cat-deity that features in the Cthulhu mythos. Given that NOMENCLATURE PENDING seems to find humanity amusing enough to give it a helping hand or two every once in a while, it's not out of the question that a certain Egyptian cat-goddess decides to join in the fun. Though Bob would have some explaining to do regarding a certain white-haired Persian.

re: last scenes showing up again in next books, Mo's POV: Angleton's true nature was foreshadowed as early as The Concrete Jungle when he lets his mask slip, slightly, and Bob describes him as (paraphrased) a walking skeleton with the radioactive fires of hell burning in his eyes. (Sounds a lot like Terrible Majesty from the gamebooks.) Now that Bob's become TEACUP, one only wonders what he looks like when he's commanding the violin to stop what it's doing.

Though I agree that this isn't necessarily the end of Bob and Mo's marriage. They still care about each other, clearly, and their relationship seems relatively healthy (well, quoth Bob, anyway, and we all know how dense he is in regards to the fairer sex: let's hope Mo agrees with him). It's just the matter of a murderous jealous stringed instrument to worry about, which could be a lot worse, relationship-wise.

113:

For those of you unfamiliar with American medical dramas, "code blue" means "cardiac arrest" in most US hospitals, and Wikipedia claims that this also Australian usage. (That entry does not mention what hospitals in the UK uses.)

114:

Hmm, so how much of Bob is actually still Bob? I re-read all the books before this came out, but I guess I'll have to re-re-read the last couple to look for subtle clues...

One minor annoying formatting note - the Australian (presumably UK?) Kindle version has * for all the footnotes, but the footnotes weren't actually showing inline. I eventually found them at the end of the book (one page per footnote).

115:

@bbaetz#114

The asterisks act like html hyperlinks. Click 'em and they'll take you to the footnote.

116:

@perpetual #111

Grin! You should modify that scenario, slightly, for end game.

Running off and hiding in the face of danger just wouldn't be British, young chap, would it? Planning to do so in advance even less so.

(Not to mention out of character with it's/his goals and work in the Laundry over the previous decades).

So though the reasoning that Angleton was playing the vamps is much more consistent with his evident abilities than a belief that he was in the dark, I think you need a better hypothesis as to why...

Looking forward to reading it! (Either in fan fic comments here, or Stross canon in 2016... )

117:

I'd been jonsing for a laundry fix and this his the spot. I felt like the last scene was suitably telegraphed (between the conversation between DDS A and the auditor, the book starting off with a fight btwn them, the violin issue and the generally "this is going to end badly" with bringing your hot ex-the-vamp over to stay with you without telling Mo).

I'm surprised more people aren't curious about non-Marrianne (sp sorry). She seemed normalish at 1st but got positively supernatural ( human slower than vampire slower than ???)

I have a question, if it's not too personal, about writing.

In reading this I realized (given that I love all laundry stuff) I really really love the novellas. I felt like they're tighter, they go places, and then they end when they're done with the idea.

This book felt a little bit more like a 'grown-up novella'; one idea from beginning to end*. Am I overthinking it? Are you focusing on trying to tighten the stories? Is it just a natural development or was it conscious?
*=obviously there were some big changes (DDS in particular), and some introduction or development of new areas (B stories like the rector, alex and spooky)

Possibly related: You've posted before about the "fixed length" requirements around paperback novels; are you still operating under those restrictions (I live in ereader world so it's all removed for me)?

Also, like the use of unreliable narrators. Between Bob being basically unable to predict what he's going to do (see his plan before meeting Mhari and what actually happens at dinner) and the other characters likewise suspect judgements: Mhari's perception of Oscar, Evan's perception of not-Marrianne I feel like the stories are getting richer? (i.e. less of Bob-as-omnicient-narrator). Especially as I feel that's the strength of lovecraft-informed work.

Very excited that you're taking on more/different main narrators. :)

118:

Maybe I'm just too stupid to figure it myself, but was there a deeper reason for all the repeated descriptions of quite a number of things every few chapters? First I thought the Vampire geas made it necessary, and its to prevent the (Laundry personel) reader from forgetting the fact, but that reason seems to have vanished with the ending. Is it to make it feel like a big file written over weeks and weeks?

119:

This book felt a little bit more like a 'grown-up novella'; one idea from beginning to end*. Am I overthinking it?

No, you're not overthinking it.

"The Rhesus Chart" started with that very first sentence popping into my mind, and took less than 10 weeks to write in first draft. (Then the same again to overhaul/polish/extend/rewrite the first chapter opening scenes.)

In contrast "The Apocalypse Codex" took more like nine months; "The Jennifer Morgue" took 6-8 months: "The Atrocity Archive" (the short novel) took 5 months.

The howling exceptions are "The Fuller Memorandum" (came out in 24 days -- I was staring down the barrel of a gun loaded with "how about we just cancel the series right now?" and the quickest way to dodge the bullet was to write the next novel a year early) and, you may be bemused to learn, "The Armageddon Score", the first draft of which rocketed out in a mind-numbing 18-day stretch of 12-14 hour back-to-back workdays. It still needs that polish/redraft, but I think it's going to be even tighter than "The Rhesus Chart" when the dust settles.

120:

Huh. I deepply look forward to the Armageddeon score, I will absently note. ;)
I hve, hoewever, noticed an inconsistency. sorry.
have the UK print of Ehesus chart.
So, P166 - It's right after the code blue has blown up in his face, and when Mo is first mrntioning her iran tri pwithout going int odetail - Bob states that he told her about the code blue, about his ten percenter, etcetera.
Which certainly implies that he had t omention he'd found vampires that were killing people, since, well, that was the whole point of the code blue.
Which conflicts somewhat with later, his chat with Mo right after the GREEN LIME meeting, when he apparently tells her about vampires for the first time.

Shall I ascribe this to Bob being an unreliable narrator

121:

Wow that ending really gutted me. It wasn't entirely unexpected but the marital breakdown hit me harder than the deaths, I think it's because you expect deaths and injury in the line of service the laundry requires, destroying personal lives in this manner is a step beyond.

I'm really looking forward to reading from others perspectives. I've noticed across the books (particularly in the last couple) things that may highlight how unreliable Bob is. Like the tendency for people to speak in geeky references* which otherwise don't fit with their character (though perhaps I'm reading too much into things there). Either way seeing Bob from a non Bob perspective, especially now since he seems to be maturing into the next Angleton** will be very interesting.

*Cultists squabbling over the iPhone in FM and exclaiming "Mine! Precious!", BASHFUL INCENDIARY having an engraved bracelet referencing Leeroy Jenkins in AC, one of the laddish vamps complimenting Mhari by saying "achievement unlocked" in RC. Just to name a few.

**Incidentally I'm not sure whether or not to take the line at the end if RC concerning summoning TEAPOT "over Bob's dead body" literally...

122:

Damn, that was an entertaining read. A minor nitpick: as an ex-ACN consultant, I can assure you that we work at all hours of the day. I had several clients that loved to drop a 10-hour workpackage on my desk at 18:00 with the comment that it had to be ready for the status meeting at 09:00.

I hate how fast the separation of Bob and Mo went; they've been married for 7 years; you'd think it would take more than 15 seconds to separate...

123:

And indeed why Mhairi stayed at Bobs house when he told her to sod off, meaning Mo found her. Was she up to something?

I think that despite what she'd seen, Mhari just couldn't bring herself to believe Bob's story about what he had become (perhaps sensing something about the unreliability of his narration) and especially Bob's story about his state of (relative) domestic bliss. She wanted to see the wife and see what happened, and then she'd feel in a position to draw a more accurate conclusion about who (and what) her ex really was.

(Surely "awkwardly curious ex" is a trope of some kind? I refuse to look....)

Anyway, Mhari clearly got more than she bargained for. I think she expected a pair of Laundry bureaucrats approaching middle-aged burnout who'd settled for each other because what else could they do?, in which case she could leave feeling satisfied and superior. Instead she got Agent CANDID and the Eater of Souls (Jr. Grade).

Anyway... I raced through the new book this weekend and enjoyed it so much I might have to reread the series. (JONESING, Mr. Stross. JONESING.)

The big question at this point, I think, is far less metaphysical or earth-shattering than some might suppose: who gets the cat in the separation? Bob, because as a newly leveled-up DSS he needs an appropriately Spooky familiar? Or Mo, because wouldn't it be just like a cat to latch onto the person least interested in taking care of it?

On the other hand, maybe that question *is* metaphysical and earth-shattering. Hm.

124:

I don't usually post here, though I'm a regular lurker.
I do feel a need to comment on the PHANG acronym. Phang happens to be my surname, so I'm feeling a little bit paranoid, as if I've been injected into the Laundryverse. Maybe I'm a vampire.

I'm half Chinese, born in the US. That side of the family hailed, originally, from SW China where there is cultural influence from SE Asia, hence most people think the name is SE Asian. If you Google it in English, you'll find first of all an Asian hotel chain and then mostly English-speaking Asians in Singapore, though you'll also find my and my father's work.

The name is pronounced Pong, like the ball game with the paddles. It's usually mispronounced Fang by US English speakers.

125:

So I got the book on Thursday afternoon, headed into a holiday weekend that I'd planned to use to catch up on sleep (having been working ~3 weeks of 12+ hour days). Instead of a getting to bed early, I stayed up until 2 AM finishing it.

Great addition to the series- possibly my favorite Laundry novel yet.

Question for Charlie- are we ever going to see BLUE HADES as on-screen actors again? As a sidenote, I'd love to read an account of the treaty negotiations.

126:

Well once again and then I'll let it go. Suddenly failed marriages are so RL. The relationship was an important part of the Laundry series for me. Bob Howard was stupid and average in his judgment in many things but he was dedicated in a very clear way to Mo. I am not a happy camper.

127:

I didn't take the ending as Mo and Bob's relationship having failed YET. The key word obviously being yet - having to move out is not a good sign, but as yet the relationship doesn't seem irreparably fractured.

We'll need to see Mo's side of that first.

128:

I finished the book last night. As other posters have said, it was a very tight narrative.

Interesting that Angleton's last words to Bob were "talk to you later".

Bob consistently refers to his talent as "eating" souls, but eating implies that one in some way derives nourishment from what is being consumed. He hasn't (at least up to this point) seemed to *need* to eat souls regularly in the same way the vampires have to drink blood. In fact, I believe not-Marianne is the first fully intact human soul he's actually eaten. I briefly suspected that this, rather than Angleton's death, was responsible for the increase in his souleater powers, but Bob seems able to pinpoint 'taking off the glove' to a very specific moment correlated with Angleton's death. Then again, maybe he's only remembering things that way and it's unreliable narrator syndrome at work again.

Regarding ambiguity over when Case Nightmare Green "actually begins", I think the most sensible date to put to it is when things get to the point that the occult can no longer be concealed from the general public. If any of humanity is around to write history books afterwards, I have no doubt that they will date the beginning of CNG to the day that mass announcements are made to the public, warning posters are pulled out of storage, etc. Even as a reader looking down at the fictional world of the books, that will mark a huge change point in the series (if it ever happens at all) since all the characters will suddenly have to act very differently. Anything before that, CNG may have "technically" begun, but it's hard to distinguish what would only have happened in CNG from the pre-CNG "occult problem has appeared and has to be dealt with" plotlines.

If that makes any sense?

129:

Bob may not be the best at office politics. Even so, if he discovered that human souls were yummy and filling, I assume he'd be sensible enough to keep that to himself.

130:

Just finished. That was incredibly satisfying and totally pissed me off (ending). Great work! I have some extra time next weekend, so if the next book could be out by then?

131:

Yes. Poor Andy. Because he was first introduced as a manager, I've always pictured him - rightly or wrongly - as Andy from the U.S. version of "The Office". (Ed Helms from "The Hangover", to you Brits.) I liked/hated that the after - action report listed the survivors of each Laundry worker killed by Old George; it helped individualize and note their deaths. And reminded us just how alone Angleton really was, which suggests how much he valued Bob.

132:

I thought it was an excellent story but that the ending was very emotionally unsatisfying. Bob's primary relationship ties in the book are to Mo and (as his father figure) Angleton, and these are both cut loose with no resolution.

Combined with the cat seeming like a completely dangling plot thread, it made me wonder if The Rhesus Chart will read much better as a middle of the series than it does right now while serving as the most recent entry. I look forward to finding out!

133:

I had so many things I had wanted to do today.... Which absolutely did not happen. As for all the speculation about Angleton not being dead, didn't he talk to Mo about how he knows how he's going to die (and that for him this was a strange concept)? Maybe I'm just super wrong, but I thought he said he knew it was coming.

As for Mhari, I am genuinely surprised at her still being alive (both before reading this book and after come to think of it). I had sort of assumed that she was the relationship MacGuffin rather than a character who would be returning in style. Then when she did and was a reasonable character, for a given value of reasonable, it was actually way more surprising that she didn't die doing something heroic to redeem the character.

At this point I am actually assuming that Mo really will be out of the picture to demonstrate the cost of doing occult business and that the newly immortal Mhari will return as the main romantic interest for our hero, who has also paid that price with his humanity. It would have been extremely out of character before, but /the stars have come right/ and now the strange will happen. Plus, barring some tragedy for Mo the only main character currently there with the right qualifications (age, shared culture, nigh immortality, monstrousness, etc) for a new long term romantic option is, strangely, Mhari.

Fascinating read. I do, however, feel that the magic circle of safety thing was underrepresented.

134:

The V-symbionts are infovores, albeit somewhat better infovores than are the eaters in the night. Both are beating the same problem different ways; they've eaten all the available info in their respective universes, and are effectively just sitting there, trying to score a meal somehow.

Soul eaters simply glom onto a living mind any old how, and eat it. V-parasites (or symbionts, the two shade into each other) get into a mind and promptly do everything in their power to make their new host as good a survivor as they can manage, but give it a taste for blood to make it hand sympathetic links to other minds to the symbiont, so it can feed.

In short, as long as you can keep the v-symbiont fed with information, it'll be happy, play nice and not eat the host. It does not actually want to destroy its host if it can possibly help it, since if it does so it is back to square one, sitting in the darkness waiting for another chance at a host.

So, the question then devolves to how little the v-symbiont can be forced to get by on. Can we, for instance, build fantastically complex virtual computer images and hand sympathetic links to these to a v-symbiont, then let it eat this info source, which can then be renewed almost indefinitely as long as we still have energy to play with. This is what it comes down to, energy. We're sitting here in a new universe, with energy to burn; the v-symbiont and eaters in the night are sitting in near heat-death universes trillions of years ahead of us in relative time, reaching out to younger universes for energy/information, which is to them the same thing.

This is where the likes of Bob and co come in. They have access to computers, and can (very, very carefully) feed minds/computers to ancient horrors and get magic out the far end. The only real question is very simple: how simple a mind can the eaters and v-symbionts be coerced into making do with?

135:

Thanks for dropping by!

I'd have preferred FANG as an acronym for "vampire" but couldn't think of a suitable formation, hence the spelling I ended up using.

Incidentally, you're not alone in turning up in a Laundry novel; apart from the odd explicit Tuckerization (real person who gets written into a book -- usually with their consent) I've had email from a couple of real world folks. For example, there is an Ellis Billington out there who is not a crazed megalomaniac billionaire who owns a yacht that's a slightly remodelled Krivak-class guided missile destroyer and a fluffy while cat.

(I really ought to start googling/Facebooking/LinkedIn checking all new character names in all my novels. Except I'm not rich enough to pay an assistant/fact-checker and it's quite a time consuming process ...)

136:

are we ever going to see BLUE HADES as on-screen actors again?

Yes. In "Armageddon Score" (the next book).

137:

Came in here to remark on this.

We should probably be very aware that Bob is an unreliable narrator with a slew of issues that could lead to him rambling on and on, unaware that he's repeating himself a lot.

138:

Hmm. One wonders if Mo's violin is particularly unreasonable in wanting Bob dead. After all, the violin probably isn't fully sentient, and it has a very simple remit:"This machine kills demons." 99 times out of a hundred, if Mo ran into something wearing as much eau-de-Eater-of-Souls as Bob, she'd be quite eager to kill it. And every time Mo takes her violin into the field, it has the lesson reinforced that it should be helping Mo kill infovores as quickly as possible.

The violin has a disturbing origin story - but hey, so did Angleton. The problem might not be that the violin is evil or has a personal grudge against Bob, but just that it isn't quite clever enough to distinguish friend from foe in this very strange case.

(The violin's compulsion to kill demons would also explain why Mo went overboard when she found Mhari - while most folks might be unhappy to find their spouse crashing with an ex, they probably wouldn't immediately try to torture the ex with eldritch instruments of torment).

139:

An interesting question occurs. What is the classification you need to know in order to know Bob is a Junior soul eater?
Is that falling under TEAPOT clearance, for example, since It's directly tied to what Angleton is?
or would it need HOWARD clearance? :)

140:

"if not, then book 7 will ram the point home with a sledgehammer."

Oh, good -- because I've no patience for Stross series that fade out gently with, e.g. carpet-nuking the US eastern seaboard.

141:

Curious nobody has brought this up, so maybe I've missed something, but another indication that Bob's narrative of the end is leaving quite a bit out - where's the Senior Auditor? Basil tells George to expect two Auditors (p. 311 on the Kindle), but only one shows up. He's sitting around elsewhere in the Annex while two of his closest colleagues are killed with an expenditure of large amounts of unsubtle arcane firepower over several minutes? Or he's home taking a nap during the riskiest part of a high-priority operation in which he's been centrally involved until now?

I don't actually have a theory under which it could make sense for the Laundry to deliberately sacrifice an Auditor and Angleton to Old George, rather than pulling in some additional firepower and setting up properly. And the theory that Angleton is suddenly going rogue just to give himself a nice impenetrable ward-singularity doesn't make much sense to me either; other very high-class small-area wards we've seen don't seem to require so much violence and risk, and what kind of entity wants to be trapped for eternity anyway? And I'm not satisfied with the narrative we got, either--too many clues it's incomplete. So, confused.

142:

A little off topic but I never know where to mention these things. A couple of inconsistencies and a typo, these are from the UK hardback edition, which lasted under two days. Needs to be longer!

Page 130 Mention is made of 'The two with bite marks' I may have missed something but I don't think there's mention of bite marks anywhere previously.

Page 155 '…Although the hosts don't stay human for long,…' Aren't the PHANGs the hosts and it's their victims who don't stay human, or am I reading this completely wrong?

Page 206 A minor typo, I think 'we’re the government, and we are engaged in a, a covert state of hostilities.'

143:

Just finished reading the book and all the comments.

First thing first: great book, as usual. A bit self-contained and detached from the main narrative (only some vampires in London, no world-breaking events like a giant mass sacrifice awakening something that should not have been awakened), but nevertheless quite enjoyable on its own, and anyway there ARE some heavy plot developments, although they are mainly restricted to the final pages.

That said, I think this book is suffering of a severe case of mid-series crisis: some things that happened just can't and won't make sense to readers, until we learn in later books what is really going on and what their ramifications will be. But, this being Charles Stross, I'm willing to bet on heavy (though somewhat cryptic) foreshadowing, as opposed to red herrings and loose ends. Remember how those paperclip audits seemed a joke until we learned what you could REALLY do with a stolen paperclip? Charles is very good at long-term storytelling, so let's just ride along and wait for what happens next.

144:

George launched a surprise attack, so it's entirely possible that somebody was out to lunch, in the bathroom, or otherwise unavailable for the relevant few minutes.

145:
Page 130 Mention is made of 'The two with bite marks' I may have missed something but I don't think there's mention of bite marks anywhere previously.

This happened while they were experimenting, so I assumed this was part of the experiment: "We're vampires, do we bite people to suck their blood?"

146:

Given the mrntion of 'baring her fangs' at the end, I think at one point, they did.
although. It occurs to me.
Outside the core V-symbiote perks, would some of the alterations not happen because they /expect /them to?

147:

Surprised no-one's raised this yet, but: how are we supposed to pronounce Mhari's name? I was reading it with the Irish (or Gaelic) orthography and expecting at least a few instances of alliterative wordplay, so it took me rather by surprise to see people confusing it (in spoken conversation) with Mary. Unless... is it that that's The Joke, and I'm just too obtuse to see it?

148:

Ok, so my thoughts on the situation with Angleton at the end: there seems a definite possibility that he has sealed himself - and the vampire - in the same sort of stasis field that was used in the warehouse.

The question is, if that's the case, what happens to extra-dimensional mind parasites when the mind is cut off from time and space? We saw that the sympathetic bond between a V-parasite and a stasis-ed victim was... muted? Or cut off completely? Does such a parasite inhere totally within the mind, or is it linked to it? Such a link might be severed by a stasis field, like the possessed in The Reality Dysfunction, and would that apply to both Teapot and the V-parasite?

Can't wait to see what happens next!

149:

I am going to miss Angleton if he really is gone. I sincerely hope he reemerges from the containment field or, if he has been dis-incarnated, at least Bob gets to have a dead Jedi talk with him. I hold some hope given that Angleton's last words to Bob are "We'll talk later".

150:

kal@141

I'm guessing that the Senior Auditor (male) was somewhere else in the New Annex during Old George's incursion, though his absence from the "command post" in the inquiry extracts does seem suspicious. On the other hand, unreliable narrator. We do know that he was with Bob at the New Annex at 3 AM, but we have a lot of unaccounted for time because Old George enters the New Annex at 7:03 PM, which is also when Bob is encountering the edge of the (literal) shit storm at the archives. Bob's Code Red call to Angleton syncs up with Andy shooting at Old George ("I can hear banging in the background", and inquiry extract), so the call is at maybe 7:20. Whatever happened between Angleton and Old George probably happened quickly, at last to outside observers, and we don't hear from anyone else that was at the New Annex until Bob gets back there.

So it's 3 AM and the SA has bags under his eyes, which would make sense if he's been dealing with after action stuff since around 7:30. Interestingly, he must've send Lockhart home/away, because he tells Bob that Lockhart will "come in early, in about another half hour" to "mop-up".

Can't wait to read Mo's version of events.

151:

To answer your question - the short answer is we really don't know because it's the rules of magic and Charlie can more or less make them with suitable handwavium as he goes along.

But, if it was my universe, my first pass would be no, they're different situations. (I'd be willing to listen to good counter-arguments though.)

The vampire thing - the blood acts as a sympathetic link between the vampire wherever it is and the victim, allowing the parasite to boost the PHANG by munching on the brains of the (unwilling) donor at a distance. A ward of sufficient strength prevents that by severing the link.

Angleton, however, is the Eater of Souls, properly summoned from the demon dimensions and bound into a human shell. The whole of the soul and enchantment is contained within the ward. There's no link to be severed crossing the boundaries of the ward so he continues within the ward as before.

As I said at the top, that would be my take. The first bit is pretty clear. The second, about Angleton is less clear (and relies on my memory from an earlier book I haven't read in a while) but I think it's right. And an incompletely explained functioning of wards. And much more. So I wouldn't be surprised if it went some other way but it would be my first response if it was my universe in an RPG.

152:

There's at least one other solution that hadn't occurred to me - staged responses. Junior Auditor should be enough to handle it, so she goes first. She fails, so Angleton tackles it next because the Senior Auditor is more powerful that Angleton. (Scary thought but logical, he's supposed to hold Angleton to account after all.)

It's wasteful of resources to some extent, when the Junior Auditor doesn't prove capable of dealing with the situation, but at each stage the fight weakens Old George and leaves a more capable, fresh defender waiting for him.

It's a pretty brutal calculus of loss but it's not a completely unreasonable one - especially if you think the Junior Auditor really has a good chance of winning the fight.

153:

My guess is that Angleton's personality (or some sentient echo of it) is now in the memex. That's how he and Bob will "talk later" - via ghostly green text chat on a clattering pre-electronic Turing machine.

JA: Boy?
BH: Angleton?
JA: I told you we'd talk later.

I also suspect that the Eater of Souls has, technically, "possessed" Bob - it's just being awfully nice about it.

IIRC, Angleton was a braindead criminal possessed by the Eater of Souls and brainwashed/geased into thinking his was an English school master. Through luck and acculturation, the Eater "went native", became an Englishman in character, if not in origin.

It occurs to me that the Angleton personality was very old, almost vampire level old, and was probably suffering from the same issues - generation gap-age, culture shock, etc. He seems to have combated that by taking on young men as proteges to mention - Andy Newstrom (maybe Alan?) and then Bob.

And it occurs to me that, as much as Angleton teases and reprimands Bob, he also profoundly admires him. Think back to what he told Lockahart in the last novel.

Now, if you believe Boob as a reliable narrator, you'd say Angleton admires Bob's courage, integrity and innate decency. I suspect that's true, though incomplete. I suspect Angleton also admires Bob's innate magical talent, ambition and well-disguised ruthlessness and power-hunger - all characteristics that Bob the narrator has been at pains to downplay.

So if you were a hungry ghost who's gone native and feels protective towards the Earth, who would you chose to be your next corporeal vehicle? And why kill such an admirable personality, so well-trained and in tune with the modern age, when you can just ride it and nudge it in the right direction every now and then?

What would be really spooky is if we had a few novels of Bob talking to Angleton's spirit through the memx, only to discover later that the memex was a prop Angleton had been using to disguise the fact that this "friendly possession" was what had really happened.

154:

PS - apologies for the typos and thinkos - I don't know how to go back and edit them out.

155:

I'm going what "maw-ree", more or less.

So, about the violin, it never hit me to think of it as being aware, and it DEFINITELY never struck me to consider it a vampire... but it makes a certain horrible kind of sense in an after the fact *forehead smack* Strossian kind of way.

156:

I was also puzzled by (1). I do note that the containment ward thing was first introduced by way of an official, after action report; while the finding things on the body part was introduced as part of something speculative and not yet official.

I've yet to figure out the significance of that, though...

157:

I enjoyed reading the book, which -- because I'm slow -- I just finished. It's a worthy addition to the series.

My big question/issue concerns the conversation between Bob and Angleton in pp. 223-229. From a my point of view it seemed to collapse the narrative complexity of the book awfully quickly -- maybe too quickly for maximum enjoyment.

Prior to that conversation, we had wheels within wheels: two old vampires fighting, the Scrum trying to trick the Laundry, various levels of the Laundry trying to counteract the Scrum, with nobody quite in command of the whole picture. Usually, one of the pleasures of a (spy/mystery) book like this is watching the characters gradually figure out what's happening, with the reader keeping track of their different levels of understanding. Keeping the readers a bit puzzled is never a bad idea.

Then Bob talks to Angleton and suddenly infers the presence of two old vampires, one embedded in the Laundry ... and from that point on Bob the character essentially knows everything the omniscient narrator (future Bob) knows. Not only did I feel Bob's inferences were a bit implausible (too accurate, too fast), but I actually thought they deprived the story of some of its potential.

Anyone else have a similar reaction?

158:

You know, that's a good point! They didn't try *living* livestock.

At a guess, it's the processing capacity that's important. So the blood from a living goat or sheep might not be bad, but also may not be as nourishing. It's certainly worth considering, though.

159:

Can we posit an ecosystem of quantum microbes out there?

Right now we have (hypothetically; this fits the observation but has NOT NOT NOT been confirmed) the K-parasites that caused Krantzberg syndrome, and the V-parasites that caused PHANG (i.e., vampirism) and also kill PHANG victims in a fashion similar to but much faster than Krantzberg.

So... are the more? Might it be possible to inoculate someone against Krantzberg without making them a vampire?

160:

We now have not one, but two areas in the New Annex that are permanently sealed off, now, don't we? Andy's old office and room 202. I really hope Angleton did the paperwork on the former, or someone is in for one hell of a surprise seeing as the only person who recalls it now is Bob.

Now, for one observation, this means that the New Annex can't be decommissioned or rebuilt in the same fashion as Dansey House (even considering that nasty geas). Nobody in the Laundry is able to do anything more than seal those areas off. Clearly that kind of crap never happened at Dansey, so... well, Case Nightmare Green, huh?

Second, what in the nine hells was Andy *doing* for his ten-percenter? He just accidentally summoned an incredibly powerful horror from the Deep Beyond? Sure, he messed up, but he shouldn't have been able to mess up THAT much. So... more CNG stuff. Higher level entities poking around with summoning grids they wouldn't normally bother with. Which means that more nastiness like that could occur - more power does NOT equate to more control, and what do you do when your HOG starts making arcane symbols and calling Feeders instead of rendering you invisible?

Third, I get the feeling those nasty little areas in the New Annex will be important later. Both because I'm not entirely confident Angleton (or Old George) are dead, and because I suspect the thing in Andy's office will be a Chekhov's gun later - nastiness chasing Bob, Bob throws it into the pit, slams the door.

161:

It seemed astoundingly poor tradecraft for Bob to accept a cat like that, one that just waltzed in. Good of someone to point out how sloppy it was to him. Of course, given the prior example of Aineko, I'm as suspicious as a chicken listening to a certain colonel extol the benefits of deep frying for giving the thighs that healthy, golden glow.

162:

As always, I love Mr. Stross's writing. I think I discovered two editing errors, however. I'm referring to the U.S. edition of the book.
page 257, 4th paragraph: "Evan chews..." should that be Alex (Alex and Evan are otherwise alternating paragraphs)?
page 291, 4th paragraph, Angleton refers to Edward Cullen. Should that be Evan Elliott?

163:

Cat with opposable thumbs? I suddenly thought of this. Jenkin is ratty, not catty, but something seems familiar here. (haha)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dreams_in_the_Witch_House#Brown_Jenkin

164:

Give the kid a 666 birthmark and this is a feature, not a bug.

165:

Perpetual Motion @111, I like you.

Other folks are doubting TEAPOT's machiavelism. Sure, Bob mentions a number of times over the books how TEAPOT's gone native, but how reliable is he? Is he himself doing some wishful thinking ("I hope to $DEITY that TEAPOT's on our side, because otherwise we're so fucked I may as well exit now"), or doing the unreliable narrator thing and (now that he's TEACUP) saying "TEAPOT is a good entity, you want to like and help the TEAPOT (and me)" for his own survival.

It's pretty established that TEACUP is a being of superhuman intellect. Why it chooses to play along with the humans is never fully established to my satisfaction. For one thing, something called Eater of Souls does awfully little actual soul-eating, at least on screen. Considering how ravenous smaller entities are, its level of restraint is... admirable. And considering its power and intellect (but unknown limitations) I'm still unsure how it could have failed to identify Basil, which is why I'm inclined to believe @111's theory. It has certainly done an excellent job guiding HOWARD in the right direction, but for what purposes?

I'd love to think TEAPOT has humanity's best interests in mind, but that doesn't gel with the theme. Also, while I evidently wish for humanity's future survival (and independance. Serving as cattle for the Sleeper in the Pyramid is not a nice ending, even if you consider chicken to be an evolutionary success), OGH doesn't have a history of happy outcomes for humanity in his stories.

On a side note, what exactly did Basil have in mind for MAGIC CIRCLE OF SAFETY? It's mentioned he was at the source of the project to renew it. Was it just to serve as dissemination for ward-traps for his use at leisure, or was there something deeper?

Another thing: at one point Bob complains about the OPERA CAPE and DRESDEN RICE codewords, saying how codewords that have a meaning relevant to their subject are a breach of security. While these are definitely more egregious, EQUOID, BLUE HADES, and CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN aren't too obscure either. Nevertheless, did his complaint hint to any other breach of procedure, or was it just a funny aside?

And finally, thanks Charlie for this tight, rollercoaster of a story. Admitting the vampires into the Laundry midway was unexpected to me, and immediately foreshadowed at musch worse things to come. Loved it!

166:

Given how Mo's violin was pretty much only willing to tolerate a junior soul eater for the benefits provided to Mo, it stands to reason that something had to have changed pretty significantly to warrant it's heightened aggression. My guess is that it's none too happy with Bob's new co-pilot. We've already been given homages to Deighton, Fleming, etc.... Perhaps next an unexpected cinematic comedy turn with a nod to "All of Me"?

In all seriousness though, Bob's a pretty powerful guy these days (even if he doesn't have a hungry ghost on his back, taking him over bit by bit -- or perhaps bite by bite.) We've seen how much he's been there for Mo, helping her to preserve whatever sanity she has left after her missions -- lending whatever strength he can. Next we'll see just how far she'll go to repay the favor by saving him (there is no Bob only Zuul -- er, s/Zuul/Angleton/.) Besides which, I'd imagine it a catharsis of sorts for her to fight for something that she truly believes in, not just following orders.

I'd say that by the time this next book is over, they'll have earned that getaway that they keep having to postpone. Just in time to need a new narrator for the subsequent book.

167:

A big question I have, what went into the making of the vampire slayer? (In my head canon, she's now Buffy the Vampire Layer.) I remember a short story from years back about passing-as-human super-predators that might well as be vampires. They needed to eat something special out of certain human organs to survive, no animal substitute was suitable. They had the requisite suite of seduction skills to pull this off. The narrator is out to do a little hunting and is infatuated with a potential victim. He only realizes at the end that if he is an apex predator, she is an apex-apex predator, one that preys on his kind, and her kind is so good he was not even aware they existed right until he became meal-time.

My assumption was that the slayer isn't likely to be a badass normal since that wouldn't just be foolhardy, that would be suicide. That and the neck-snappy thing. Normals can't just snap human necks like that. So there must have been something paranormal about her. I'm assuming that it wasn't just "add-ons" the way some mundane given a Laundry ward would suddenly be a tougher target than Joe Muggle. I was wondering if she might have a parasite that feeds on parasites.

168:

As I understand it, the blood usefulness curdles the moment the donor dies. So a hospice vegetable could be fed on a week after the sample is taken whereas the prisoner's blood is worthless after the fact. So if they were going to use a condemned man's blood, it would have to happen prior to his execution and without any stays that could have him dying of unnatural causes.

The one thing I wasn't clear on, frequent feedings kill a person more quickly but my understanding is a single feeding is a death sentence, it's just going to take longer. Once the parasite has been pointed to a new host, it won't let go until it dies. So the trick of keeping the boy in the bubble, grampy vamps can keep feeding on him for a while, though the kid is going to be anemic soon since there's no recovery time between each sample, effectively being on ice, but each taste gives the vampire the full buzz while the parasite doesn't have as much time to chew? I would think the way it works is more of a kickback. A blood draw and thus brain munch releases x much power, half goes to feed the parasite, half goes back to the vampire to keep it humming and hunting for more victims.

169:

yeah. We also see her moving with heightened speed, and having immunity - or at least resistance - to vampire mind control. (Look at how she interacts with Oscar)

170:

No, the sealed off areas can be moved, assuming there is no other way of decommissioning them. We know they can be moved because they are moving already. If they were not responding to gravity and the structural forces of the building around them, then the rotation of the Earth, its orbit around the Sun, the Sun's orbit around the galaxy and the motion of the galaxy through the universe would cause them to be flung off into space. Therefore, it should be possible to cut the sealed off areas out of the surrounding building and move them to a permanent disposal site.

171:

The question isn't "Can it be moved?" but "Can it be moved relative to the sticker, which may now in a place we can't reach?".

172:

Read it. Loved it.


I'm a bit confused regarding the timeline with respect to The Apocalypse Codex, though.

In the prologue, which was stated to be "One Month Earlier", it's said that the mess at Colorado Springs happened a couple of months ago.

But... later chapters mention Colorado Springs as having happened a month ago, plus I think there was also mention of it happening "last year" while some other mess then happened "this year".

Have I just missed something obvious?

173:

I don't think the other side is there anymore, looking at some of the other wards and seals, I would expect a class 10 ward to remove something from the universe entirely.

174:

While I get all of the references, and generally agree with your attitudes toward software of various sorts, the "inside IT" digs got a bit out of hand. Perhaps your editor could rein those in just a bit?

175:

Barnes and Noble's DRM is easily removed. An unencrypted copy of everything I buy from them gets tucked away -- I'm disinclined to lose something because a business goes under, one that won't provide me with any sort of guarantees. Of late, the unencrypted copy goes around with me on my tablet until I'm done because there is much better epub-reading software than the nook application. Come and get me, B&N.

176:

Well, there are different ways of enhancing humans; first of, expect non-Marianne to be quite versed in martial arts, both conventional and somewhat more esoteric; same goes for resistance towards mind control, the most basic one being Alex (a vampire, but we could assume Alex is to Basil as a human baseline is towards a vampire) looking for logical loopholes, also, then, there are likely some meditation techniques to minimize effect, and last but not least, Finch (a Person of Interest reference, BTW?) shows people develop some resistance with frequent brain rinsing; if that's not enough, both Basil and Old George score somewhat higher then our neonates (damn, why can't I keep White Wolf speak out of this? BTW, is there a crossover module for WoD and Laundry RPG in the making, err?), and non-Marianne is under subtle but strong control by both.

Going on, well, Evan muses about her being on MDMA, maybe she is under something somewhat less serotonergic? Nazis, err, fighters on Speed, anyone?

Also, she is most likely a practitioner, with or without Old George's help, and we know what BASHFUL INCENDIARY is capable of, bullet time might be the answer what happened to Oscar at the car. I also guess she is warded up to ELEVENTY.

And then, Old George maybe implemented some sort of control entity into her; I don't exactly remember what Ramona Random's succubus was capable of, but I think this is the closest systematic sibling we have to it, of course if it exists.

BTW, just finished it, nice headscrew in some parts, I have some comments, some nitpicking on the symptoms and pathophysiology[1] of K syndrome, V syndrome and CJD. But I need some sleep. ;)

As for Bob the unreliable narrator, well, I guess he's becoming something of a "That Guy" for most of us,

http://1d4chan.org/wiki/That_guy

But as for being slow on the sociodynamic uptake, I'm somewhat sceptical about the accuracy of neurotypicals and non-nerds. Also note that Bob's analysis of Mhari is quite likely wrong, but not because it's too rational or "non-empathic", as would be expected with the nerd stereotype. In fact, it's his Laundry superiors' analysis that is rational, Bob is just explaining everything with emotions, ex-boyfriends and like.

[1] Yes, I just passed some Oliver Sacks to a cousin of mine, why are you asking if I'm interested in neurology?

177:

I don't understand the sequence of events in the warehouse, at the end of the book. We start with Pete and Alex entering the office, and not-Marianne sending them into the warehouse proper. Basil takes them over and commands Pete to stand within the ward, and he then activates it. Alex is told to "stop trying to think [...] go and stand by the door. Facing it. [...] If anyone comes through the door, I want you to kill them."

The first problem with those orders is that Alex doesn't stop trying to think. The fact that he "is prone to over-thinking things" and "is a rules lawyer" are proffered to explain his later actions. So he actually keeps thinking, with great intensity. The second problem is that he ignores his orders when somebody actually does come through the door. He's in great physical pain, but he doesn't even obey the orders when he recovers. But apparently he's still bound by them; we're told that he attacks the soldier as a consequence of his creative over-thinking, implying that otherwise he would have been forced to ignore him. And why should he attack the soldier, anyway, other than to provide a distraction for someone in another room whose actions are opaque to him?

Then there's the ultraviolet lights. It's odd that Basil didn't notice them, given that he's a vampire, used to dim light, and has regularly returned to the warehouse to consume his victims. But even given this fortuitous circumstance, why did the soldier leave the ordinary lights burning when he was told to "go back there and turn out the bloody lights"? We were told (when Bob visited the warehouse with Pete, earlier) that the light switch for the ordinary lights is near the warehouse/office door. So why do we just lose the UVs? And why does Bob describe this as "the light flickered and something of its quality changed: it reddened or lost something from the blue end of the spectrum"? It's obvious what happened: the banks of UV lights went off; the warehouse is no longer lit by an "eldritch purple glow"; and it is now lit by "a couple of underpowered bulbs". That's hardly a subtle effect.

178:

Err, may I just remind you Alex is a "rules lawyer"?

"Trying to think" and "thinking" are not the same, so "stop trying to think" is not "stop thinking", where we might argue to what degree "stopping to think" is even possible, it depends somewhat on the definition of "thinking", if it's any brain activity, well, may I introduce you to the medulla oblongata and breathing, if just coherent conscious thought, well, I for one am quite used to a lot of semi-coherent "noise" in the background happening...

179:

Well, ditto for the experiments on live animal blood, though who's to say nobody did it before, see BSE. Also, we don't know if K or V syndrome are not contagious, eating something is quite likely establishing a sympathetic link, too. Makes one wonder even more about Mad Cow disease...

As for computational power, I'm not that sure humans outperform animals that much, though it might depend somewhat on the task at hand; IIRC Peter Watts recently mused about the broadband access some of our "older" brain areas had, compared to the evolutionary newcomer neocortex, and how lightning fast reflexes were a speciality of brainstem, cerebellum and like. Add too this that the cerebellum contains half the neurons of the human brain and is one of the evolutionary "older" structures. Maybe our cerebellum is somewhat bigger than the one of other mammals, but given it's implication in movement and like and animal agility, I'm not that sure. Of course, the human neocortex is much larger, but than, parrots and like are able of quite intelligent behaviour without much of it...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_animals_by_number_of_neurons

OTOH, it might be the computational power of cerebellum and like is not what Eaters and like are after; the analogy that comes to mind is the relation between classical logical gatters, FPGA, CPUs, GPUs etc.

180:

"The one thing I wasn't clear on, frequent feedings kill a person more quickly but my understanding is a single feeding is a death sentence, it's just going to take longer."

I don't believe frequency of feedings was the issue - it was the numbers of vampires feeding. One vampire = death in six months, six vampires = dead in a month.

More or less.

182:

Also note there might be a way out if you put the victim into a suitable summoning grid or like, if the therapy of K syndrome applies...

183:

I basically agree that the sheer brainpower to drive a large mammalian body is pretty high - cows, horses and the like typically have brains of a fair old size (although about 30% of the size of a human brain from memory). So there undoubtedly is some computational bias in favour of humans.

But, while we know Bob is an unreliable narrator, he's the only one we've got. Computational demonology relies on the ability to perform interesting higher maths basically. Humans are, to the best of our knowledge the only animals in that category. There's an interesting experiment with dolphin blood begging to be carried out...

As for BSE, similar to CJD and nvCJD, there's a well founded aetiology involving prions and K-syndrome is characterise by the spongiform encephalopathy without the prions. Demon-dimensional entities eat your brain instead of proteins changing shape and knocking holes in it. Unless Bob doesn't understand the medicine or the medics are wrong (in which case the v-parasites probably started eating sheep, because scrapie, the TSE that affects sheep is thought to the origin of them all, except Kuru which has its own special place in human funerary rights) and prions are presumably v-parasite faeces?

184:

As mentioned, I guess humans would still be somewhat on top in computation power, I'm just not that sure how much; also note brain size is not necessarily all, it might depend on neuron number (subject to neuron volume, number of support cells etc.), connectivity and like. And as mentioned, humans are notorious for their enlarged neocortex.

Problem is, we have a number of somewhat related, poorly defined, but quite clearly distinct entities, computational power, intelligence and consciousness/sentience, which each somewhat related to the other, but more along the notorious "necessary, but not sufficient".

As for the cerebellum, apparently it's concerned inter alias with

a) intergrating sensory data
b) interpreting said data to some extent, e.g. movement and like
c) motor control

of course in concert with other brain areas, especially the neocortex. One idea is to look at the cerebellum as a first filter instance, which in itself would require quite some computational power. It's also at least somewhat capable of model building, since lesions in the cerebellum lead to problems with planning movement, which makes little sense if it doesn't involve some physics model. These and other symptoms are known as ataxia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ataxia#Cerebellar

BTW, CJD is quite strong on the cerebellum, which is why ataxia (shaking gait and like) are one of the symptoms; that was one of the problems I had with the pathophysiology, but I digress.

And still, BTW, human sensorics employ logarithms quite often, something quite complex in calculation.

Of course, it could not be so much about raw computational power but about intelligence, but that's another can of worms with the definition. It could be about symbolic logic etc., which seems somewhat confined to humans in wetware, and we could generalize to MATHEMATICA and like in computer hardware. Still, who's to say the cerebellum isn't using said logic to some extent.

And consciousness/sentience is still another issue, funnily it's quite frequent to some degree in animals.

Problem is, as already said, these concepts are somewhat related, but it's complicated; AFAIK birds are somewhat outliers with high capabilities, though their brains seems relatively "simple"; makes one wonder about dinosaur intelligence, BTW.

As for interesting animal bloods, well, dolphins are racist manipulative rapists, but I guess elephant blood is easier to come by, and they have quite a big neocortex. Problem is their slow reproduction; OTOH, some guenons might be interesting. AFAIK you can use chicken feet for hands of glory, though I'm neither sure about this, no does this necessarily mean you can use chicken for other, err, sacrifices.

As for V syndrome being the true reason behind BSE/nvCJD, that was something of a joke, also note V syndrome seems to go for the neocortex like e.g. Alzheimer, not so much after the cerebellum like nvCJD, though this is in the latter two cases more of a question of degreee. Still, we coudl imagine a pathology where misfolded proteins (like misfolded prions) don't multiply by autocatalytical misfolding, but by acting as a contagion for an invocation on the native protein...

Nevermind I guess the law of contagion is IMHO a cognitive adaptation to infectious diseases (and potlach-like gift economies, intergroup alliances etc.).

185:

Whoops, in the Fuller Memorandum, Ch. 11, Jo calls a Code Blue in while Bob is home, he comes in to see his office has a hole melted in the door.

Wouldn't action of some sort IN the office count as a Code Red, via the recently established example in TRC?

Was going back over to refamiliarize myself with the TEAPOT/TEACUP developments and noticed it.

186:

I am very curious about the 'Battle of Briefing Room 202' and what probably is the most potent, high-level necromantic thaumatulurgical duel in Laundry history. I feel cheated that we didn't get a blow-by-blow account of Angleton's masterful self-sacrifice. Earlier in the book he used a Class 10 sticker on Andy's office (RIP) which is the first time in the series that any magic was used above Class 4. Anyway...Great book! I binge-read it in one sitting.

187:

I would tend to agree with you but that's also assuming magic works like with a physical object. What if the frame of reference is with regards to the Earth itself? I think there was a Doctor Who that had some anomaly occur at a point a hundred or so feet in the sky above a British city and to exploit it an entire skyscraper was built to intersect it.

So while it may be moving with regards to the Earth's location in space, it is fixed with regards to the Earth. At least that's how you could explain it if there's no way to move it. Or it may operate according to alien logic we can't rationalize but which ends up at "no, we can't do anything about it."

188:

Loved the book.

Quick question though, this is the second time you have referenced the Dresden files. I'm just curious if you have read them, and if so what your thoughts are on them.

189:

In all examples we saw, gates are always controlled by a summoning grid or a similar implement, and moving the grid would very likely lead to moving the gate (think about building a grid on a truck, or on a ship).
However, if the containment is breached and the gate expands outside the grid, all bets are off; it shouldn't even be able to remain open after its controlling grid is destroyed, however it looks like after enough escalation it becomes self-sustaining and its controlled from whatever is on the other side... so I highly doubt it can be controlled or moved (or even closed...) by anyone on this planet.

190:

Just a small sidenote to the whole "animal blood" debate that I seem to have sparked: we have seen definite invocation-based effect happen on chickens and snakes--cockatrices and basilisks, specifically. Granted, that might not have to do with the animal's neuron count or brainpower as the V-parasite does, but it confirms that eldritch effects aren't limited to human or silicon brains.

191:

An idle thought: what if the event horizon in Room 202 is actually Andy Newstrom's ex-office? Remember that DSS Angleton has twisted spacetime on a previous occasion (by moving his office from Dansey House to the New Annex, where it is theoretically outside the building structure (as far as I remember)).

192:

Hi. New here, pretty damn addicted to the Laundry since early last year, when I found The Fuller Memorandum on a bookcrossing shelf. Waiting for July 2015 is almost physically painful...
I have my theories on some of the ways in which Bob may be an unreliable narrator, and if they're right, the following will be completely beside the point. However, IF (*big* if) the main reason for Bob's moving out really was the violin... might *that* problem not perhaps be "solved" quite simply with decent earplugs? ;-) (Okay, I admit it would be a major annoyance, having to wear earplugs all the time when at home, not to mention a huge complication for communication, but... it might still be preferable to effectively ending one's most meaningful relationship. Especially if it's that relationship that arguably keeps one at least *somewhat* sane and human.)
Incidentally, why has Bob's tendency to react to sudden threats by instinctively trying to eat people's souls not turned into a marital problem yet? I mean, the guy has night terrors... what if he were slow to wake up from one of those, and his feeding instinct were to activate before his more conscious self-control? I'd be at least mildly nervous about sleeping anywhere near him... (and by "mildly nervous" I mean "completely terrified").
Of course, I suspect that the violin actually isn't the main problem here. And if it isn't, then the solution to Mo and Bob's marital crisis may be even simpler than earplugs: just resolve whatever festering relationship issue it is that Bob isn't talking about. (Yeah, right. *Simple*. :D)
Well, whatever it is that's really going on, I do hope there's no real, permanent separation ahead - I'm not much of a shipper, but I do think a working (if sometimes troubled) relationship is a lot more interesting to read about than a broken one - *especially* in the context of a universe like the Laundry's.

193:

Addendum to the previous: never mind Bob's home life: what is he going to do when - as is probably inevitable at some point - Mo and him will have to fight side by side sometime?
(Also... if Angleton hadn't been left outside of Brookwood because of his funny turn, would he have died/discorporated when Mo played?)

194:

(Forgive wonky grammar etc.; non-native speaker posting after a 16-hour work day here.)

195:

"Page 130 Mention is made of 'The two with bite marks' I may have missed something but I don't think there's mention of bite marks anywhere previously."

It's mentioned much later that Dick was into using his teeth, until they explained the potential for using bite marks to identify who did the biting.

196:

Agreed, absolutely. But our narrators in the Laundry have never claimed Computational Demonology is the whole of magic in the world, just the safest way for the practitioner to practise. Although Bob's biased. And unreliable.

Bob's favourite go-to, the HOG is a pigeon's foot, modelled on the original hand of an executed murderer and so on. (And is arguably non-computational and witchcraft not demonology.)

But the v-parasites clearly like eating brains. BRAAIINS!!!! (Sorry, it's early and I'm caffeine-deficient still, couldn't resist.) It appears that when the brain to which the blood acts as a sympathetic link is dead the blood is no longer "tasty" to the PHANG, presumably because the parasite can't draw nourishment. The SCRUM group only tried on dead animal brains. If they tried on living animal brains is the complexity required to drive a large mammalian body sufficient or does the additional complexity of the "oversized neocortex" of H. sapiens sapiens have the computational goodness required? Enquiring minds want to know.

197:

Earplugs wont work - the Violins magic has physical & metaphysical effects up to and including destruction of property (cf Iris' house in FullerM), stripping/destruction of souls (CF RhesusC - the Iranian Lieutenant.) There is no suggestion that earplugs are a protection

198:

The references to classes in the books are rather patchy. I would be surprised if the generation of gates to another world/universe aren't higher than Class 4 ie

And "Talk to you later" doesn't necessarily suggest TEAPOT was self-sacrificing.....

I suspect we will see TEAPOT again in some form - be it via possession/haunting of the memex, possession of/communing with Bob, or actually collapsing of the event horizon in room 202. There are strong suggestions in FullerM that the Eater of Souls itself as opposed to its host body is only vulnerable to CNG-scale events - which Im not sure Old George was.... given that we can reasonably assume that the EoS was probably at least millennia old, albeit presumably spending much of that time as an incorporeal entity floating in another realm with limited access to entergy/information.

Although one of the more interesting inferences you can make from FullerM is that whatever region of time/space/universe the EoS inhabits when not in a host is also going to be impacted by CNG which suggests it is metaphysically 'close' to Earth.

All assuming Bobs not being unreliable when disclosing TEAPOTS motives in remaining Angleton.

199:

@gordycoale: Ah, I'd forgotten there was damage to inanimate objects! Time for a reread, it seems...
Physical damage to human beings and other beings in possession of a brain, however, just *might* be explicable by the violin inserting magical code via the ear, which is then executed by the brain, though... Sound is a form of data, after all...

200:

For the "Talk to you later", well, may I remind you of "I may be some time."?

201:

I thought similar about Mo and Angleton, but then, the violin didn't exactly care for Bob before he tried to save Mhari. So maybe it's not so much his Eater of Soul promotion, but the fact he went between the violin and one of its wouldbe victims. Plus him being strong enough to pull it off after Angleton's, err, whatever.

That being said, welcome to the commentariat. Don't fear any Deutsch-isms, mine are likely worse... ;)

202:

Well, actually the question forced itself somewhat, especially since we knew "dead blood" was disgusting, keeping in mind the animal blood was from slaughtered animals. But well, this is Charlie's universe, so let's see what he is making out of it.

BTW, looking through some papers about CJD and like, I was somewhat mistaken, it's Kuru that goes for the brainstem, while at least normal CJD also goes for the Neocortex; nvCJD is still somewhat different, it goes for the brainstem and thalamus:

http://web.stanford.edu/group/virus/prion/2008/FactSheet.html

So we might not look so much for nvCJD, but for the old kind.

And still, V or K syndrome going for the cortex would likely make for a somewhat changed clinical picture, with memory problems, maybe some forms of cortical blindness etc. and somewhat late ataxia. Just some ideas...

(Could the "Stargate: Atlantis" fans please stop shouting "Rodney, shut up!"?)

203:

Err, make this "Kuru goes for the cerebellum". Damn, anybody knows a nearby MRI, just to be sure?

Err, for classification of prion diseases:

http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/126/6/1333.short

http://bmb.oxfordjournals.org/content/66/1/241.abstract

and

http://bmb.oxfordjournals.org/content/66/1/213.abstract

It seems like there are different forms of prions in different part of the brain, which might explain some of the difference:

http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/126/9/2065.abstract

For a general talk:

https://elearning.unipd.it/scuolaamv/pluginfile.php/17875/mod_resource/content/2/TSE_Padova_2014.pdf

204:

Hm, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mhairi gives some ideas. I'm not that sure about her background, but "Murphy" is originally Irish, so may even herself is not that sure about the pronunciation.

Parents giving their children foreign sounding names are a funny issue, I know at least two girls called "Indra", apparantly it's a baltic female name, still, some part of me always wonders because the such named deity that's

a) male
b) involved with thunder...

205:

Generally loved the book, vampire bankers is never not going to be funny.

Removal of Angleton had to happen since Bob is leveling up, and needs to do without his mentor/backstop/trump in both magic and office politics.

And I don't get the feeling that Mo/Bob is permanently broke, or at least I hope not.

Having said all that, I seriously hope the next book will be the first in the series with a proper Bechdel test pass.

This is something I know Charlie cares about:

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2008/07/bechdels_law.html

Obviously Bob's scenes can't be passes unless he overhears women talking about stuff, but we've had female viewpoints intercut for a while now, and still no substantive pass.

This book was actually a technical pass (Mhari tells the cleaner Sara to sit down and go to sleep so they can feed on her), but I would hope our host can do better than that.

The Mhari/Mo standoff is static and silent, I think, and not-Marianne only talks to men.

And I was very sad that we had 1/3 of a book of BASHFUL INCENDIARY without her having any meaningful conversations with other women. I can't remember if it was a technical pass or not - does the handmaiden / secretary who directs her to the toilet have a name? - but the pregnant woman who can only blink is the next closest candidate and doesn't either say anything or have a name.

I know Modesty the original had female friendships and female adversaries, and various other interactions with women on her adventures, so the gap here was particularly striking.

So anyway, I really hope the Mo book is stuffed full of interesting women for her to interact with.

Charlie, is this still something you are conscious of when you write, and if so, what gives?

206:

Somewhat inconsequential question, but... why is the first chapter titled "Random Ramona" - just like the first chapter of The Jennifer Morgue?

And, @trottelreiner: thanks for the welcome. :-)

207:

Well, there is also some female-female talk not about men in some of the comitees; one of the Auditors is female, and she speaks with Mhari, and some of the coffin-dodgers, so I'd say it's a clear pass.

208:

Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi, is a) female, b) Indian, c) named Indra.

209:

I dunno, even if those are right it's still a bare pass.

Compare the amount of interactions between men, and the substantiveness of the male roles which interact.

And it would be an easy fix. Making Oscar female and Mhari bi, or making Basil or George female, etc.

210:

Regarding Mhairi's behavior at the end of the book:

I suspect she may have been working for the Senior Auditor.

SA was very interested in separating Bob and Mo in order to protect Mo's effectiveness.

At the time SA ordered Bob to go home, he would almost certainly have known that Mo was on her way back and would be home shortly. He also likely would have known that Mhairi was at Bob's house. And at that point Angleton was no longer around to argue for keeping them together.

This would explain why Mhairi didn't leave, despite being rebuffed by Bob and told she could go home.

211:

"Making Oscar female and Mhari bi, or making Basil or George female, etc."

Or having not-Marianne take out Janice instead of Evan.

212:

Two comments:

One: I was surprised that Bob and Mo's agreement to adopt a cat (page 49 US kindle ed) never seemed to be mentioned again in the context of Spooky.

Two: I was surprised at the lack of further comment on Mhairi's mention of a "bust-out", with its implication that it could have involved killing Sir David. (Apart from the SA saying it would come up in her next 'enhanced vetting').

Also, am I right in thinking that DRESDEN RICE is referring to the Dresden Files and Anne Rice?

213:

Yes, I've read them. (For a while my editor was drip-feeding me ARCs (review copies).) I'm provisionally scheduled to be interviewing Jim at next year's British eastercon in London.

As to what I think ... do you really think I would have read all of them if I didn't enjoy the series?

214:

I'm pretty sure the next book has a Bechdel Test pass within the first two chapters. (Title: was "The Armageddon Score", now probably going to appear as "The Annihilation Score", thanks to Google pagerank and a certain Bruce Willis movie sound track ...)

215:

I like the unspoilers. Page 3 had "Which is why I didn't get a chance [...] to save our marriage", then Mhari showed up. I thought "Aw crap, not the misunderstanding-about-psycho-ex-breaking-up-a-couple trope", and ongoing plot points (the not-a-date, the ring on her finger, crashing at their place) pointed to a frightful row followed by a bustup.

Then Mo turned out to be far smarter than I credited her, but the Evil Violin had other ideas about Bob. Even Mhari showed signs of humanity instead of being a one-dimensional nasty bloodsucking bitch. Nicely done.

And is it me, or does anyone else think the Big Bad is more deftly handled here than in The Apocalypse Codex?

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

Learning at the end of Chapter 6 that Schiller had removed his manhood (interesting double entendre) showed he was a lead monster rather than possibly being a pawn in a subordinate's game. For me that turned the rest of the book into a Bug Hunt instead of The Fuller Memorandum's creeping ambiguity, which is part of the series's charm -- the sense of not knowing around which corner mortal peril lies.


Random notes:
Charlie mentioned he had to shrink the ending to fit the word count; Ch. 18 does feel a bit rushed.

Shout-out to Francis Dec Gangster Computer God (your only hope for a future!). Loads more references exist, as par for the course with CS, but one needn't know their contexts to enjoy the book (although "wunch of vampires" does want the original spoonerism).

The Angleton-Stephenson singularity may not be unbreachable: Oscar's null-time containment field for his victim is a mortar-sized Chekov's Gun.

216:

Not that sure if that's a good idea. Of course, this would make for interesting Rule 34 fodder[1], but...

Oscar being female and lesbian is quite close to the "Psycho Lesbian" trope,

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PsychoLesbian

and Mhari or non-Marianne being bi would likely come up as "depraved bisexuals"

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DepravedBisexual

One of our two Arch-Vampires being female is quite interesting, though we could argue about their influence if they were male in the "Mad Men" era or even before.

[1] I'll give you a start (in Bob's voice):
"I'm somewhat late from one of these BLOODY TEAPOT meetings, tired and restless at the same time. Damn not quite residual human resources from archives. When I open the door, I see the ward is Mo's making, so she's on her weekly visit. Though she's neither in the kitchen nor elsewhere to find. I know better than to look for her and take a shower first, to get rid of the grave dust.

So while I'm lying on the bed, pondering what to do, suddenly the door opens, and in comes Mo ... and Mhari?

"Bob, we have to talk. Mhari and I had lots of chocolate, and I guess we have found a way to settle our differences. Now we decided it's best to get you in on it, if you don't mind..."

Which is when my visual cortex finally gets my attention shouting Mo is wearing a really nice leather dominatrix outfit with some Ordo Hereticus paraphernalia from the Warhammer 40K Larpers next door, and Mhari is in a revealing mixture of cultist drag and french maid. My eyes must be 10 cm in front of my skull, because both have this impish grin, especially when Mo shows Mhari her new strap-on..."

Err, SCNR. And I guess I need some practice to write Laundry porn.

217:

I'm ignoring the comments here--I'll be starting the book tonight.

I'm pretty sure the next book has a Bechdel Test pass within the first two chapters. (Title: was "The Armageddon Score", now probably going to appear as "The Annihilation Score", thanks to Google pagerank and a certain Bruce Willis movie sound track ...)


Saw your tweets about the title and thought of suggesting "The Megiddo Score", strictly speaking doesn't change the title reference, but is perhaps too specific, and sounds like a Left Behind/Dan Brown title. So never mind that.

I've a question about the Bechdel Test; is it supposed to apply to the whole novel/movie/etc., or is one scene considered enough to pass? It's the one thing about it I haven't seen mentioned.

218:

Take it to Archive Of Our Own where I can go back to ignoring it, m'kay? If I want BDSM Laundry slashfic I can roll my own.

219:

The Bechdel Test was originally a comment on just how low the bar for women's roles in stories, society, etc. was. Passing the Bechdel Test is not really an accomplishment; it is a very easy self-check on one's narrative. Also, the Bechdel Test is not universally applicable. If a novel takes place completely in a men's prison, whether it passes the Bechdel Test is kind of immaterial.

220:

The one-scene-pass for the Bechdel Test is a minimal pass -- it was originally the minimum necessary to convince [Alison Bechdel] that she wasn't being completely ignored/belittled/marginalized by the film's producers.

A better way of putting it: narratives with any gendered protagonists at all had better have a reasonably representative mix, and they all ought to be able to talk about something other than teh hotness of the members of the gaze-directed-set. The only acceptable excuses for not doing so need to be lampshaded in the plot: a single-sex institution, for example (monastery, girls boarding school).

The previous Laundry books (including "Rhesus Chart") don't pass the traditional Bechdel test because Bob is a first-person narrator and viewpoint: there's always a man in the picture, even if only because he's the frame. I think they do pass the "reasonably representative mix" test to some extent -- but I'm uneasily aware that there are areas where they fall short: deficiencies in ethnic diversity, for example, or ableism. And Bob being Bob, he is a heterosexual white male with certain gaze-related issues he's not consciously aware of.

(I'm pretty sure that most of my novels pass the Bechdel test. And some exceed. Look at "Rule 34" and ask yourself if there's anything unusual about the gender identity of the protagonists ...)

221:

May I cite a private TV Tropes addiction in my defense? Err.

As already said, SCNR, I got somewhat carried away, delete it if, err, too inappropiate. I hoped I stopped before it got really revolsive.

222:

No, it's fine, it's just that this isn't the place for it: this is the spoiler thread on an existing novel, not a place to write a different novel.

223:

Okay, I reread the bit with Iris' house in TFM (a bit cursorily, though, so I may be wrong), and that seems to be only some glass shattering? I mean, okay, a *lot* of glass shattering... but shattering glass isn't (ahem) unheard of as an effect of certain frequencies of sound, even non-magically-enhanced sound. So I still don't see any substantial difficulties with the theory that the violin (anyone else think it needs a name by now, btw?) is working its mojo via sound waves primarily or even exclusively. Granted, sound waves don't just touch the ear, they touch everything else, too... but nothing else that isn't directly connected to a brain to run code in seems to suffer serious effects from the violin's music (except for things that even in non-magical contexts are sometimes destroyed by sound).

So, summing up: I see no evidence that contradicts the idea that the *deadly* part of what the violin does happens by transmission of nasty data to the brain via the ear. Avoid the data transfer, and you *might* be safe. (You should probably test that theory on zombified pigeons first, though...)

Granted, I may have to reread TFM and TRC more closely.

This is one of the things I really love about the Laundry books, btw: the scientific approach to magic, and the way that it actually has to make some amount of sense in "our" physical universe. Makes for some rather fun speculation!

224:

Thanks. I asked because having a single scene seems more like paying lip service to the idea behind the test rather than taking it to heart.

Also because I've tried to make sure my own writing fits reasonably well, while recognizing that if you want realistic characters, some of them aren't going to pass it. My first novel-length-hunk-of-text was written 1st person, so I know what you're saying about that. Having a young male narrator, he's going to notice certain things about other characters, and whether he sounds like a shmuck, or not, depends on what sort of character they are.

225:

@Charlie: could you answer my question from comment #206? Is that a bizarre misprint, or a joke that flew over my head? I will admit I rather tore through the first chapter (and most of the rest of the book) at breakneck speed, and may have missed things. I'm gonna reread it all, sooner or later...

Also, thanks, from the bottom of my (currently somewhat broken, because *auuugh*, that ending!) heart, for writing the most addictive series I've ever read. :D

226:

>Why is the first chapter titled "Random Ramona"?

In the Kindle version, at least, it's called "Prologue: One Month Ago".

227:

Right; misprint, then, caught when they formatted the e-book but of course by then the dead tree version was already printed. Weird, though - how does something like that even happen? It's not like it's a typo...

228:

It seems so... random.
(SCNR)

229:

Well, if I found something similar in one of my papers, my first idea would be I copy-pasted some paragraphs to get the format, but forgot to change the text. This is quite common with M$ Word, but it might also happen with some of the true DTP programs. And it might even happen with macros in LaTeX. So depending on the system the publisher uses, this might have happened.

Whatever, first edition misprint, might make for special collector's value. ;)

230:

Thanks, actually, it was meant as something of a joke what fandom reaction to a bisexual Mhari could be like. Not that I think this is the kind of fanfiction we need, though I kinda miss Pinky and Brain.

That being said, thanks for the new Laundry novel, I especially liked the wheels into wheels into wheels gambit pileup with the two archvampires. BTW, am I mistaken if Alex, Mhari et al. are V Capitalists?

I have some ideas about Bob's cognitive blindspots, though I guess we'll have to wait for the alternate POV stories to see what's exactly happening.

231:

Hmmm, I can't place the reference for "The Armageddon Score", but it seems a damn shame as the name has a nice ring to it.

Armageddon Solo? Armageddon Concerto?

232:

I think you have the wrong end of the stick. The problem is that when you google the title, this silly movie comes up first.

233:

Well, the combination of armageddon+score gives the soundtrack, while the only thing I can find for armageddon+concerto is an informal fan name for an avant-garde band concert.

234:

Weird misprint.

My US author copies came today and it starts "Prologue: One Month Ago" as intended.

It appears to be specific to the UK hardcover. I'll go bug my editor.

235:

The movie soundtrack has way more google mojo than I do, due to popularity.

Sadly, search engine optimization is a Thing these days, and neither publishers nor authors can ignore it! (See also: checking your new characters' names on google/facebook/linkedin just in case your uber-villain shares a name with a highly litigious billionaire.)

236:

REQUEST:

Can someone who has bought the US e-book edition of "Rhesus Chart" please confirm that the first chapter heading is: "Prologue: One Month Ago"?

And can someone who has bought the ebook in the UK please tell me if the first chapter heading reads: "1: Random Ramona"?

(I suspect someone in a typesetting agency is going to get yelled at. Or a proofreader.)

237:

Purchased in the UK, my ebook version has the right first chapter heading ("Prologue..."). I bought it through iBooks, in case that makes a difference.

238:

Ditto here. UK eBook got from the Big River.

239:

You're probably right in that nothing contradicts the theory that its the sound that does the damage. I may be imagining it but I seem to recall a bit of Bob exposition in the first 1 or 2 books around Music = Maths = Magic so in my head its the music acting on the structure of reality, then the otherworldy physics (magic) doing the damage be it to a human or an object.

Of course I may just be misremembering from one of the other Music=Magic novels I have read such as Bear's Infinity Concerto or Fosters Spellsinger.

Still each to their own interpretation :)

240:

I have the US e-book edition and can confirm that the first chapter heading is: "Prologue: One Month Ago".

241:

GOOD NEWS:

They've re-typeset that chapter heading (printer had a template oopsie) and it will be fixed ... both in the ebook, and in the second hardback printing!

Because it sold out in the UK in hardback and they're going back to press.

242:

Does that mean that the hardback sold out already?

That sounds like good news indeed.

243:

Not a spoiler, but started reading last night and got to page 10. Looks like I inadvertently proved the inevitability of the fateful word - "this", in the competition thread. Oops.

I'm gonna save the rest of the comments here for later, or search through them if I have any questions.

244:

Another (minor) typo: UK hardcover, page 126.

"blood-born" should have an 'e' on the end.

Chris.

245:

I've read complaints from other authors who have chosen a tight first person POV who have regretted it when trying to work around the need for a scene with the opposition making plans against the protagonist or other vital scenes that cannot be directly witnessed. If you aren't able to hop over there, how do you make sense of it through the POV's eyes? You end up having to have silly villain monologues or helpful blabbing by captured henchpersons, or the far more acceptable found documents like letters, case files, newspaper clippings, as seen in other Laundry novels.

Given that this is a paranormal agency and the novel we are reading are a personal journal of sorts written by the protagonist and are also after-action reports, paranormal means of extracting the information would be possible. (And Laundry enhanced interrogation of detainees is likely more effective than the CIA's version.) I believe the last Laundry novel was the first time Bob started speculating about what must have surely happened beyond his sight and this one was far more extensive. Given that he is now a necromancer, he should be able to dip into the last hours of the recently deceased or copy the transcription of a remote viewer's session.

How much of a headache has this been for you?

246:

Regarding the incident between Oscar and Not-Marianne, my understanding (especially because of the handcuffs) was that she had put a glamor on him showing her with a gun to him while handing him fake handcuffs, when in reality she was next to him with the real handcuffs. The glamor wears off, she seems to have teleported.

Would I be correct in assuming that the glamor is related to her wearing all silver, and that this effect is related to how vampires can't see their own faces in (presumably silver-based) mirrors? Not sure how digital cameras get tricked by this, tho.

Also, if it turns out the V-syndrome symbiote can be satiated with live animal blood, or reliably satiated with the near-dead, it seems like it would be a great idea for the rest of the Laundry to take on vampirism as well, or have a side program for reducing population to try to avoid CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN...

Something I'm unclear on -- is it only Earth that's in danger of CNG, with the primary cause solely computational density, or is the entire universe under attack here? Could the effect be mitigated through an advanced interstellar colonization program, possibly using gates to travel between worlds? Alternatively, why haven't we seen proactive culling procedures performed by the BLUE HADES or DEEP SEVEN? Apologies if it sounds like I'm asking for spoilers here, I'm really just trying to make sure I haven't missed something obvious in an earlier book.

247:

LOVED the book! Your take on vampires is inventive and even more creepy than the generic, which is impressive :)

I rather enjoyed the scene where Basil has had most of the flesh riven from him and is walking around as a skeleton. Very cool :)

One has to wonder what the implications are of Bob and Mo separating, given that they live in a Laundry safe house. Will they have to officially register their separation? Sounds incredibly uncomfortable all around (As if having your spouse be the wielder of a demonic string instrument that now WANTS TO KILL YOU isn't uncomfortable enough :)

248:

Follow-up to my previous take on The Apocalypse Codex: I was wrong. Sometimes a Bug Hunt is the right thing in a series, because otherwise the pacing becomes predictable: creeping dread, creeping dread, creeping dread [1], Reveal, BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM (or thaumaturgical values thereof), epilogue. And we wouldn't want OGH to become predictable, would we? My apologies, Charlie.

[1] sounds like a ska-horrorcore band

249:

Shouldn't that be: "GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE"?

250:

I believe the last Laundry novel was the first time Bob started speculating about what must have surely happened beyond his sight

You missed the bits in "Jennifer Morgue" and "Fuller Memorandum" where Bob does this.

251:

No comment on any of your questions. Let's just say they probe the stage backdrop a bit too closely ...

252:

ANOTHER NOTICE:

I'll be announcing the competition winners tomorrow. Results delayed due to roughly 500 entries ...!

253:

Aggh...well at least I can feel better knowing they weren't -abysmally- stupid questions.

Can't wait for the next Laundry story - I've been recommending (via Very Strongly Worded "Suggestions") that everyone I know read this series!

254:

My copy is from Penguin Group (USA) LLC and first chapter is the right Prologue one.

255:

Love the book, i do some contract work in the City (IT related) and lets just say uncanny valley (especially the words coming out of Oscar's mouth)

Slight technical issue: On the UK Kindle version the notes appear at the end, i missed the first couple so when i saw the third clicked, read the note then clicked back to read the others. Because there is no numbering on them i clicked back and ended up on the last page which had the last sentence on it.


Any way to put a "buffer" page between the notes or similar?

256:

Congratulations on your hard cover reprint. FYI my Kobo e-book edition has the first chapter named as Random Ramona (don't know which edition, I'm in Australia if that makes any difference).

257:

My mental image of Pete is something like Richard Coles, Anglican priest, former member of the 80s band The Communards, and host of Radio 4 show Saturday Live.

258:

Loved the book. Observed a three minute silence for the dead.

A possible error that I do not think has been mentioned/acknowledged:

"It is believed that the bodies of Old George and DSS Angleton lie within the event horizon" and "The last two bodies are unaccounted for but believed to be located within the containment ward in that room",

Seems to conflict with "...items subsequently found in Old George's possession, both on his person...". Since his body is unrecoverable at the time, how could anything have been found on his person?

Difficult to notice, possibly not real, timeline glitch:

Page 2: "Ten years together, seven of them married...", referring to Mo, obviously.

Page 5: "That was about eleven years ago." Referring to Bob being recruited into the Laundry.

The implication is that Bob was part of the Laundry for about a year before he ended up with Mo. Which means he was working there for about a year when he started active duty.

[Aside:

Page 52: ""...I've worked here for some time. Since before I met Mo, actually." (About twelve years ago.)"

Here, Bob is either saying that he met Mo twelve years ago, or that he started working at the Laundry twelve years ago. Both seem at least a little contradictory.]

Now, I think there might be another quote within TRC (and possibly more in past novels) that contradicts, saying that Bob was in the Laundry for a few years before switching to active, but I did not note it down when reading and the dead tree version does not have a text search function. There is, however, from The Jennifer Morgue:

"I've been working for the Laundry for about five years now". Page 15 (start of Chapter 1).

I assumed that Bob and Mo were considered 'together' following the end of The Atrocity Archive. And as Bob proposed at the end of TJM they presumably married shortly afterwards.

From his entry into the Laundry to 'getting together' is 1 year (11 years since he joined the Laundry, 10 years since he 'got together' with Mo). From 'getting together' to some time after the end of TJM (Event: Wedding) is estimated as 3 years. But from entry into the Laundry to the start of TJM is estimated 5 years. So... either Bob and Mo did not shack up until a year after TAA, or one of Bob's yearcounts is manifesting an off-by-one error.

Some more timeline confusion on my part:

"Last year, a series of events in Colorado Springs coincided with me being promoted onto the management fast track - and earlier this year a series of even more unfortunate events derailed me from said track..."

Colorado Springs is The Apocalypse Codex. Is the second series of events referred to here the events of TRC itself (that would make sense from the context of Bob writing his memoirs)? I found it kind of difficult to grasp the timeline reference immediately and stopped reading to check if I had missed a short story or something.

Question, sort of about how Bob is recording things:

In the TFM prologue, Bob references no longer living with Mo. Was he referring to the situation at the end of TFM, with him living in The Village (I believe the beginning of TAC implied that that was for 6 months or so), or was he referring to the situation now, with him having succeeded Angleton? In other words, does he start compiling his memoirs shortly after the events of TRC (possibly after reading Angleton's own diaries?), or did he start doing it when Angleton told him it was a good idea?

259:

"So... either Bob and Mo did not shack up until a year after TAA, or one of Bob's yearcounts is manifesting an off-by-one error."

Actually that first option is wrong... it would still lead to a contradiction - I think? Pretty sure however you look at it something is saying 4 > 5. Has anyone worked out a proper timeline for the series?

260:

"Seems to conflict with "...items subsequently found in Old George's possession, both on his person...". Since his body is unrecoverable at the time, how could anything have been found on his person?"

I suppose some bits of clothing, pocket contents, etc, might have fallen off him after the confrontation with the Auditor.

Not really "on his person" at the time they would have been found, but deducible as having been on his person earlier.

261:

For me, in the final pages, the whole novel turned out to be a prologue for the next stage in Mo's relationship with Bob, which took on more significance than anything in the previous 99 percent of the book.

262:

Absolutely loved every page, and the end had a real punch. Cheers!

I'm a sucker for ancient inhuman intelligences - much prefer them to (relatively) mundane evil cultists.

Angleton had turned into a Gandalf type figure. Now he's disappeared (for a while?) the threats are much more threatening.

I can't wait for the next one - get writing!

263:

Bob is an unreliable narrator so that covers some of the timeline problems handily, I generally treat it as "things stated by someone else about timing of events" > "things said by Bob about timing of events" for the most part.

Most of the stories are supposed to take place around when they were written, as I recall, so TRC was supposed to happen last year, TAA would be ending around ~2003, with Bob having entered the Laundry sometime after 2000 I guess.

264:

Three notes:

First of all, a very good book. I've read it twice so far and loved it.

Second, I noted a typo on page 126. It reads "blood-born" and I think it should read "blood-borne."

Third, I figured out what happened between Angleton and Old George. After several inconclusive rounds of attack/defense Angleton attempted to attach one of the Level 10 wards to Old George and got his fingers stuck to the sticker. There was some unsuccessful pulling and tugging, then the ward detonated... (I'm sure that's not the way it went in Charlie's mind, but the idea of Angleton stuck to a postage-stamp sized sticker is just hilarious to me!)

265:

Likely. Read those a while back so the particulars are probably running together. I'm always fascinated by the process and how an author makes choices in telling a story.

266:

It was stated a number of times that when two vampires meet they will try and kill each other, and when the violin (class 2 vamp) met Mhari (class 1 vamp) it tried to do just that.

I wonder how much of the violin's new-found hatred of Bob , where it tolerated him before, is due to his being linked (via the silver rings) to Mhari?

267:

A great read, as always! I can't get enough of the Laundry series.

I spotted what may be another inconsistency: In chapter 15, George is described as wearing an overcoat and leather gloves. Then we get "Old George stands over the banker and places his hands on the man's shoulders, pushing gently. Skin contact reinforces compulsion." But George is never described as removing his gloves, and it seems implied that he is almost always wearing them…

268:

*adds that last part to my headcanon*

269:

I, for one, am very curious to what BLUE HADES and DEEP SEVEN have to say about CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. I would expect them to be slightly annoyed.

270:

That would be a certain Neil Gaiman short story in either Smoke And Mirrors or Fragile Things. I forgot the name as well.

271:
Saw your tweets about the title and thought of suggesting "The Megiddo Score",

Sounds interesting. Given the angry mails Charlie got over Cheney in the "Merchant Princes"-verse, some part of me wants to see the reaction of the "Left Behind" fanbase to buying it because of said title. A saner one doesn't, though...

272:

Well, in the Laundryverse magic more or less runs on information, and music is just a special kind of information.

We know magic works with computers (electrical impulses) and human brains (concentrations of ions and neurotransmitters), which is already somewhat diverse, and in the case of basilisk guns, you need electromagnetic radiation, aka line of sight. So it might not matter that much if the information in question is encoded in electric impulses, light or maybe even sound, it's just the information has to be there. For the limitations, well, acoustic signals have a somewhat lower bandwidth than lasers, for example, and they are somewhat constrained in range, but contrary to electricity, which needs contact and a conductor (see feeders and zombies) or light, which needs line of sight, sound is quite difficult to contain, and it interacts with all matter.

So nothing against Mo casting an entropy spell with the violin. Or the violin doing it itself, for that matter, it seems to be quite difficult to say who's in charge here...

273:

I'm somewhat wandering how Bob's "early warning system" is going to work out in the long run.

Of course, in this case it was quite easy because Basil orchestrate the creation of a vampire nest, thus creating a very strong signal, the point of the many missing bodies Mo is making is at least to some degree true, and the creation of the detection system, which might circumvent the problem with false positives somewhat, still, the medical investigation went VERY smooth.

In the real world, quite a few things could go wrong, just for starters, they ruled out drug use quite fast, when in reality brain damage somewhat similar to CJD due to both recreational and pharmaceutical drugs is not that unheard of:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxic_leukoencephalopathy

As for the victims not being your usual junkies, well, first of, at least with stimulants there seems to be quite some "functioning users", which might somewhat tie in with the "blue collar" background of the victims.

Also note at least some of the victims had a non-British background, which might indicate use of unknown herbs as medicine; at least some of those have quite bad side effects,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrrolizidine_alkaloidosis

and AFAIK at least one epidemic of pyrrolizidine liver damage was due to use of containing plants in some folk medicine. The injection marks might indicate a switch from oral to parenteral application by some quack, seldom a wise thing to do.

Of course, in this case events were orchestrated by Basil to work into a certain direction, still, in the long run quite a view cases might have a non-demonology (though maybe still unknown) explanation or just be a fluke, like the notorious cancer clusters...

274:

Ida @270 & gmuir77 @167
That would be a certain Neil Gaiman short story in either Smoke And Mirrors or Fragile Things. I forgot the name as well.

I think that's "Tastings" in Smoke and Mirrors--happened to read that book last month.

275:

Oh yes, Mhari...

Somewhat typical of Bob to think she was either just recovering from a bad relationship or bipolar, when in fact it might be a mixture of both, some conditions make for debatable choices in significant others. But I digress.

Also, we just don't know how far back Basil's manipulation goes. Maybe Mhari's and Bob's, err, complicated relationship was part of it from the start.

276:

BTW, for a somewhat real example of strange cases of an illness croping up, and working out what happened, ther is always the MPTP story:

https://www.erowid.org/archive/rhodium/chemistry/mptp.serendipity.html

277:

It's always hard to wait for another Laundry book, and this one was a treat.

I liked the misdirection at the end. Bob starts off the book by talking about how he'd failed to save his marriage, and you'd think it would come down to Pete's getting killed or Mhari's presence raising issues. That was a source of tension, especially since Pete is an oddly likeable character; you could see why Mo finds him comforting. I didn't even think of the violin, even though it had been set up in an entirely fair way.

On the other hand, it had been established some time ago that Angleton foresaw his death in the near future, and he was looking glum in this novel, so no surprise there. But it was interesting that the last thing he said to Bob was "We'll talk later."

Bob's account really seemed all over the place, as you might expect, given what he's gone through. At one point he talks about Enochian as having been the language of beings with a much different biology. Not much later Pete's relates Enochian to proto-Aramaic, which is plainly a human language, descended from other human languages. That doesn't really hold together, but you can well imagine that Bob's mind is really not on this.

His state of mind comes out particularly clearly when he talks about vampires' motivations, I think. First off, his conjecture that vampires kill each other because if one learns of the other, the second vampire is evidently findable and thus a problem, is clever, but doesn't hold up very well. You could make other arguments, for example that vampires are like bears -- their feeding habits mean that they need to be spread out, so if two bears, or vampires, encounter each other, they fight. But the point is that Bob is being uncharacteristically glib about something he knows nothing about. Possibly I've missed something, but I don't think he even has hard evidence that Basil and Old George were enemies, though he does seem to know that, contrary to hypothesis, several vampires co-existed in the London area. He even implies a convention that vampires try to kill each if they meet. Exactly how would such a convention get formed if that's true, and why would vampires find it useful to make sure all the parties involved knew what to expect?

Similarly he has a firm belief that few vampires live more than 96 hours, if only because the non-psychotic ones kill themselves. That doesn't fit with what he appears to know about the Scrum. Possibly putting Mendendez aside, they're not actually sociopaths, and, while they're pretty amoral, they have no way of knowing they're killing anyone. Mhari doesn't find that out until Bob tells her, and then she promptly gets sick. So the failure of the Scrum members to kill themselves, or each other, doesn't support Bob's point of view. And, indeed, what grounds does he, or anyone else in the novel, have for making this kind of claim?

He gets on more shaky ground when he tries to guess what's happening with Basil and Old George. Angleton does nudge him to think of it one way, but Bob doesn't have access to any real facts, aside from the evidence that something fishy is happening inside the Laundry. And that seems to come out when he repeats the same conspiracy theory over and over, which is the kind of thing you do when you're lying, or trying to convince yourself of something you really aren't sure of. His theory isn't particularly compelling, and at the end of the book he's evidently grasping at straws. In what way is Old George in the "coffin corner" Bob speaks of? It sounds more forced every time Bob brings it up.

To start with, the only way the "baby vampires" are visibly connected to Old George is that they're related in the financial industry, though hardly in a close or unique way. The Scrum don't know anything they can reveal, and Old George has killed the only person who can connect them. Attacking the Laundry to kill them can only bring down a lot more attention than leaving things alone, regardless of whether he could be directly identified as the attacker. And it isn't as if attacking them is a safe thing to do, as he finds out.

The evidence that Bob has doesn't really establish that Basil and Old George were old mortal enemies, and there's room for doubt. Maybe Basil is just having a bad day, but while he's formidable, he doesn't seem in Old George's weight class. It's hard to see him as a deadly rival. Since they both act against the Laundry at about the same time, they'd pretty much had to have some kind of relationship, but the simplest conjecture would be that they were acting together.

So, unless I've missed something (as I might well have done), Bob is just making wild guesses about a lot of things, and they don't fit the facts very well, even on cursory inspection. (And talking about a lot of things he couldn't possibly know about. How would he know what was said at a secret meeting between Angleton and a Senior Auditor, for example, and how would he even know it had occurred?) It speaks to a bad state of mind, and it would be strange if he wasn't in fact feeling shaky. The inconsistencies are not lapses in the book's logic; they're Bob's, and apart from being an unreliable narrator, he's slipping into acting as if he knows a lot more than he does, despite obvious evidence to the contrary.

Perhaps I'm on completely the wrong track with this, and have overlooked something basic, though as far as I can see it's a defensible reading. If Bob's unreliability was in fact intended, it's a really interesting thing to do, and it leaves some mysteries to puzzle over.

By the way, going back to a quick aside on audiobooks a couple of years back, I think that Gideon Emery has done a very good job with all of the Laundry novels. There are some spoken versions of your stories that are truly awful, I'm afraid, but Emery seems to enjoy the Laundry books and catches the tone of them perfectly.

In fact -- and I probably shouldn't admit to this -- I read The Rhesus Chart and listened to the audiobook more or less in parallel. There was no very good reason for that, just that the book came out a few days sooner, and I didn't want to wait to begin it, and I also like what Emery does with the material. So I was
greedy, and listened while driving and read the book at home, essentially reading the book twice.

There are a lot of ways a narrator can fall out of the boat. Male narrators often feel uncomfortable rendering a woman's voice, and the result can be both embarrassed and embarrassing, as if women were passive and childish men with high voices. Female narrators often don't do men well, and the results can be patronizing in a completely different way. British narrators often seem to see Americans as feckless children who swallow their Rs and Gs, while American narrators usually are clueless about regional and class differences in British voices. And a lot of narrators have theatrical training, and over-render the material.

Emery doesn't do that. He just gets out of the way and tells the story, though he does have fun sometimes differentiating characters. To my ears, his Mo is just fine. His American voices don't sound genuinely American, though they signal clearly enough that they're meant to be, but they don't make you cringe.

278:

I assumed after reading Equiod that code name HOWARD was the H out of HP Lovecraft. I'm still waiting for more on that...

279:

I think the comment about vampires killing themselves within 96h and the SCRUM not is possibly a reflection on the fact that the SCRUM are nudged to perform complex magic without understanding.

The implication is everyone else who performs the spell before that has an understanding that they're working magic at least. Some will choose to perform this spell and become a vampire by choice. Some will perform the spell by accident and become a vampire and mostly decide they can't live with the consequences. Basil's gamble, successful as it turns out, is that a group of people used to looking for "the edge" will regard vampirism as another edge to explored and utilised - possibly because they're not sufficiently versed in the rest of the magical lore to understand that when they feed they're inflicting brain damage on those from whom they feed. There's an implicit assumption there that most others who achieve that state do understand what their feeding means whether or not they achieve the state by accident.

If I was a modern sexy vampire and could choose to eat without killing my prey I might be OK with being undead. Heck, I've got a list of categories of people the world could do without, I'm not sure I could actually live (unlive?) with the killing if needs be but I might if I turned by accident. But remaining a vampire where I knew I inflicted brain damage on others by feeding? Pass. Not even those on my better dead list deserve to die that way.

The Bob and Pete difference on Enochian might be an "If I had a hammer debate." Classically Enochian is meant to be the language of the angels, taught to Dee and Kelley by said celestial messengers. Bob is 'right' in that sense that it's the language of non-human beings. But Pete is ancient linguist. He's going to look and see similarities to things, and he might see apparent similarities to proto-Aramaic because that's the shape of his hammer.

But I do agree, we're getting more and more examples of where what Bob knows, has been told or just believes and what he relates to us clash - clearer examples of Bob the unreliable narrator.

280:

@comment 162: I'd assumed that the reference to 'Edward Cullen' was a jokey nod to the Twilight series.

A great book, this series is really hotting up. The ending saddened me a bit but I'm with those who reckon it may be temporary as it's due to the violin rather than to any fundamental issues between Bob/Mo.

281:

So... are the more? Might it be possible to inoculate someone against Krantzberg without making them a vampire

I could've sworn there was a bit in the book about how Bob's Eater of Souls mojo might protect him like V-parasites did the vampires, but I can't find it now.

282:

@comment 271

Emery doesn't do that. He just gets out of the way and tells the story, though he does have fun sometimes differentiating characters. To my ears, his Mo is just fine. His American voices don't sound genuinely American, though they signal clearly enough that they're meant to be, but they don't make you cringe.

I agree with this wholeheartedly. I love his voice for Mo. Actually I found the series through the audiobooks and that's how I "read" the first two in the series, which actually messed me up in this book , because I had been spelling Mhari's name in my head phonetically, and was super confused when this new character with a similar sounding name was being called Bob's ex. I usually listen and read each book now, because I like what Gideon Emery brings to it. But yeah, if James Marsters reading the Dresden Files books is any indication of the usual quality level of urban fantasy audiobooks then Gideon Emery's performance of the audiobooks are miles above that.


283:

I wonder how much of the violin's new-found hatred of Bob , where it tolerated him before, is due to his being linked (via the silver rings) to Mhari?

I don't buy it. Bob has been aware that violin has hated him since The Fuller Memorandum and it's basically glaring at him in that scene early in the book. Also Bob and Mo are sharing a recurring nightmare in which the violin is in a bone white crib, being super creepy. The violin is clearly trying to push Bob out of Mo's life, possibly to destabilize her so that it can be let off it's leash.

284:

"The Bob and Pete difference on Enochian might be an "If I had a hammer debate." Classically Enochian is meant to be the language of the angels, taught to Dee and Kelley by said celestial messengers. Bob is 'right' in that sense that it's the language of non-human beings. But Pete is ancient linguist. He's going to look and see similarities to things, and he might see apparent similarities to proto-Aramaic because that's the shape of his hammer."

Or it could just be that the origin of (at least some) human languages isn't as human as we'd like to think....

Alternative: Enochian is to the fabric of realit[y]|[ies] as algebra is to mathematics. There's only so many entities, concepts, and relationships which can be encoded and hence there are going to be similarities between Enochian and any language if you know where to look and look closely enough with those similarities becoming greater (or at least easier to spot) as you look further back in time before humanity overlaid the underlying fundamentals with quite so much of its own internally generated symbolic cruft...

285:

RE: Enochian/Aramaic: well, the similarities that Pete notices could also simply be due to the people who spoke Aramaic being in close contact with the beings who spoke Enochian. Languages do influence each other...

And a thought regarding Bob as an unreliable narrator: I've been rereading bits and pieces of the earlier books and I noticed that at least once, Bob explicitly mentions that his accounts of his adventures are not the whole truth because parts of what happened (and parts of what he knows, I assume, too) are simply too highly classified to be shared that way. So - aside from Bob being a conventional unreliable narrator who forgets things and puts his own spin on things etc., we may also find out, at some later point in the series, that there's been Very Big Things Going On that we weren't even aware of, which were redacted from Bob's memoirs. I think.

BTW: when did Bob write his accounts of the events of vols. 1 & 2, anyway? He only really seems to have started writing after the events of vol. 3.

Incidentally: I wonder if we'll ever find out any of the characters' real names... (I can all too well imagine that as an element of a punch-in-the-gut moment at the end, after the characters in question are dead. Yes, I'm morbid that way.)

286:

Also, it's been a week since I read the book and if anything, my cravings for the next installment have become *worse*, dammit!

287:

BTW, is it just me, or has the jargon density, both in terms of computer-related jargon and secret-service-related jargon, decreased somewhat? Is that part of an attempt at making the series more accessible? I kind of almost miss it... (The glossary at the end of The Fuller Memorandum - which happened to be the first Laundry book I read - was really necessary, though! :D)

288:

"But George is never described as removing his gloves, and it seems implied that he is almost always wearing them…"

And the banker never removes his clothing.

I think what's intended is simply physical contact, not necessarily flesh contact.

289:

Not Neil Gaiman.

Dean Ing, "Fleas", 1979, in one of Jim Baen's "bookazines".

290:

It is when Bob is talking to Angleton after Mhari got put on the committee. Bob goes to complain and it comes up. They are immune to bonding with the V-symbiote, but nothing about being immune to being eaten if their blood is consumed or about being immune to K syndrome themselves.


I wonder if Pete would be opening himself up to K syndrome if he started contextualizing Enochian with Aramaic like he wants to. He wouldn't be performing "magic" but he would be thinking about the aspects of it really hard, would that be enough to open the door to infection? Particularly as the stars come right?

291:

Cats and dangling plot threads seem like they would go together.

I would worry only if Bob started giving occult "enhancements" to Spooky...

292:

I've searched the thread and the blog, but haven't found answer. Mr. Stross, how *do* you pronounce "Mhari"?

Thanks!!!

293:

Finally finished the book today, a great read, I enjoyed it a lot. Afraid I don't have much to add to the discussion, but all the theories floating around are quite interesting.

Just a tiny nitpick though, a minor typo that I'm surprised hasn't been mentioned already; page 14 / location 247 (US Kindle edition) Angleton's name is misspelled as "Angelton".

294:

This is me, in GM/Author/Goddess mode speculating where I have no right - it's Charlie's world, Charlie's place to be God.

But I'd suggest no. Granted Bob is clearly shown to be an unreliable narrator but he's firmly of the opinion that he can only perform necromancy thanks to TEAPOT and the botched summoning of the Eater of Souls. He *uses* Enochian to drive the power of his necromancy into the parasites that inhabit zombies because it's what they understand. In essence, it's their programming language - you can programme your iOS device in objective-C (or Swift now) trying to programme an app in Java (good for Google devices amongst other things) or visual basic (good for some categories of Windows devices) just won't get you anywhere). But (despite what Dee believed) Bob would have it that Enochian is not innately magical. So Pete is safe.

Now, that's assuming Bob's understanding and what he's related to us is correct.

If Enochian, to quote from somewhere else, is close to the source code of the universe, and Bob is wrong about the need to have had the summoning ritual performed - it's merely made him willing to try Enochian or enhanced his latent ability, then Pete might be in trouble. If he starts actually being able to understand Enochian, properly, to think in it as a good linguist can, then he might well be able to talk magic. Traditional ritual magician, describe your effect and the universe rewrites itself to do what you want. Whether K-syndrome or something else would be the side effect (I'd go for something else, like I don't know, a Mi-Go turning up to abduct you maybe?) but it would make for an interesting story hook.

295:

Bob's actually been able to program zombies via Enochian scripting since before he became TEACUP (yes, I know this is not an official codename, but it's just too good, it needs to see at the very least some use in conversation hereabouts! :D) - he does it while in the Laundry's archive in The Fuller Memorandum, so I would guess that it's something all Laundry active service operatives are taught, to some degree.

What's new, after the summoning/the entanglement with Angleton, is his ability to attract and direct the feeders in the night in a way that's *not* really bound by the programming language of Enochian anymore, I think. (*Or* maybe his Enochian skills have simply been upgraded, by the link with Angleton, to a point where his grasp of the language is so completely effortless he's not even aware he's using it anymore? I suppose that's imaginable, too.)

296:

"Fleas" by Dean Ing is available here. Very short.

297:

I need to reread The Fuller Memorandum - sorry I've silly things to do like sleep instead!

My memory (which is certainly prone to being dodgy) is that he didn't programme them so much as issue them with orders that executed pre-existing instructions. More like I'm going to click the submit button under the box here in a minute than writing the code that runs this blog. Or even, more what we've seen Bob do, the code that handles clicking a button on a page.

But I'll take it as read that your memory is right. In that case, as Pete learn Enochian, he's probably at risk, yes. With the usual provisos that it's Charlie's universe and it depends on if he wants to play that way.

298:

It's been a while since I read that bit; I may be wrong, too.

Anyway, there's still a difference, though, isn't there, between knowing a programming language, and actually writing and running programs that were written in it... maybe only actually putting Enochian vocabulary and grammar together to run it as code is dangerous... in that case, Pete would be safe.

299:

re: TEACUP

this needs to be a thing

300:

Time to second guess Charlie:

The way I figured the end would roll out is Angleton has a roll of my little pony stickers, er, I mean class 10 door sealant stickers that only Angleton and Bob can detect (and presumably only they can open). And they're kinda on his mind having been used recently.

So the way I pictured it rolling is Vamp gets some hits in, providing some warning, Angleton as usual figures the whole thing out in seconds, grabs his my little pony, err, class 10 door sealer sticker pack from the office.

The battle site is two adjoined meeting rooms. Separate rooms with separate hallway doors and a doorway between them. Angleton lures in the vamp and screws around with him while the two auditors hiding in the hallway slam the hallway doors shut and slap stickers on the doors at which point they instantly begin to forget the doors and offices even exist. Now Angleton is trapped with a vamp in two adjoining offices. Knock the vampire down, catapult himself into the adjoining office, slap a sticker on the inter meeting room door, chill. He's got stale meeting room donuts and the meeting room fridge has bottled water and a foosball table. And some meeting room paper pads and pens. The vamp has the same, plus a brain parasite that will eat his brain if he doesn't feed "soon" in his wounded state, plus or minus a nice east facing window or skylight (maybe the windows are too much to hope for...)

Everyone forgets the doors exist because of the stickers except for Bob because he's Angleton Jr. so he can't forget them. Even the auditors forget after a short amount of time. "Angleton and the vampire got in, and never got out". "No idea where the bodies are".

Plenty of opportunity for stereotypical laundry hijinks as Bob tries to convince everyone there exist sealed rooms based on the floor plan, "silly Bob, everyone knows vampires and sealed rooms don't exist", and further tries to convince everyone that the missing Angleton and missing vampire are in sealed rooms. As you'd expect a committee decides they must be in the geographic location formerly known as Andys Office so they open that door first and that gives the occulus team something to do and makes Bob look like an idiot. Maybe Bob calls in some favors from old buddies of Angleton's to force some doors open. Maybe Bob just says screw it and does it himself maybe without any backup maybe with the junior vamp squad as backup, who knows.

Anyway a week (month?) later they open the doors to find the vamp's V parasite killed him off due to lack of "food", along with the damage he took in the battle (or... maybe not? That might make a scary scene especially if Bob decided to go it alone or go rogue) and Angleton is a bit pissed off they took so long to open his door and he had to eat so many stale donuts and drink bottled meeting room water. Of course Bob could copy Angleton's method at the start of sending in a residual human resource as a web cam. Maybe Andy, he is just kinda lying around there.

Angleton as the instigator ten steps ahead of everyone else had of course forced Andy's 10% project and forced a level 5 cthulhu or whatever it was other than a level 1 demo that Andy expected, mostly to show off the my little pony, err, class 10 door sealer stickers to Bob just to make sure Bob kinda gets the idea of what they are and how they work.

"So boss, what did you do in there for a week till I broke you out?"

"I wrote my memoirs, boy. And I think you should do the same.".

And we get an awesome future book of Angleton's memoirs. What he did psychically at Woodstock. How he was involved in a dispute at a BLUE HADES negotiation 30 years back that led to the fad of "Jaws" movies. Stuff like that.

Its possible Angleton is stuck in that temp office until they move out, and Bob gets a temp promotion for a couple years. Maybe Angleton had some vacation time saved up and pre-arranged the whole thing. Not sure about the whole sealed room thing. Maybe it was the duty officer office, and it was extremely well stocked, or Angleton technically doesn't need nourishment or whatever. Or seal off a whole block of offices, complete with kitchens and bathrooms and who knows what else. Maybe a spare memex to keep Angleton busy aside from writing memoirs.

301:

Oh and BTW "Spooky" isn't a cat but is the actual other vampire operating under a class 11 glamour and George is just an older minion.

Or "Spooky" is a spy hired by one of the vamps as a deadman's switch / revenge weapon and Spooky is so going to pee on Mo's violin next week or use the violin as a scratching post or have a hairball on it (or metaphorically similar revenge anyway)

Or Pete and Bob decide to "rescue" Angleton resulting in Pete ending up dead, and Mo snaps at Bob, even then she wouldn't hurt Bob, but Bobs new pet cat picked a bad time to get adopted and Mo's had to do far worse things to humans so feeling she needs to punish Bob via his pet cat... I'm guessing this isn't the ASPCA approved story version here.

Or Mhari decides to try that whole "fresh mammal blood" thing on what she thinks is Mo's cat (although its Bob's cat, sorta), just a little taste you know, just a drop, but the parasites that kill humans turn cats into ... something naughty, something Mo gets to fight, resulting in a cat fight between Mo and Mhari (or Bob and Mhari? I mean, it is his cat?)

One way or another Mo's violin is going to end up having to blast Spooky into another dimension or two and Bob and/or Mo are going to be really pissed off about that.

Yeah I think it might be a rough time to be "Spooky".

302:

TEACUP is adorable, but IIRC Bob doesn't much drink tea. And he might be too powerful now to fit into such a diminutive form.

I propose PERCOLATOR.

(Runs away and hides.)

303:

@302: So in The Jennifer Morgue there would have been, so to speak, a fish in the PERCOLATOR?

304:

Why are there Oscars, Alexes and Marianne's in both of the latest Laundry books, btw?

305:

Whoops, that should have been "Mariannes" rather than "Marianne's". (And yeah, I know she's really "Not-Marianne"...)

306:

Sure! Code name KONA BLUE HADES.

307:
Luckily, everyone in the Laundry knows that Satan doesn’t exist.

Hmmm, foreshadowing of the Laundry's next big blind spot?

After all, there is that famous quote associated with the christian antagonist:

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

308:

Absolutely loved the book. Super tight plotting, satisfying ramp-up of threat and hero capabilities, and that after action report--wow. Although there was a segment in the after action report that somewhat confused me:

"A narrative account of the encounter between DSS Angleton and Old George is appended to the interim report..."

I wasn't quite sure if the next few paragraphs constituted that narrative account (seeing how they just contain very vague 3rd person reports of "a sense of dread" etc) or if we simply weren't cleared for that report.

I look at the Scrum boards at work with entirely different eyes now. I definitely recognized Mhari's type from our own producers.

Final note: I moved on from this book to Hannu Rajaniemi's _The Causal Angel_ (which is, as expected, incredible so far) and was VERY amused to see that the Zoku called one of their admin ships Bob Howard.

309:

Actually, on the topic of the Bechdel test and representation of different groups and genders I wanted to say that I really appreciated that the significant majority of major characters, especially those in positions of authority, in were female Neptune's Brood. A solid precis on the how-to of interstellar banking and societies that despite serious backsliding on other personal rights and liberties seems to have gotten over our patriarchal past? Pretty fricken sweet, and this nerd loved it.

Of course, if I lived in that universe what I'd really want is to be one of those Marxist squid, they clearly got tired of waiting for humans to become angels so that Marxism would work and just went ahead and made the upgrades themselves.

310:

Loved the book, sad about the ending... A genuine cliffhanger, in that we (at least I) really want them to be together in their dangerous cruel universe.
We've got the hanging threads of Spooky, Angleton's and Old George's suspension/transportation (no bodies being found = characters returning), the violin's power-upping, in addition to Bob and Mo's relationship suddenly being unbalanced.
Can't wait for the next one! I also wonder if anyone has talked about a Laundry files TV series. What a great 1-hour! Of course, they'd probably do that British things of a season being just 3 or 6 episodes, instead of the American 23 (shudder; I think 12 is perfect) but even so, how great would that be.

311:

Umm, Spam Alert, smithsophia477 @311, 312, 313.
At least it's entertaining. I guess it only makes sense that a witch doctor would use spam.

312:

Sorry about that - having such blatantly obvious sitting here on this older thread for 40 minutes was a tad embarrassing

But only a tad.

313:

I just noticed an inconsistency: in TRC, Bob says his house is a class one secured site. Wasn't it upgraded to class two in TFM?

(I know this is not the only small inconsistency in the books... there's actually lots and lots... Bob clearly isn't taking a whole lot of care when writing ;-))

314:

Well, it wasn't exactly early there (and less so now).
I was just looking to see if anyone had mentioned the Hunter S. Thompson reference. Or was it too obvious?

315:

For Charlie or whoever is keeping the punch list for calendar harmonization in Rhesus:

1. When Mo and Bob are at sushi and when Pete shows up in Bob's office the first time, we find out that it's only been a month since Codex. So it's something like late March/early April.

2. When Bob goes to work and Spooky gets into the Annex, Bob mentions the chill in the air and how the time change is around the corner, which puts it into late October, assuming autumn.

3. When Alex rides his bike into sunlight, he'd been working into the evening, which I presume to start around six. Assuming he's leaving around 6:30, there is something like another half hour before the sun sets, regardless when the date is April or September, so that can just work if the exit ramp of the bank is pointing west and doesn't have another Canary Wharf building in the way. Which brings up the question, does sunlight with the UV filtered hurt PHANGs? Given that UV burns them, and sitting under artificial lights didn't, and high-end financial institutions with good ergonomics teams will have installed daylight balanced bulbs, one wonders if PHANGs could be perfectly fine outside during daytime, in the shade?

316:

Real life coincidence worthy of the Laundry: After gushing about the series to all and sundry for two weeks, I went to a small local fleamarket today. "Local" means "Germany", btw - not an English-speaking country. Guess what the first two books I saw there were?

Left: today's fleamarket find. Right: My own copies.

How freaking weird is it that I found these on a small German fleamarket focused on clothes and knickknacks? How weird is it that they're the same editions as mine? How weird is it that they're exactly the two books out of the series I usually use as a starter pack to give to friends? How weird is it that I only got into this series because I made a similarly unlikely find of book 3 on a small German village's bookcrossing shelf?

I'm beginning to feel as if someone (quite possibly someonen with too many tentacles) is leaving me a trail of Laundry books... leading where, I wonder?

317:

Dude - someone resold the starter pack you gave them. You are leaving a trail for yourself.

318:

That would be a reasonable assumption... but I've never given away this combo of British edition and American edition. And also, they're older than any of the sets I gave away - "older" as in "printed earlier", not as in "more used-looking". They're several years old; mine were all recent printings, bought new and given away in the last 12 months.

319:

I think he ended up tipping us off about the ending earlier when he discussed the Dresden Files. Bob seemed stuck and unable to read 'Changes' which is a pretty appropriate book.

320:

"Awkwardly terrifying" is a description I came up with today when thinking about why I find Bob's current stage of development interesting. He is, without a doubt, terrifying now - but he doesn't really have a particularly good handle on how to deal with that fact yet. It makes for some awkward situations - some of them filled with a certain pathos of alienation (cf. interactions with Mhari), others darkly funny (e.g. semi-accidentally scaring the police inspector speechless). It's a very weird emotional mixture, one I haven't seen done much anywhere else. I hope we don't lose the "awkward" part of it too soon, because it's a large part of what keeps Bob somewhat human.

321:

Addendum to previous:

... it keeps him somewhat human both to the reader - and to Bob himself, I reckon. Bob's narrative throughout the series shows his great investment in being "normal" (for a very geeky value of normal, of course) - even though it becomes obvious very early that he's anything but. And while Persephone is probably right in stating that it's "his game" to be underestimated by people, that is not the whole truth; it's not just a smoke screen, it's genuine self-image, too, I think. It's a form of denial, of pushing aside parts of himself that make him uncomfortable. I wonder how this part of his self-image will interact with his most recent change.

322:

Definitely enjoyed the book!

I wasn't too surprised by Angleton's "death" after the foreshadowing in Fuller Memorandum, but still had an impact. I won't be surprised if it's part of a larger plan, as others have suggested.

The misdirection about the reasons for Bob and Mo's split was effective. I'm glad it didn't fall into the usual sitcom-esque tropes; it felt pretty natural. I'm hopeful about their future prospects, since the break doesn't seem intractable, but that might be overly optimistic.

I'm definitely looking forward to POVs other than Bob's. It'll be interesting to see other perspectives, not only from a plot standpoint, but character-wise: it's very obvious in this book that Bob's more than a little judgmental about Mhari, for instance. I'm hopeful that Mo and Alex will be written with very different authorial voices; OGH has shown he can do that well with books like Rule 34.

The take on vampires was interesting, especially wrt their social structure...but I still like Watts's better. :P

Miscellaneous notes:
-The "incident report" style of the Code Red worked well; it actually had greater emotional impact that way, IMO. While not seeing Angleton and George's final confrontation was a little disappointing, I prefer that to having it be onscreen and potentially disappointing.
-I'm pretty sure the reason Andy's little project at the beginning summoned a big nasty is CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN; seems like a textbook example of CNG's amplification of magic.
-Mahogany Row was smaller than I thought, though there's probably almost definitely more people that Bob hasn't seen. Other Auditors, other "external assets" under Lockhart.
-Spook's appearance and ability to slip right into the New Annex seems like a Chekhov's Kitty to me.

323:

"probably" was meant to have a strikethrough. *mutters about HTML*

[[ the code you wanted was <s>]]

324:

Another, very minor, date niggle. When describing Scrum Bob says "It has its origins in Agile methodology" — whereas Scrum was one of several lightweight methodologies born in the 80's and 90's — long before "Agile" was coined as a term of art in the software world in 2001. Agile has it's origins in Scrum (and XP, DSDM, Crystal, etc.) — not the other way around.

Unless it's all different in the Laundryverse of course ;-)


Still pondering the possible options for who Old George left the voice mail message to after killing Sir David… next book?


(and thanks for introducing me to Fatal familial insomnia which is the stuff of nightmares.)

325:

Re: the violin's way of attack: I just reread The Jennifer Morgue and there's definitely lots of physical damage to things caused by the violin in that book. So it seems the violin's music does, indeed, attack through other channels than the ear/brain, too. Oh well.

326:

I suppose the Angleton is on mankind's side, but not necessarily relishes being under human control. And given his origin and era of acculturation he's likely to have different ideas about acceptable levels of casualties and appropriate methods than any current British government.

327:

Possible typo: a reference to "out tracking system", which really seemed like it should be "our".

328:

Currently rereading TRC - taking notes and all, lol. Yes, I've grown a tad obsessive about these books...
Will probably make a proper post when I'm done with the reread, but the biggest thing I've noticed so far is basically Bob's statements about the chronology of his past experiences are *all over the fucking place*. The events of TAC go from "the month before" to "a couple of months ago" within the first five pages, and by page 26 they're already "last year" (okay, admittedly, they could be one or two months ago and *still* be "last year", too, if it's only January at the beginning of TRC).

There's a remark, later in the book, about how the word processor allows people to go back and edit stuff into things written much earlier, which would explain these inconsistencies - but wasn't Bob required to use an old-fashioned typewriter for his memoirs, for reasons of occult security? Or at least he was during the writing of his record of the evens of TFM. (Of course, even with a typewriter you can insert additional pages.)

329:

I'm also noticing a great many repeating phrases. (I think people pissing into and out of tents is the most frequent one :D) I don't really think that's a sign of anything more sinister than minor editorial negligence, but in the light of some of the theories I've read about how Bob might possibly be only a vehicle for the Eater of Souls now, covered by a thin veneer of the late Bob's memories, it would actually make some kind of sense for the repetitiveness to be a sign of "Bob" merely being a sort of repeating pattern of behaviours and linguistic tics now... which is a creepy, creepy thought. *shudder*

330:

(I kind of urgenly need there to be Laundry-related programming at WorldCon...)

331:

(That is: program items, not programming as in computer programming. That would be way to dangerous. :D)

332:

Yep, I noticed the same!

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2014/07/spoiler-thread.html#comment-1956505

The time references definitely seem off to me, unless I missed something?

333:

I'm about two thirds through my reread now and I've marked any time reference I noticed. So far the most obvious inconsistencies were in the first chapter (all the ones you mentioned, Tezcatlipoca, are from there), but I'm probably going to make a list when I'm done with the reread.

I also noticed - only on my reread! - that Bob tells Mo about the vampires twice - and she's surprised, the second time, so she's obviously forgotten all about the previous conversation. Basil's geas is strong! How come some of the characters manage to retain the knowledge about vampires, though?

What's COBWEB MAZE, btw? As far as I can tell it turns up for the first time sometime in the middle or so of TRC, and I seem to have missed the explanation - if there was any.

334:

What's COBWEB MAZE, btw?

Possibly from a short story or novella that Charlie hasn't written yet. He has mentioned that he plans to write some, and they usually fit in between the novels.

335:

Oooh, just got an email saying that my copy of "Equoid" has shipped. Two months earlier than expected?

Also, saw this yesterday; Pinky and the Brain have finally reached the Breaking Point. So that's what happened to them.

336:

"From this incident, he starts to investigate, and begins to notice that a lot of the same people showing up at executions all over the United States. All arriving and departing by SUVs with tinted windows and Federal agency license plates. And, of course, he just got the memo that there is such a thing as vampires..."

I can seem them doing it, but more out of convenience rather than brains. Executions are too monitored and recorded. It'd be better to take victims on the fringes of society.

337:

"Damn, that was an entertaining read. A minor nitpick: as an ex-ACN consultant, I can assure you that we work at all hours of the day. I had several clients that loved to drop a 10-hour workpackage on my desk at 18:00 with the comment that it had to be ready for the status meeting at 09:00."

From some descriptions of Wall Street in the USA, that's also not an accident. Dropping off some work at 'Close of Business' that you've had hanging around all day is part of the culture.

338:

(sorry of if this has been covered)
"Hmm. One wonders if Mo's violin is particularly unreasonable in wanting Bob dead. After all, the violin probably isn't fully sentient, and it has a very simple remit:"This machine kills demons." 99 times out of a hundred, if Mo ran into something wearing as much eau-de-Eater-of-Souls as Bob, she'd be quite eager to kill it. And every time Mo takes her violin into the field, it has the lesson reinforced that it should be helping Mo kill infovores as quickly as possible."

I think that it eats *souls*, including various 'demons'. Remember that 'This machine kills demons' is a sticker on the case, not known to be true. Mo's problem is that the thing just wants to feed, and she's got to restrain it.

339:

"My assumption was that the slayer isn't likely to be a badass normal since that wouldn't just be foolhardy, that would be suicide. That and the neck-snappy thing. Normals can't just snap human necks like that. So there must have been something paranormal about her. I'm assuming that it wasn't just "add-ons" the way some mundane given a Laundry ward would suddenly be a tougher target than Joe Muggle. I was wondering if she might have a parasite that feeds on parasites."

My theory is that Old George created her. It's clear that she's running some glamours (vamps have level 2; she was able to fool vamps). It was mentioned in the novel that Old George's driver and others were extremely thoroughly glamoured, over time.

340:

"Then there's the ultraviolet lights. It's odd that Basil didn't notice them, given that he's a vampire, used to dim light, and has regularly returned to the warehouse to consume his victims."

What surprised me is that I had thought that the archives warehouse was a regular hangout for Basil. He should have had it warded - at the very, very least, some warning wards. Especially as Old George wants to kill him.

341:

Aren't wards somewhat "visible", in some way or another, to other magical practitioners, though?

342:

I'm quite keen on the idea of vampire burkas; I hope they make further appearances in the upcoming Alex-POV book. Not only for the obvious off-kilter comedy potential but also because there's a potential for interesting identity stuff there: what does it feel like, to a high-flying (ex?)-banker (will he still be a banker in book 7, I wonder?), who's recently joined one very weird and entirely invisible sort of minority (or two: magic users, and vampires), to "pass" as *another* kind of (very different, and very visible, though just as tiny) minority? It's a most interesting form of cross-dressing... and all sorts of contrasts and mirrorings and echoes abound.

Speaking of identity stuff: Bob seems to have started to identify as a hungry ghost (during the dinner date with Mhari: "Score: hungry ghosts: one; vampires: nil.") He's also relaxed in a slightly disturbing way about killing. While in book four he's still taking time out before the climax of the story to tell us how much he hates killing, in TRC he gets a bit startled by Janet and immediately, reflexively tries to eat her soul. And while that may be forgiveable because she did attack him, he's at least semi-ready to try again very soon afterwards, despite the situation, at that point, already looking less immediately threatening. Slipperly slope, Bob...

343:

Whoops, slippery not slipperly. (Bet that's not the only typo, though. I only ever seem to post here when I'm too tired to think.)

344:

Whoops II: Janice, not Janet.

345:

The part where Ancient Vampire Law decreed that vampires who meet must kill each other made me think: legislating that must have been interesting. How do you get a quorum? When you've passed the law, how do you announce it?

Laws are by nature social constructs. No society, no laws.

346:

Slight continuity blip: Sgt. Howe's referred to as "Jim" in TFM (page 237), but he's called Steven in TRC.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on July 3, 2014 7:01 PM.

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