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That "Annihilation Score" spoiler thread you're all asking for

It's US publication day for The Annihilation Score!

So here is a spoiler thread.

Feel free to discuss "The Annihilation Score" (and if you ask me a question I might show up and answer it) in the comments below.

But it would be unwise to read the comments below if you haven't read the book yet and want it to hold any surprises.

598 Comments

1:

Seriously: while I'm doing a /r/books AMA on Reddit tomorrow, you don't have to wait (or be available while I'm there)!

2:

NOTE:

On the preceding thread, someone noted (wrt "The Rhesus Chart"):

And, I realized Bob took his level of Badass when he chomped on the two missionaries in The Apocalypse Codex. It took him a while longer to get it through his head (which seems to be a Bob trait).

Bob is a very unreliable narrator.

We all like to be the heroes of our own internal narrative; Bob's no exception. The trouble is, Bob isn't a hero: he's becoming the freakin' eater of souls. This is not a role compatible with having a good self-image, so the cognitive dissonance is deafening.

Meanwhile, Mo is ... complex, and conflicted, and coming apart at the seams.

The whole point of writing "The Annihilation Score" was to step outside Bob's highly unreliable viewpoint (denial ain't just a river in Egypt, after all). Partly because Mo's very interesting in her own context, but also because it allowed me to take a cold, hard look at Bob's entire married life, and find it wanting. Bucket of cold water time, in other words. (And? There are a myriad of reasons married couples stay together in the long term after the honeymoon is over. Romantic love doesn't last forever: friendship is another matter.)

Anyway: it's called parallax, and it can be dizzying at first.

3:

Personally, I was relieved.

I was afraid that Bob's unreliability would be him being a lying bastard rather than, as it appears, living inside the same comfy pink cloud of self-delusion as the rest of us.

4:

I have a question for you Charles, it's been bugging me since I finished reading your book last night.

During the events at the Albert Hall, why doesn't Mo use the silver chain and small bangle that Dr. Armstrong gave her? I took it to be some form of panic button device. It seems strange that she'd have the ability to call on a DSS and not use it. Or was it simply a beefed up ward?

“For now, just hang on to that. When you can’t bear it anymore, call me and I’ll come."

Also, the 9:30 Monday meeting with the Home Secretary after the incident with the Mandate in Downing Street never appears to happen. I would have liked to have seen that conversation.

5:

Right after finishing the book I thought I loved every aspect but the main villain, then after reflecting on it for a few days I realised that it doesn't matter - it could have been any kind of threat and the main focus would have been still on Mo and her life beyond a single CODEWORD. Mo is brilliantly human.

6:

Beefed up ward.

As for the 9:30, blame my continuity tracking.

7:

The first elevator pitch for this novel was, "a character study of a middle-aged woman's simultaneous work, career, and nervous breakdowns. (There are superheroes.)"

The second elevator pitch (for series readers) was, "Bob's exes form a superhero team and fight crime."

Incidentally, the explanation for the main villain's interest in Mo and Lecter? She and her instrument have been on the Police's radar since at least the Trafalgar Square incident. More importantly, Lecter has been working on the ACPO officers and HomeSec behind Mo's back while Mo has been carrying him around at meetings. Because Lecter wants out bad. And Mo has unwittingly given Lecter too many opportunities to come into contact with unprotected, unwarded, senior police officers.

8:

You've had a touch of bad luck in obscure refs becoming less so - did you watch True Detective and curse as Carcosa became a climatic mystery?

Also, more relevantly, how much is Jim a catspaw of his bosses, and how much an active participant in the bureaucratic gamesplaying?

9:

I don't generally watch TV drama.

Jim is ... my understanding is any rank from Inspector on up is a political/management job to a large extent, in British policing. Jim is ambitious and aiming for promotion to the very highest ranks of the largest force in the UK: of course he's a player. But at the same time he's also a catspaw.

10:

Ah I see. Thanks for the explanation.

May I also congratulate you on excellent proofreading. I spotted only one typo (and a couple of maybes), p225 UK hardback edition, direction is split as two words (also in the ebook version).

The last book I read had over 40 *cough* Whispers Under Ground *cough*! It's something I find really off-putting and detracts from my enjoyment of a book. So thank you.

11:

Ohhh... I didn't pick up that tidbit about Lecter's influence on the ACPO and others in Mo's meetings. Really should have put two and two together from all the references to Lecter's growing power and the difficulty of keeping him warded.

I think I've missed quite a few things, mostly due to getting home from work on Thursday and inhaling the book in one sitting (DAMN YOU STROSS YOU DID IT TO ME AGAIN ARGH). One thing I felt was that the supposedly-main Freudstein plot kept falling out of sight: every now and then someone would pop up to remind us about 'him', and there'd be a brief bit of "Oh yeah, he's our top priority, absolutely; now back to Jim and upper management shenanigans". But I was probably distracted by trying to play the Which Trusted Insider Is Secretly The Villain? game.

I suspect I'll understand better on a more careful re-read with the benefit of foreshadowing. :-)

12:

I was really looking forward to a Mo book and it didn't disappoint on that angle. It was interesting to see things from her perspective and sad to feel her experience of her marriage breaking down. I've also been stuck thinking about the invisible middle aged women phenomenon which I'd never heard of before (will definitely be chewing over that one for a while).

One thing that confused me on my first read is the ease in which the public just accept that superpowers exist. I was expecting to see a few comments from mo about how difficult some politicians were to convince that this is real, how swathes of the public think it's a hoax, how prominent public science/skeptic figures were whipping up a social media frenzy demanding these people be tested in controlled conditions etcetera, but I didn't see a sign of that. Are we to take it that this sort of thing happened in the background, that Mo didn't observe or mention it or that it's already happened? It just seems a bit unbelievable that the public would just accept the existence of superpowers with little more than raised eyebrow humour.

Must admit I read it first in a bit of a rush (always very excited for a new Laundry book, rapidly becoming my favourite series) so perhaps a second read will shift my perspective.

13:

I've been waiting for this.

In one of the previous books, I forget which, Bob has a dream about Mo frantically playing the white violin to an abomination in a crib. And there's the frequent mention of why they never have children.

In this book, Lecter enters Mo's dream and has sex with her. Can we expect any sudden demonic babies in the future?

14:

Are we to take it that this sort of thing happened in the background?

That's covered in the book, by Mo narrating the fact that she hasn't been paying attention to current affairs for the last 3 months or so...

15:

"...invisible middle aged women phenomenon which I'd never heard of before..."

I had, although given Bob's descriptions of Mo I was a little surprised. But then as we know, unlike every other husband on the planet, Bob doesn't listen and lives in a world of his own.

(As an aside: In my early 40s my beard turned white. For several years I looked in the mirror and saw a young man with a white beard. Then one day at work I saw a webcam image of myself and my first reaction was "Who's that old bastard?").

16:

One of the big OMG moments for me was midway Bob and Mo sex scene and the moment she fantasizes about Lecter. I was sorta expecting Jim but Lecter left me gobsmacked.

In a number of places Mo calls out Bob - under the assumption he is reading it.

Do you intend to have Bob read it at some point and spin off some plot threads with the result?

17:

There are a couple more. (Inexplicably, I -- and all my test readers and editors! -- got the wrong reactor at Chernobyl.) But if you have any, could you comment on them here? Please cite publisher/edition of book, page number, and a little bit of surrounding text so I can search for it (just saying "you miss-spelled 'their' in the second half of the book" isn't very useful).

18:

It just seems a bit unbelievable that the public would just accept the existence of superpowers with little more than raised eyebrow humour.

Background: They accept it with the usual spectrum of reactions, from total disbelief ("it's tabloid reality TV nonsense") through to total acceptance ("where's my sewing machine? I need to FIGHT CRIME NOW!"). This is implied in Mo's cabbie monologue, the HomeSec's near-incredulous reaction to her proposal, and so on. But that's by-the-by -- I wasn't writing a book about "superpowers happen: how do the public react", and Mo's been so deep in the weirdness for years now that she barely blinks.

19:

Nope.

But you can expect both Mo and Bob to have hang-ups about third parties impinging on their private life (viz. Mhari and Ramona in Bob's case, Lecter and Supercop in Mo's).

Of course you won't get to see any of that until "The Delirium Brief" (book 8) which I don't plan on writing before 2017 and which won't see print before 2018 ...

20:

You know, I hadn't thought of that. It's a really good idea, too, dammit.

21:

After thinking about the book and its ending for a couple of days, this question popped up in my head:

When will the Laundry officially attempt to seize power in the UK? It should be inevitable from the Board of Auditor's point of view.

Why? Because the government and police just got their first taste of an out-of-context problem and failed catastrophically at handling it. Which you by definition don't get to do with an out-of-context problem. Even knowing that she was facing an out-of-context problem the Home Secretary's first priority was her instinctive reflex of "staying in power" (getting re-elected), which is so blindly in-context that it isn't even funny. And the upper police echelons reacted by the equally typical in-context "we have to keep the upper hand over rivaling services" reflex, and made that their top priority. Both disastrously inadequate to the danger they're facing.

They get away with it—at a terrible cost—because in the end the Laundry still manages to save the day against their best efforts. But seriously, how often can the Laundry let something like that pass? The next time of allowing those who have proven themselves to be inadequate to deal with an out-of-context problem will probably be the last time.

22:

what I found jarring - though obvious in hindsight - was the immediate and blindingly fast plummet of Mo off the pedestal that she inhabits when seen from Bob's point of view. Especially when I read her fantasizing about Lecter while with Bob - forgetting completely about him and Ramona's snogging sessions until slightly afterwards

In regards to public reactions - I think increasing credulity might in itself be a symptom of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN - people are becoming aware subconsciously of the thinning of reality

I wonder what plans BLUE HADES has for CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN

23:

Taking the comment on typos as invitation for other nitpicks...

One continuity error I noticed a couple of times: the Code Red at the New Annex was referred to as happening at Dansey House instead.

UK Kindle edition, "location 348". Context: "We have a Code Red, repeat, a Code Red, Code Red at Dansey House. The Major Incident Contingency Plan has been activated."

UK Kindle edition, "location 6213". Context: "Back before the unfortunate incident at Dansey House she and I were discussing what to do with the instrument when you could no longer carry it."

Also, a fairly minor nitpick: several times, characters refer to CRB checks. These ceased to exist back in 2012, a few years before the canonical point of divergence, with the Criminal Records Bureau being replaced by the Disclosure and Barring Service.

Yes, I do share a house with a DBS-checked teenager who gets grumpy every time I refer to it as a CRB check, can you tell?

24:

Also I never realised from Bob's narration just how senior Mo is - she is going to be an Auditor ffs!! Do we take that to mean she has some serious mojo outside of carrying Lecter?

Or does it hint that much of an Auditor's mojo is not personal but comes with the role?

25:

Shock horror: married spouse's view of partner differs from partner's opinion of themselves!

Yeah, that never happens.

And in other news, Bob's not the only person capable of deluding themselves in this marriage.

Oy, it's almost as if some of you folks have never read a mainstream literary novel ...

26:

Ta. (Those I can try to get fixed in a few months when they prep the files for the paperback.)

27:

She's musing somewhere that she did have some serious mojo even before she carried Lecter, although she has now become (too?) used to using him.

And I think there were hints to her being very senior—although I don't remember how much of it was in the books and how much was hinted at by Charlie in various blog posts. The remark about Bob being the Bond girl and Mo being James Bond with regards to The Jennifer Morgue, for instance.

28:

This does not happen in book 7.

A precondition for the circumstances arising would be for the Laundry to no longer be a top secret entity, but one at least as admissible in public as GCHQ (that is: not very, but they don't deny it exists and it advertises for employees openly). And another precondition would be for the government to break it's side of the bargain implicitly established by the Wilson Doctrine (i.e. the Mexican Stand-off between the government and the security services, established in 1966).

But more than that I will not say, other than to note that the Laundry's senior people -- including Mahogany Row -- swore an oath, and they would be breaking it in spirit and letter if they held a coup and installed themselves as a junta. And I'd like to discourage speculation along these lines as it would be a potential spoiler for books 8 and 9 ...

29:

In addition to the invisible middle-aged woman syndrome, it's worth noting that women have to work twice as hard to achieve half the recognition as men.

30:

Basically Mo has been in a hot and steamy affair with Lecter all the time she's been married to Bob. It's only when she realises at the end of Rhesus Chart that Eater-of-Souls Bob is now a levelled-up threat to her lover Lecter that she has to make a choice and she decides really quickly to keep Lecter and get rid of Bob, justifying her choice by blaming Bob for bringing Mhairi home after the Condition Red.

Think of Annihilation Score as Charlie's homage to Fifty Shades of Grey and you'll not be far wrong.

31:

So fear of K-syndrome is a big hangup of Bob's. It comes up as his A#1 fear in both Apocalypse Codex and Rhesus Chart, terrified that he will succumb to it when he does his job or uses his Eater powers.

In Annihilation Score there is a quick mention in passing by Mo that Bob has been immune to it since The Fuller Memorandum.

So I guess my first question is, was this meant to portray Mo in an intensely negative light - as someone who will conceal critical information about a spouse's medical condition from their spouse, or was it a small retcon/confirmation of a fan question, or an issue of what has been prior revealed in the previous 5 books, or were you going for a different angle?


32:

I'm sure there was a comment in an earlier book along the lines of Bob being a promising agent, but operating on "a level below" Agent CANDID. I can't find it to quote directly, though.

33:

I don't think the Laundry would seize power, but that's also the same reason my suspension of disbelief had to work harder when it came to the upper echelons of the police force. (Sidenote: how weird it is that people cling to social conventions the most. Interstellar civilization? No problem! But with 20th century social interaction. Like painters in the 14th century dressing romans as from their century.) I had a feeling that the ACPO knowing about the Laundry and their decision to setup a parallel organization would be akin to the NYPD starting it's own Manhattan project in the forties. Unthinkable both because of their own survival insticts about going that far out of scope and because The Laundry is way more powerful than the rest of government agencies. That's why they are so secret, they have a lot of power, the public hysteria that would ensue if they'd operate openly is just in addition to that. Technically The Laundry could take over the goverment, but they won't as that would just work against the core mission statement. The bureaucracy imposed on the Laundry is there as a reminder about what they're fighting for, it's not just about saving lives but the people's freedom, but it doesn't really restrain or control their actions.

34:

That seems, well, not wrong per say, but at the same time very one sided in that it ignores Bob's many, many, MASSIVE mistakes as well.

35:

Bob is certainly not fully aware of how powerful his wife is, but TAS also shows beautifully that this is also true vice versa. Mo had not expected Bob to stand his ground against Lecter, and she is surprised by his ability in Old Enochian. And she knows about the incident at the cemetery, and they were supposed to share with each other. But even as she identifies him as the Eater of Souls, she doesn't seem to be fully aware of what that entices (neither seems Bob, to be fair).

So they both turn out to be ignorant about crucial parts of their partner's personality, and their ignorance is ongoing. Which of course is bound to create problems for their marriage. And it's worse for Mo, because in her own view she's the one who is reflecting and working on their relationship. She doesn't expect Bob to really know her, but she thinks she knows Bob, and therefore the Dunning-Kruger effect hits her more easily.

36:

Charlie, you mentioned that originally this book had a different ending, and you changed it to the present one.

Out of curiosity, what was the original ending?


Follow up - there didn't seem to be much in terms of addressing the ending of this one. Thousands of rich and powerful people dead as the result of a government false flag situation, most of them dead because Jim ignored Mo and attracted the Feeders when he used his powers, the success of a Honeypot plot against a senior member of the The Laundry, the Pale Instrument and the Annihilation Score laying together in a cursed temple for anyone to pick up... it all kind of got rolled over in the last 2 pages. Will the fallout be delved into more in another book or short story?

37:

It's in Rhesus Chart where Angleton, Lockhart and the Senior Auditor decide to send Mo off to the Blue Hades meeting. Lockhart says Bob's "...on the tier below but coming along nicely."

38:

Small retcon -- also, have you ever been unreasonably afraid of something, even long after the reason to be afraid of it has passed?

39:

"In Annihilation Score there is a quick mention in passing by Mo that Bob has been immune to it since The Fuller Memorandum."

Oh yes, and that Mo is immune because of Lecter protecting her. But Lecter is gone now, and Mo has developed a superpower = is practising magic in her head.

I wondered whether this would come up in her debriefing with the Senior Auditor, but it didn't, at least not explicitly. Still—Mo is a potential K-syndrom victim now, and this may be part of the reason for her to want to retire. The SA also must be aware, but is not willing to let her go. He has personally made the sacrifice to live with the risk, and is probably expecting the same from Mo as well.

40:

I had a feeling that the ACPO knowing about the Laundry and their decision to setup a parallel organization would be akin to the NYPD starting it's own Manhattan project in the forties.

More akin to the NYPD setting up their own operation to hunt Nazi spies circa 1941-45, even knowing that the FBI do exactly that job: "yes, but we have special local knowledge!"

Also note that the Third Reich's postal service had no less than 50 different air-to-air guided missile programs under development at the end of the war and was into nuclear research up to its eyeballs: that the Luftwaffe ran the largest armoured panzer division in the German army: and that the Army of the US Navy has it's own Air Force (the USMC Air Corps).

Shorter summary: bureaucracy metastasizes.

41:

Out of curiosity, what was the original ending?

Shorter and much, much weaker

(I wrote the first draft in a single mad 18 day rush and by days 17 and 18 I was low on energy. So when I redrafted it I chopped the last 9000 words off the end and re-wrote ... which is where the Albert Hall climax came in.)

The fallout is elided to in "The Nightmare Stacks" but the ball really gets picked up and run with in "The Delirium Brief" (which is still in the planning stages), set some 6-9 months later.

For now, the Albert Hall event is portrayed as terrorism, hallucinogenic gas, and the Met using tactics regrettably similar to those used during the Moscow theater hostage crisis.

42:

Another typo: right after the Carcosa lyrics in chapter 19 (position 5900 in Kindle Reader), there's the sentence "his eyes glow faintly with the spiraling wormsign of feeders in night". Should be "feeders in the night".

43:

How many times has Bob nearly killed Mo, and how many times has Mo nearly killed Bob? Sure Bob's made a lot of mistakes but he's never pointed a lethal weapon at Mo as many times as she has since she discovered he's a threat to her Precious. And it's all Bob's fault because he couldn't read her mind.

44:

So I imagine Jim looks like this

http://i.imgur.com/7iQWoc7.jpg

How accurate, scale of 1-10?

45:
I was really looking forward to a Mo book and it didn't disappoint on that angle. It was interesting to see things from her perspective and sad to feel her experience of her marriage breaking down. I've also been stuck thinking about the invisible middle aged women phenomenon which I'd never heard of before (will definitely be chewing over that one for a while).

I also really enjoyed how this edged into her superpowered invisibility without any visible seams. Nicely done sir. Nicely done.

46:

How many times has Bob nearly killed Mo, and how many times has Mo nearly killed Bob? Sure Bob's made a lot of mistakes but he's never pointed a lethal weapon at Mo as many times as she has since she discovered he's a threat to her Precious. And it's all Bob's fault because he couldn't read her mind.

You are stripping a massive amount of context out there. She didn't pull a weapon because she was angry at him, she pulled a weapon because when under attack by a large powerful predator she goes home to find a home invader who is also a of said predator type, and then Bob blunders into the room.

She didn't pull on him, and she wasn't the one who "aimed" at him - that was Lector.

47:

About a 2 (out of 10).

For one thing, no moustache. For another thing, he's younger. And for a third thing, he's not American. (Google on "London police uniform", they're not exactly obscure.)

48:
Basically Mo has been in a hot and steamy affair with Lecter all the time she's been married to Bob. It's only when she realises at the end of Rhesus Chart that Eater-of-Souls Bob is now a levelled-up threat to her lover Lecter that she has to make a choice and she decides really quickly to keep Lecter and get rid of Bob, justifying her choice by blaming Bob for bringing Mhairi home after the Condition Red.

I have to admit that I read both versions of that scene rather differently.

My impression from TAS is that the Lecter's dream visits are a new and worrying for Mo, and that she perceives them more as abuse/rape than a "hot and steamy affair" (c.f. "Get the fuck out of my head", etc.).

As for Mhairi… Mo came back to find a vampire in her house. One who she mostly knows via Bob's bunny-boiling-ex-from-hell stories. She wasn't present during most of the Bob-Mhairi figuring-shit-out stuff in TRC. And she knows that some serious shit has just gone down with the Code Red.

As for being worried about Lecter's safety with Bob around — I thought it was pretty explicitly the exact opposite. Lecter now wants to eat Bob.. Mo doesn't really care that much about Lecters safety. She does, after all, spend significant portions of the book contemplating ways to get rid of the damn thing.

And it was Bob who made the decision to leave.

49:

My impression from TAS is that the Lecter's dream visits are a new and worrying for Mo, and that she perceives them more as abuse/rape than a "hot and steamy affair" (c.f. "Get the fuck out of my head", etc.).

Yeah. I don't think Charlie's trying to write Fifty Shades of Yellow, and it is abusive.

50:

So, after seeing the Bob have a case of the eye worms, I have to ask. Did he get sacrificed and die in Fuller Memorandum and just happen to posses his own vacated body? Is Bob now some sort of Lich who just happens to be entagled with The Eater of Souls or did Angleton actually start riding shotgun after being discharged?

51:

Yay!

Okay, I expect I'll start pouring novella-length questions/observations/comments into this thread soon but as I have to go to Job2 soon, for now here's just a reply to KKoro's reply to my Mo-related aside to my previous question about Bob's soul eating thing:

Yes, of course she must be aware that this is something that's theoretically in his repertoire of skills - definitely now that he's "the" Eater of Souls. But how aware is she, really, that it's

a) not just a skill, i.e. something consciously accessed, but an *instinct*, something that sometimes just happens when he's sufficiently startled;
b) something that he's been doing (though only very occasionally) for a while now - since *before* he got upgraded to proper Eater of Souls, that is? And
c) does she know what it actually means? He's not just killing people – and I'm sure that she knows he's *killed* people, in a (slightly) more conventional way; that, sadly, is par for the course by now – he's, well, *eating* them. That's on a whole different level of horrible.

Those, to me, are some highly alarming facts, and I don't see them reflected in the narrative of TAS. And Mo's reaction to the glowy eyes incident from around the middle of TAS doesn't seem like the reaction of a person who knows she's been sharing a bed with (using that regrettable shorthand again) a monster(-of-sorts).

So, ironically, in at least one respect I think Bob is more aware of one important aspect of their reality than Mo is. Bob always plays the eldritch side of his personality down, of course, but it's been present in the subtext (and occasionally the text) for a while now, in his narrative. Whereas it's nearly entirely absent in Mo's, and then makes a sudden and shocking appearance, like its full import only just occurred to her for the first time.

This makes sense, of course. Avoiding talking about something with your partner is, after all, an integral part of denial: talking about "it" would mean acknowledging "it". And there's probably the fact of Mo's increasingly unstable state, which Bob was clearly aware of in TRC (and earlier), as added motivation for staying silent about Yet Another Big Terrifying Thing in their lives. It's irresponsible of him not to talk about it, of course, especially after the incident with the telemarketer in TAC, but that's the denial part again: he's probably telling himself that he'd *never* lose it like that with Mo. (Leaving aside the matter of irresponsibilty for a moment, it is of course also generally a bad idea to „shield“ your partner from crucial knowledge about yourself, for all sorts of reasons – but *that* is Bob being a Person of Little Social Skills...)

Incidentally, as of the latter parts of TRC, I really doubt how much denial Bob's still in. It seems things have gone a bit too far beyond any sort of plausible deniability, and there's a fair bit of acknowledgement in the text. His identity also seems to be in flux. He actually – sort of - identifies as a Hungry Ghost in a humorous aside during his dinner with Mhari. And thats before his 'promotion'...

Hahaha, did I say I'd start with the novella-length comments later? I lied.

Also, now I'm late for work. Ooops. Good thing I'm sort of self-employed, for Job2.

52:

I have been asking the same thing for a while now... My guess is: yes. And Mo's question of "Are you undead" was spot on.

53:

My impression from TAS is that the Lecter's dream visits are a new and worrying for Mo, and that she perceives them more as abuse/rape than a "hot and steamy affair" (c.f. "Get the fuck out of my head", etc.).

She describes the whole relationship as a ménage à trois though, reciprocates in Lecter's own gratification/release (starting to play him) in the opener though, so it seems more like there was an established level of "dream lover" the was used to and enjoyed, it was just the increase in abuse and force in the last few months (the course of this book) that she had a problem with

54:

Also, there was probably nothing accidental about the entanglement.

55:

I was told we wouldn't discuss US foreign policy in this thread.

56:

Mo kept finding excuses to not hand Lecter back to the Laundry, to retire him, destroy him or pass him on to someone else. She kept him close while pushing Bob away once it was clear Bob was now a threat to Lecter.

She showed no sign of being afraid of Mhairi in their encounter at the house, it was perfectly clear Mhairi was terrified of Mo and Lecter and desperately trying to get away. What consumed her in their encounter was the idea that Bob was having an affair with her (""Did you have sex with her?" I have to ask, God help me.") hence her torture of Mhairi:

----------------------
I rest the bow lightly across the bridge and tweak gently, between two fingers. Lecter obliges, singing a soul into torment. "Keep away from him, you bitch," I call through the doorway.
The vampire moans.
----------------------

Possessive much? When Bob stops her:

----------------------
*** Mistress, you will obey, *** hisses Lecter, and there's a cramp in my side as he forces me to turn, raising his body and bringing it to bear on my husband in a moment of horror--
----------------------

and somehow Bob's the villain for being, well, Bob and stopping her killing him. Either he directly fights Lecter there and then (and possibly loses Mo in the battle which he may not win, he's just off a life-or-death fight a few hours ago whereas Lecter and Mo are fresh) or he gets out and hopes Mo can cope with Lecter given some space.

57:

Okay, let me tackle that again in some more detail, because a) to hell with work, and b) Bob's ontological state is one of my favourite things in the Laundry books to obsess about. (I'm all about liminal states and Difference and identity.)

Did he get sacrificed and die in Fuller Memorandum and just happen to posses his own vacated body?

Yes. He did. This is, in fact, stated unambiguously by Bob himself in TFM. Well, actually he didn't get sacrificed so much as he killed himself by suicide magic before they could go through with the sacrifice completely. But he was dead either way, and then went on to possess his own corpse.

The question is... how dead has he been since then? Not at all? (Do souls who've been severed completely re-integrate with their bodies?) Just a little? (Those occasional moments of existential malaise he's been having since then...) Mostly dead, soul pastede on by Angleton-glue?

58:

Damn, why no edit function. Last paragraph's comprehensibility... sub-optimal. It could do with some extra punctuation and a different/extra word here and there.

59:

He was returned to his body by an attempted summoning of the Eater Of Souls that got a busy signal and grabbed the closest substitute it could find, IIRC? Which means he's possessing his own corpse. (Cf. the finger-eating thing, which Angleton also went through.)

60:

Yeah, true, he didn't actively possess his corpse, he was summoned back to it.

It's still pretty unambiguous that he was properly dead, though. And possessing his corpse. The question is only, did this state change to "being properly alive" again somehow...

61:

From what we've been told before with regards intelligences and the problem with having a lot of them kicking around, I don't think that either BLUE HADES or DEEP SEVEN are going to be doing all that much with or about CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN simply because both civilisations will have encountered at least one, probably several instances like these in the past and will know how to cope with them.

For a start, neither civilisation will be all that populous, nor will there be many super-computers or for that matter super-intelligences in either of them. The human approach of breeding like crazy, and hitting problems with lots of brains in parallel would appear to be attractive initially, until you realise that lots of brains attracts the brain-eaters like an eat-all-you-like buffet.

Elder civilisations will thus be very, very long-lived as individuals, with very good memory and extremely long attention spans but there really will not be very many of them. They are more advanced than we are, simply by virtue of having survived for so long but now in the long twilight of their civilisations, their research rate will be glacially slow. The BLUE HADES civilisation will also be mostly sub-sentient, or sentient only some of the time.

So, the BLUE HADES approach will be to keep quiet, keep their intelligences mostly shut down and stay as quiet as possible relying on the suitably cowed and clued-up humans to deal with (or divert attention from the covert super-civs) any incursions.

62:

A small nitpick that I can't help bringing up because it kept bothering the Banks fan in me: the phrase from the Culture is "outside context problem", not "out of context problem".

63:

My interpretation of Bob's eye worms was that it was a projection from Lecter in order to get Mo to eliminate a threat, not something innate to Bob.

64:

The glowy-eyes bit seems that he's at least somewhat dead. That they're not glowing all the time makes it seem like inhabiting a body you're used to allows him to appear normal (or at least he's got the chops to throw up a glamour to hide his eyes without trying too hard).

There's also the helpful bit that he's doing the magic as a spirit now rather than a normal ape which helps keep the feeders from chewing on his grey squishy bits.

What I'm wondering is how much Angleton has to do with things. Bob seemed to have no problem chewing up the missionaries even before all this and the ritual didn't get a hold on The Eater of Souls as he was otherwise occupied, but what if Bob managed to become an Eater of Souls in his own right.

65:

One impression I keep getting as we get deeper into the Laundry series is that Mahogany Row's upper echelon seems to have a bad habit of pushing its agents to the breaking point, only to miscalculate and realize too late that they've pushed them past the breaking point.

Back in The Rhesus Chart, they pretty much said flat-out that Agents CANDID and HOWARD were both critical assets to the future, and that each provided a critical support function to the other, and they still pushed both of them insanely hard.

So, yeah, Bob's deep in denial about his current state, and still suffering the sort of social dyslexia that a lot of techies (myself included) have to deal with; Mo's got lots of baggage of her own on top of being pushed by her superiors into a full-blown breakdown; but when I look at the foundering of their marriage, I've got to lay the bulk of the blame on Mahogany Row, for overworking Mo past the breaking point, and overloading Bob at the same time (not to mention still treating him like a mushroom two-thirds of the time even if he's part of the lower ranks of Mahogany Row now).

But I suppose one can still be a bit optimistic (or wearing rose-colored glasses). Not every casualty is a fatality, after all; and I thought I got a sense from this one that Bob and Mo still worry about each other, and love each other, even if their marriage can't be salvaged from the wreckage.

===

Incidentally, I know Chapter 1 is supposed to be Mo's recollection of the aftermath, but is it supposed to take place after that last conversation between Mo and the Senior Auditor?

66:

Averting my gaze to not be spoilered.
Was just looking at the Apple iBooks store, noticed that "The Annihilation Score" is listed as Contemporary, not in the SFF category, if anyone is looking for it there.

I also noticed that someone is selling unofficial looking copies of "Scratch Monkey" and "Accelerando" for $0.99, are these legal copies? (I've already got the free versions from here.)

67:

I would take a much looser view in the dead/alive discussion. What we have to do is view how an intelligent, computing organism works in the Laundry universe.

At the most basic level a computing device wholly in this universe can do very simple magic.

More advanced magic necessitates calling in other-universe computing entities which can utilise the this universe/other universe thing much more effectively to play fast and loose with normally immutable physical laws in this universe. Note that these entities may be complex, but do not need to be conscious intelligences like a human is.

The Eater of Souls is not a human-type intelligence, but may instead be seen as an other-universe hypercomputing system. It has magical powers and informational destruction abilities of a very high order, but it isn't conscious. When it was called into the human that would become Angleton, what was done was to bind an alien hypercomputer to a mad human; the compute system immediately then imposed order onto the human, then when the Laundry subsequently made the human/hypercomputer composite into a school teacher to try to teach it manners, this process progressed a lot further as the computing entity used the model of "Public school teacher" as a model for how a human was supposed to work; the insane murderer was clearly hugely sub-optimal so was overwritten with the new pattern.

When the binding of the Eater of Souls entity to Bob Howard was made, the Eater clearly had a good, long look at Bob and decided that in his case, as he wasn't insane there was no need to overwrite his personality, and it therefore only lent him some of its powers; later almost all of its powers with Angleton, err, indisposed.

The Eater of Souls would seem to be an alien weapons system that has out-lasted, or perhaps has destroyed the civilisation that made it. A lot of the other-universe entities seem to be of this order of device/entity, or seem to be parasites of some description.

68:

I just got to Mo's new ride, shortly after the stirring words from the Senior Auditor about her new team's purpose, and I needed to pop in to say that you must have had so much fun writing this book.

Also, I feel bad for the Human Cowboy. Damned radioactive cows.

69:
Mo kept finding excuses to not hand Lecter back to the Laundry, to retire him, destroy him or pass him on to someone else. She kept him close while pushing Bob away once it was clear Bob was now a threat to Lecter.

I don't read it as Mo doing all the pushing. Both Bob and Mo equally realise that there is a problem. Indeed Bob is the one who makes it explicit and makes a decision to leave. And Bob is not exactly going all-out to pull Mo back again during the rest of the book. (Indeed… I'm rather suspicious about Bob's absences. Knowing what OGH has done to us in the past I suspect that there's more to his gaps spent dealing with Angleton's actions than has been revealed.)

Yes she does find lots of reasons not to get rid of Lecter during the book, but they're not exactly bad excuses either. And, from our perspective, Lecter is obviously having far more effect on Mo than she understands.

She showed no sign of being afraid of Mhairi in their encounter at the house, it was perfectly clear Mhairi was terrified of Mo and Lecter and desperately trying to get away. What consumed her in their encounter was the idea that Bob was having an affair with her (""Did you have sex with her?" I have to ask, God help me.") hence her torture of Mhairi:

Oh I didn't think Mo was afraid of Mhairi. She's the combat specialist. She can eat Mhairi for breakfast and knows it. She was afraid about what Mhairi might have done. To Bob. Who, in her eyes, mostly falls into hideous life threatening situations and gets through it via the skin of his teeth.

Her context is just coming back from the Laundry where there has been body count, she knows her husband has been involved and has had "a very bad time".

And she comes home to find a vampire in her house.

I don't think it was initially obvious to Mo that Mhairi was terrified. There's an explicit bit in Mo's internal monologue where she realises that she was misinterpreting Mhairi's body language (or has had it misinterpreted for her via Lecter).

So my reading of the event, from Mo's POV, was roughly.

Shit. Vampire. In my house. Code red not over. Bob's in danger. Lecter out now. Shit. Wards are up. Bob's mind-controlled? She's not actually trying to hurt me. Body language is wrong… is she in my house fucking my husband. [Mo asks one question. Bob misinterprets and answers a different one. Mo misunderstands answer.] Shit. Lecter won't let me stand down. Shit. Bob has gone full-on Eater of Souls post-Angleton. Shit. Lecter wants to kill Bob and wants me to hate him.

… all over probably two or three minutes elapsed time.

All in all I think Bob and Mo did pretty well.

… and somehow Bob's the villain for being, well, Bob and stopping her killing him.

I don't think Bob's the villain in this scene. Just like I don't think Mo was the villain in the same scene at the end of TRC. I think Bob's being Bob and Mo's being Mo. They're both acting sensibly, for massively stressed values of sensible, in their context.

Nobody is the villain here. It's just two people in a horrible situation failing to communicate well, not being helped by various eldritch influences.

70:

No, those are not legal copies.

Could you point the link in the ibooks store for Accelerando at me? I think I'll go drop Penguin Random House's legal department on whoever's being naughty.

72:
One impression I keep getting as we get deeper into the Laundry series is that Mahogany Row's upper echelon seems to have a bad habit of pushing its agents to the breaking point, only to miscalculate and realize too late that they've pushed them past the breaking point.

So. Much. This.

One of the things I really liked about TAS was how Mo's mental health problems were presented. She was so far gone down the road of stress/PTSD that the coping strategies had become normalised and structured.

And the SA obviously *knew* this. He knew that she was going through a nervous breakdown. Yet they still pushed until she broke.

The only possible explanation I can see (beyond huge incompetence) is that the Laundry staffing/training problem is even worse that we think it is and there just isn't anybody else who can step in.

73:

Random Penguin lawyers will descend in due course.

(Going by previous form, nothing will be heard for a few days, then a whimpering email apology saying "please make the nasty men with baseball bats labelled MADE IN CUPERTINO go away! I'm sorry!" will emanate from the culprit. Apple really don't like people selling pirate content through their store for some reason.)

74:

The only possible explanation I can see (beyond huge incompetence) is that the Laundry staffing/training problem is even worse that we think it is and there just isn't anybody else who can step in.

Yup.

CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is governed by Moore's Law, but Laundry HR is governed by Brooks' Law.

75:

The only possible explanation I can see (beyond huge incompetence) is that the Laundry staffing/training problem is even worse that we think it is and there just isn't anybody else who can step in.

Almost certainly; and the incident at the end of TRC didn't help.

And additionally, what with the close connection between maths and magic, I'd expect high-level magic practitioners in the Laundryverse to display many similar personality traits to more run-of-the-mill nerds. I.e., it's quite possible that while they're fantastic at magic, they're just a bit rubbish at people. And the fact that they're probably, in one way or another, quite far removed from ordinary human experience do will exacerbate that.

76:
while they're fantastic at magic, they're just a bit rubbish at people

You have basically described Bob ;-)

77:

(Ignore "do" in the last sentence there, it's left over from another sentence.)

78:

I don't know about the Eater of Souls being a weapons system or anything like that; I don't think there's sufficient data to tell what he really is when he (or maybe "it") is at home, at the moment.

As for not wiping Bob's harddrive when he inserted himself into his system: I think it's very likely indeed that Bob was in fact chosen and cultivated for entanglement/possession, by the Eater him/itself, as a sort of lifeboat/backup for just such an eventuality as occurred in TRC. And the whole charade with Iris and her minions was just a convenient way of getting the thing done. In that case, at least part of the reason why Bob is still Bob despite sharing his head with an immense alien intelligence may be that there is something about him that said alien intelligence still finds intensely useful.

(I guess it's also possible that Angleton went native far enough to develop a certain fondness for some human beings, and is preserving Bob for that reason.)

79:

Not to mention what happens to the Peter Principle when incompetence gets your brains eaten.

80:

It seemed to me (and it might be just me) you foreshadowed quite heavily in this book, more so than normal. Professor Freudstein being the Police Force's collective pseudonym, Mo being in line for auditor when she comes back, Mo being a real superhero and actually becoming invisible, even if she doesn't realise it for long time.

With those clues, quite a lot of the rest of the plot dropped into place pretty much intact. Which isn't to say it made for a bad read at all but it made me feel obscurely disappointed in Mo for not putting the pieces together until she was in mortal peril however much I realise it made for a spectacular ending. And opening a portal to summon the King in Yellow at the LNOTP is a really spectacular ending. I want to see the movie of this book just for that!

I wasn't a big fan of superhero comics and I'm not a big fan of superhero movies either but I was just wondering if that was deliberate, if it seemed like part of the genre to you?

81:

You mean "Designed by Apple in Cupertino, California." They'd be made in China. Or maybe Brazil.

(Blast it, now I am picturing what an Ive-designed baseball bat would look like.)

82:

Psychological trauma and overwork can sap reasoning skills pretty badly - I don't find it all that unrealistic that Mo's not at the top of her game.

83:
Psychological trauma and overwork can sap reasoning skills pretty badly - I don't find it all that unrealistic that Mo's not at the top of her game.

Seconded.

As someone who had a diagnosis of PTSD courtesy of a really bad relationship, I can attest from the inside. And thanks to therapy its a lot better now - I no longer freak out about red sports cars.

84:

Speaking of books 8 and 9: Is the series still planned to be nine books plus a book of novellas?

85:

Why did the first supervillain (the one that Mo took down while outing herself) die in police custody when Mo said her magic sentence? That would make sense if Freudstein was a high-powered supervillain who had geased the guy in captivity, but that makes less sense if Freudstein is really a group of policemen.

But you did say that you rewrote the ending. Maybe the first ending had a different Freudstein that could do geases, or maybe it is supposed to make sense as written and there is a policeman we haven't met who can do geases.

There was a policewoman who geased Mo at the end, but she only operated Mo's oath of office rather than making something fresh. It doesn't make sense for that first supervillain in captivity to have that oath of office.

86:

I just wrote several thousand words on how I'm finding it difficult to see the huge, eye-opening discrepancies TAS's POV change is supposed to reveal between Bob's view of the world/himself/Mo/his relationship with Mo, and Mo's view of same. (I feel like I either missed something major about TAS, or got something out of the previous books that I wasn't really supposed to get out of them.)

Then I decided that instead of posting another tiresome wall of text here, it would be better to put this as a question/series of questions:

Is anyone else feeling that TAS's version of the Laundryverse actually tracks pretty well with what we could piece together based on Bob's version of it in the previous five books? Or have you had moments of epiphany with TAS, which made your reconsider essential elements of the series? And if yes, what were they?

87:

I think he just died of K syndrome.

Which reminds me: it's a bit odd that Mo angsts so much about Jim's risk of K syndrome, and then we don't even get to see her broaching the topic at all.

88:

It doesn't seem like we got an answer by the end of the book whether Jim, and the other 3-sigma-and-above supers on the team, were going to run into Krantzberg syndrome. All we knew was that some supers showed degeneration over a few months and others didn't. Was that deliberately reserved for a future book? Even given all the other problems to attend to that question seemed to receive less attention than I'd expect. If they are courting K syndrome, every time the super team deploys they're basically burning several quality adjusted life years from the members, and nobody who volunteered yet knows of the risks. It's said early in the book "the only way to stop it is to stop practicing magic." Even if Mo and superiors are even more ruthless/callous than I thought, surely it's not good if your highly publicized super team all turn into super-Alzheimer's cases and die a year later. I'm also curious what might differentiate the supers at risk from those not at risk. Are the supers with protected brains turning other people's brains to mush instead?

89:

So that means Bob's going to neglect to brief his underlings in just the same way (or worse) as Andy, Angleton et al neglected to brief him? That's a shame.

90:

I, too, have trouble accepting the idea that by the time Mo notices the superpowers problem it's been public knowledge for several months already. In fact, that sort of broke my suspension of disbelief for the story world a bit. I mean, I get it that Mo hasn't been quite herself lately, and very busy and so on, but... this isn't even about her failing to read a newspaper in three months. I could buy a regular philosophy prof, in personal crisis to boot, being oblivious to something like this, but Mo isn't a regular prof, she's *an agent working for an occult intelligence agency*. How the hell can she not have heard one peep about this?

Same goes for Bob, actually, as TRC overlaps with TAS. Same goes for pretty much the whole Laundry, in fact. This should have been office gossip all through TRC.

91:

I don't generally watch movies at all, never mind superhero ones; as for comics, the foreward to "Annihilation Score" says it all. (Yes, I have some comics on auto-buy via comixology. Things like Rat Queens, Alex & Ada, Saga, and The Wicked + The Divine. Some of them approach superhero territory tangentially, but they're not exactly Fantastic Four/Avengers fodder; I'd be more likely to go for Grant Morrison era Doom Patrol anyway.)

92:

Speaking of books 8 and 9: Is the series still planned to be nine books plus a book of novellas?

Nope, no definite length constraint. Partly because book 6 (this one) is a deviation from the main plot track, whereas book 7 -- yet another narrative viewpoint -- advances the plot quite a lot; I make no apologies for writing stories that flesh out the universe without advancing the overall story arc, so I can't be sure where it will all end (although there's a vague overall story arc in mind).

If you are thinking "the magical singularity, with added political drama and future shock, as seen through the traumatized eyes of the practitioners caught up in it", you'd be on the right track.

93:

If they are courting K syndrome, every time the super team deploys they're basically burning several quality adjusted life years from the members, and nobody who volunteered yet knows of the risks.

Yup. Remember, this book covers about 3 months of wall clock time -- not a long time for everything to become clear.

Oh, there are ways around K syndrome. The PHANGs are effectively immune, but he cost is drastic. Something else that is immune is introduced in "The Nightmare Stacks" but that ain't necessarily a good answer either.

And I need to start wondering what the n-th generation descendents of Jose Delgado's research might have delivered ...

94:

Is it just that The Laundry is rubbish at people, or is there another force at work keeping Bob & Mo apart so much?

(Present host excluded, I mean.)

95:

If I'd come to the series cold and I hadn't seen comments to the effect that "Bob is an unreliable narrator" I might haven't taken the previous books at face value.

As it is no real surprises but a more rounded view of the man.

96:

I wouldn't put it past the SA, if he thought Bob would take the edge off Mo's game.

97:

I hope not, I need them back together. ;-)

(I don't know why, but I ship these two. Which is weird, because I generally don't. Ship, that is.)

Seriously, though, I really hope they'll find a way to repair their relationship because I really, truly think they're more *interesting* together than apart. Seeing people make a relationship work under these highly odd and, to be honest, terrifying circumstances is *far* more novel and fascinating than seeing them be separated by them.

98:

Is it just that The Laundry is rubbish at people, or is there another force at work keeping Bob & Mo apart so much?

Forces keeping them apart:

a) A certain bone-white violin

b) Mo's not unreasonable fear of the Eater of Souls (trainee) mistaking her for a midnight snack one night

c) "the end of the world, which is an ongoing work-related problem" (and presumably a source of stress)

I'm not saying anything about their relationship in future books, except to note that they're both off-screen for almost the entirety of book 7 (it isn't really about either of them).

99:

Ok. Also, a heads up: the non-www version of your domain isn't resolving; I'd expect a redirect to the www version.

100:

Re: eye-worms being due to Lecter: yeah, I considered the possibility. And Spooky's reaction may have been to Lecter's activity rather than Bob's zombieing out. But even so, Bob has had some *really* weird moments over the past two books, in which - I don't recall the phrasing - he apparently felt like his soul was dislocated. Which sounds a lot like a sensation a semi-undead person whose soul was decanted, mixed with a dash of Eater of Souls, and then poured back, willy-nilly, into the just-vacated vessel, might feel.

101:

(Oh man, I'm being obnoxious here. I think I'm going to shut up for a day or so, now. Way too much work tomorrow anyway...)

102:

CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is governed by Moore's Law...

I look forward to the laundryverse equivalent of a GPU cluster: the Pied Piper of Hamelin as CPU node and the rats as the GPU cores.

103:

Nope, I don't run a wildcard alias on antipope.org.

This might change when I add an SSL-compatible web service but I've been avoiding that for a while (the usual way of doing multihomed secure HTTP via Apache is incompatible with older versions of MSIE on Windows up to and including XP).

104:

As I fully expect everyone to die in the end, I'm in no rush to see the culmination of CNG...

105:

As a woman of an age similar to Mo's, who has had to change careers after a quite spectacular bit of near-karoshi, I cheered in delight at multiple points during this book when you said things I've thought so many times. I don't have any deep questions or comments other than to say "thank you!" I took a mental health day off from work just to read this book and it was utterly worth it.

106:

I'm 3/4 of the way through, loving it, but I have to say, Mo's perceived age-induced invisibility is far from solely a female province.

Suffice to say there's *at least* one more incredibly common, based physical attribute (NOT even going into ethnicity, weight, or sexual preference) which can guarantee you an entire life of *statistically proven* lesser treatment and being discounted. I leave it as a exercise to the reader to figure out what I'm talking about.

This Doonesbury strip isn't exactly what I'm talking about, but it proves my point: age invisibility strikes us all-


http://comicsidontunderstand.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/570_d4c7e50096ed012e2f8100163e41dd5b.jpeg

107:

WELL THAT WAS WEIRD OF YOU, BRAIN!

...burned through the book, great read, lots of fun... fell asleep, had a dream that in the meeting where Mo tried to resign a mini-portal opened up and kicked the case back through, with Lecter saying sheepishly that he got in a fight with Hastur, and if he could crash at Mo's tonight?

108:

Charlie, thanks for another great book.

Is it just me or was anyone else humming Underground by Ben Folds Five every time Jim Grey's superhero name was mentioned?

109:

I think you mean the acknowledgements at the end. The Kindle version of Annihilation Score, at least, doesn't have a foreword.

110:

Mo's sudden fear of Bob being the new Eater of Souls is a little unexpected to me. He's had the powers since The Fuller Memorandum. The ending of that book literally concluded with Bob's recovery which included him being afraid to touch his wife for fear he'd eat her. He's had the ability and its been a bit obvious for two books now: I'm finding it a little hard to digest that Mo has been ignorant about it (especially since she was there) until he inherited the rest from Angleton.

111:

Charlie,
A probable typo, in the Acknowledgements page (IX) of the US hardback edition. In the second paragraph, listing the tire kickers, you note Seanan Maguire. I suspect that should be Seanan McGuire.

Frank.

112:

The one typo I caught was in the intro - Seanan McGuire's name is misspelled as Seanan Maguire.

113:

And missing FrankO's comment at 111 is what I get for not reading to the end.

114:

"What sort of fool goes out and buys a Lycra body stocking and cape, then beats up on bank robbers for their jollies? They're not like you and I."

Excuse I for mentioning it, but it should be you and me. The SA, green screen CRT and all, is too old for that particular mistake.

115:

It seems too coincidental for Spratt to be bouncing off the walls one moment and then Mo says slowly and clearly "Are you forbidden to talk about professor Freudstein?" and then he instantly dies. The negated question was meant to put him into a double bind. It is bad if he says "yes" because he shouldn't be giving information about Freudstein, and bad if he says "no" because I suppose he'd be lying? I don't see why he has to answer the question at all, and I don't see why he has a problem with lying.

If he had been geased to answer all questions truthfully and also geased by some other party to keep secrets about Freudstein, that would make sense. The latter might be the violin but I don't see who the former would be.

The violin was in play. The people in the room thought Spratt was adequately warded against it, but perhaps it was better at getting at Spratt than they thought. It was certainly better at inserting itself into Mo's dreams than was expected.

116:

Huh. Will add that to the snag list; I'm wondering if two names got conflated by the typesetter because I distinctly remember checking the spelling of Seanan's name -- but there should also be a mention of a Patrick Maguire (sic)!

117:

I accept it makes sense for Mo to be stressed out on lots of levels and miss things. It doesn't stop me feeling disappointed in her, sorry, it's how I felt when I was reading it.

118:

Ok, thanks. It just seemed odd for you but something I expect from my very occasional dips into the genre.

119:

A good book and in the tradition to change theme for each book, while putting us further on the road to Armageddon.
But I have some big problems with Annihilation Score

• The superpower thing. It violates all basic science and tells us that either we have missed something big from the beginning of science, or that something recently have changed. The science community should be in uproar and/or hysteria since any future changes may make biological life as we know it impossible. The tabloids may originally had the perspective “idiots/heroes in lycra”, but should quickly change its to “What will the next Change bring?” Also, everyone in the Laundry with a knowledge of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN would react to any mention of “superpowered people appearing” as signs of “the end have begun”. For Mo to miss this is as for a (grounded) RAF pilot ignoring the Tu 160 circling above London.

• Mo is stressed out by Lecter, her dirty and/or wet jobs for the Laundry (that seems to be more or less montly), Bobs change into something not 100% human, weaker contacts with the society outside the Laundry and the split Lector-Bob. What does the Laundry do to assist one of their critical assets – especially since CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN obviously have begun? They mix mushroom management, tethered goat, emotional rollercoaster _and_ intense work pressure and pour over her. It is not only stupid, it is also an ineffective way to achieve their goals. Why not let Bob stay in London half the time, at least? Does it really matter if he checks out something the Eater of Souls did (which is the only thing Bob is uniqly qualified for) in 12 months, or in 24 months? What if Mo had her big breakdown a week before Albert Hall and went catatonic – then the whole plan had been for nothing, while the Met would have gained months of unopposed time to act.

• The endgame. Hmmm. Why not give Mo a decoy violin (that looks identical and have a big thaum field) to carry around after the SA gave his “to the end of the month” speech? It would prevent magical disasters during the mission, keep an important artifact safe and still humiliate the opposition. Or keep the violin case filled with whatever the Laundry uses as tear gas/flash bangs? Or adding a tape recorder and a entanglement spell to the case, letting them monitor whatever the Met are saying in real time? Or modifying Mos Oath of Office, for just this time? Instead _everything_ hangs on a pair of rings without any communication protocoll between the users. In Jennifer Morgue the endgame was far better planned and executed, in Apocalypse Codex the agents had no warning in advance (and operated in Black Chambers territory) and in the Fueller Memorandum Bob at least used his smartphone in a smart way.

In the end we have a broken down Mo that have killed thousands of civilians (and in earlier Laundry books both killing and not protecting civilians are frowned upon) on TV. Whoever planned and executed this operation should get a big black mark in their personal file.

120:

Point 1: yeah, good point. But all of that is off-screen background detail. It's probably beginning to happen, but grant proposals take time to write. (And would you want to be the guy who stands up in the budget meeting and proposes a pivot to research something hitherto deemed utterly implausible?)

Point 2: see comment 74. Also: with CNG approaching, some of those sites Angleton locked down in the 1940s to 1960s are getting a little bit unstable ...

Point 3: A decoy violin is a great idea, just as long as you know who your adversary is (the SA isn't certain yet) and know they're tracking the bearer, not the asset itself (which is certainly trackable). Also, you're sort of assuming competence verging on omniscience on the part of a security organization. Just how realistic is that?

(As for the "in the end", that's nothing compared to what's coming in the next two books in series. Hint: from Peter Wright to Edward Snowden, We Have Been Paying Attention.)

121:

Point 1: I meant that both scientific journals (and mailing lists, discussion foras etc) should be full of excited / terrified discussions and early experiments regarding how physics now allow what wasn’t possible 12 months ago. Not all scientists have to fill in grant proposals to run their supercomputers/electron microscopes/PET scanners etc during the night. Nerdy mass media (WIRED, for example) should send this 24/7, and ordinary mass media should follow.

Not to mention that a lot of scientists with political know-how would create a gravy train to jump on. Some strategic interviews where the scientist predict doomsday would quickly spread to everyone. I mean, just look at Paul Ehrlich who have done this for almost 50 years _without_ presenting any scientific breakthroughs.

I suppose you react different than most humans when you hear the word “Laundry”. I react on some words with relation to my work, And Mo would react when she heard “super abilities” or “unknown powers” even when half asleep – CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is on the horizon and “ordinary people becoming (mad) gods” have been a prophecy since the first book

Point 2: Well, there is a difference between “usual” mismanagement + indifference and what Mo is put up to by the Laundry. A project manager on Microsoft can treat his programmers as crap, since they are replaceable. But if Microsoft only had 1 programmer that could do X _without any chance of finding a replacement_ that programmer would be treated as a king.

The Laundry sees Mo as de facto irreplaceable, but treats her as they had ten replacements in waiting _and_ that her current mission can be written of without consequecenses if she break downs a week before endgame – while (at least I see it as) it was necessary for Mo to be functioning for the mission to succeed, and a failure to the mission would be very bad for the Laundry (or the Greater London as a whole).

Mo does de facto carry a weapon of mass destruction and should be treated as the missile officers onboard SSBNs. Aren’t there some professional standards for “personal that can open gates to Hell” within the Laundry? If Isis could evade her Oath of Office there could be more loopholes.

Regarding Bobs missions he claimed it would take 18 months to do it all. That means it is not time critical enough to keep him in road warrior mode 90% of the time. My reasoning is that since the Laundry obviously are in the dark about both what Angleton left behind and how CNG would affect it they wouldn’t let 18 months pass but do it far quicker. (A private jet with a dedicated support crew doing documentation and processing, jumping from place to place would cut down the time with 90%).

Point 3: Well, you have built up Mahogeny Road as omnipotent :-) Seriously, if the manuscript for the violin is stolen I would lock up the violin and make sure to keep two ears to the ground about people trying to create new violins. And Mo didn’t need Lector for everyday use. So “simply” put up a really strong grid, give Mo the decoy violin, place Lecter in a sealed safe and turn of the grid. Even the best wizard would only notice that the thaum signature of Lecter was changed. If Mo kept the case closed it would be impossible for the opposition to know if she had Lector – and it doesn’t seem that the opposition have such good wizards. Don’t the Laundry have a de facto monopoly on formally trained wizards while the cultists go by rote and brute force (human sacrifices)?

If the SA worried enough about Mo to both give her a sympatic ring and order her to keep Lector he know what would happen – just not when, where and who. That would make tracking/arming her case far more relevant no matter who Fredenstein was.

122:

Regarding the Laundry's inhumane treatment of Mo: it's been made pretty clear that there's a distinct difference between the Laundry, as a modernish Civil Service organization, and the Invisible College/Mahogany Row, which is something different entirely.

The Laundry's HR department would certainly care about the sort of chronic mismanagement and employee abuse that's been heaped upon Mo (and Bob, in previous books), probably in a fashion involving committee meetings and ticky-box charts. Unfortunately, they're pretty much entirely out of the loop when it comes to field ops.

A good proportion of Mahogany Row are older; they all think they know better -- their inability to work within the confines of the larger organization is why Mahogany Row was set up in the first place. The SA, for instance, certainly has the attitude that certain "modern" rules don't apply to him -- see Mo's reaction to being offered a glass of whiskey. Why wouldn't this also apply to health and safety rules, or guidelines concerning not stressing your employees past breaking point?

While we had stopped shooting our own soldiers for suffering shell-shock by World War 2 -- which was the genesis of SOE and the Laundry -- proper recognition of stress disorders has taken a long time. PTSD as a named diagnosis only arrived in 1980, for instance. In a world where powerful sorcerers tend to die young from K-Syndrome, assuming the nameless horrors from beyond space-time didn't eat them first, is Dr. Armstrong going to be predisposed to worry about "a little stress" in his assets? Especially if he feels that said stress may enhance their performance before they finally break.

To sum up: yes, the SA demonstrates a kindly face and an avuncular manner, but he's just as happy to use, break and then dispose of his tools as any of the inhuman monsters in the series. It may not be what we would consider the smartest approach, but so far it's gotten results...

123:

As it seems like magic, the multiverse and the Laundry are going to become real public real soon is there any chance Pete will return to the story? I found the magic circle of safety subplot in RC to be really interesting. It's pretty unique to have an impending disaster/magic system in a setting and have a government awareness campaign on it.

I'd be interested to see where that project goes to now that the government are more strongly behind public awareness of magic. Can we expect to see civilian occult protection apps? Building regulations that include suitable warding alongside insulation and energy usage? Will a 999 call give you the option of Occult Service alongside the three regulars?

124:

"The Nightmare Stacks" (book 7, due July 2016) is an Alex the PHANG book. As you might imagine, Pete -- as Alex's mentor -- features quite heavily, although Magic Circle of Safety doesn't. (If I get time I can backfill it in the background, but TNS is already shaping up to be a very long book, even in first -- skeletal -- draft ...)

125:

Sorry, I know I should just reread, but:

Did I miss it --- what was the SA's reason for assembling Bob's ex-es into a team! that fights crime! ? (Obviously they were fabulously well qualified, but the Bob connection?)

And, not having a cat, a daft question. When Spooky rescues both Mo & Bob, is that normal cat behaviour or is (s)he somehow special?


And some isolated squee, even more ignorable I'm sure:

Loved it. Really had to grin at the invisible woman motif in the novel (a very nice spin on the personal is political).

When giggling at the "Thought crime, O'Brien' line I realised just how many pop culture references I must be missing.

Thought Bob was more of an oblivious narrator than an unreliable one. Glasshouse's Robin --- now that was an unreliable narrator.

126:

what was the SA's reason for assembling Bob's ex-es into a team! that fights crime! ? (Obviously they were fabulously well qualified, but the Bob connection?

There's no Bob connection: there just aren't that many unassigned operatives at that level. Ramona is a liaison body planted on the Laundry by you-know-who: the Laundry want her as far out of the inner sanctum as they can keep her, so where better than a peripheral arm's reach organization? As for Mhari, she's about the only imaginable HR body who can plausibly resist a superpowered individual who's trying to roll her -- most people who end up in HR aren't credible field agents in their own right. And she's got the perfect qualifications to assist Mo in running the organization.

It's also just possible that the SA is subtly cranking up the pressure on Mo to see how she deals with threats to her personal integrity. Because that's something you might want to know when considering someone as a possible Auditor.

Spooky ... is a cat on the mantelpiece, in the sense of Chekov's gun. The trigger is not pulled prior to book 8 (and possibly not even then.)

127:

It will be good to see Pete again and if MCS makes a tiny show all the better :) for some reason I can't get PSAs for magic in the Laundryverse out of my head. Perhaps because it seems like such a realistic response, I can just see the NHS adverts plastered over buses:

Slurred Speech? Tremors in the hands and limbs? Often forgetful? Exhibiting signs of Powers? STOP what ever you are doing and thinking. Call the NHS Krantzberg Syndrome Hotline and intently focus your thoughts on the audio recording until the para(normal)medics arrive.

128:

It's also just possible that the SA is subtly cranking up the pressure on Mo to see how she deals with threats to her personal integrity. Because that's something you might want to know when considering someone as a possible Auditor.

That basically what they did to Bob in The Apocalypse Codex, didn't they? See if he would cut and run, leaving the contractors swinging in the wind? Or did that happen more on accident?

129:

Adding a bit more to this excellent riposte to point 2.

Bob and Mo are both unreliable narrators and fully aware that the organisation will be reading their journals. Given either of those why they could either be deluding themselves as to the SA's concerns for them, OR deliberately dissembling because they know he will read them.

We also have the Black Chamber as an example - and it been strongly hinted that the bosses of that are not human - any suppositions that the Laundry is any better is on very shaky ground imo.

And last point - name any decent spy/thriller novel EVER where the protagonists don't get shafted by their own side, usually repeatedly and without lube.

I know OGH has ruled out doing it - but imagine a Laundry novel(or more than one) with Mo and Bob based around Len Deightons Game, Set and Match trilogy (plus the other 6-7!)

130:

Liked the book an awful lot, reading some of OGH's explanations for some matter here actually increased my enjoyment of it.

Just one issue - Mo and Jim. At the point where Mo is 'dating' Jim, she's already been warned that he may be An Unreliable Asset, she's aware that the Police/HomeOffice are monitoring the TPCF, and are probably intending to annex it.

Given her overall paranoia (and yes, I'm aware of her mental state/breakdown, but that would normally manifest with increased paranoia), why isn't her first reaction to Jim's overtures to immediately suspect SOP Tradecraft - honey pot planted directly at the feet of the senior person in the TPCF?

131:

Probably because she's lonely. Her marriage is breaking down, she's dwelling on how much she misses her husband but also focusing on the things he isn't good at, she doesn't have a real social life (at one point she mentions she's out of the loop on Sandy's pregnancy and how telling that is) and it seems the only person she has in her life that she is any way close to is a demonic violin.

Jim might be suspect but he's sociable, likable, has similar interests, is a couple of years down the line on the marital breakdown front* and is someone she can be close to. He's quite perfect given that she can share normal experiences (dinner, show, drinks) and her secret life with him.

Is it any wonder she has blind spots to the potential trap?

*Though I still hold hope that things will work out for Bob and Mo.

132:

Maybe it's just me, but I got the distinct impression that the SA was quite deliberately pushing Mo to breaking point, and his behaviour in their last meeting only served to confirm that. Given that they're dealing with stuff that's most recognisable feature is its tendency to drive people insane, it makes a horrible kind of sense to me that the Laundry wouldn't want to promote anyone too far without them having had - and survived - at least one major mental breakdown. It's almost certainly going to happen again, so you want people who've proven they can handle losing their marbles.

133:

I seem to have missed an explanation for the suggestion given by SA, that Officer Friendly was not present during flight to Manchester. It seemed like a set up for some kind of a twist involving his armor, but it was never explained.

134:

AMA: Not long ago in a somewhat political discussion, you laid out what you thought a good government should be, which included giving high priority to aims that, while not mutually exclusive, are hard to balance.

I've been trying to find the quote. I don't suppose you remember?

135:

Found it. This time round using "orthogonal" as a search term did the trick.

"I just want a party to vote for whose three guiding principles are (a) maximize individual liberty, (b) minimize the Gini coefficient, and (c) protect the commons. Yes, I am aware that these three goals are orthogonal and often conflict with one another: that's why it requires an ongoing process of negotiation rather than an ideologically-driven damn-the-torpedoes race to the goal."
136:

I finished reading The Annihilation Score last night, I really enjoyed it, although it makes a lot more sense now that I've read the spoiler thread comments.

Like Mo I've set up a team on short notice, and turned up to a bare walled, carpeted empty room. No phones, no computers, no furniture, nothing. I've done it twice, once for Climate Change Levy and once for passports. It's amazing how fast the civil service can do things when it is in crisis mode. Normally it takes months to sort out furniture, yet in a crisis someone will drive a van full of spare stuff from Sheffield to central London. The setup of the team felt real enough to me, I've been that Assistant Director lobbying for resources to get the job done.

As a career civil servant and current denizen of the Peel Building I've got a couple of minor nits to pick.

First up, when civil servants talk about a Department they pretty much always mean a Department of State, like the Home Office, or MOD. Bits inside that have a whole variety of names, something the sort of size that Mo has control of is probably a Directorate, a Divison or a Unit. That said, the Laundry isn't mainstream civil service and nor is Mo or any of her staff. So the different use of language is completely understandable.

The sixth floor in the Peel building isn't a Ministerial floor, but it does have meeting rooms and there's no reason why the meeting described couldn't have taken place there. However most of the very large meetings would be in the ground floor conference suite (which doesn't have windows to anywhere people can walk past and is separated from the rest of the building). Most of the meeting rooms elsewhere in the building would be pushed to fit more than a dozen people comfortably (although there are a handful of big enough rooms around the building, and I'm sure there's a Board room too).

Also the grading terms in use have dropped Under-Secretary, the SCS2 guys tend to be referred to as Directors, although I can see how that would be confusing given the description of Mo as a Director. We're pretty loose about the term Director, it gets applied at a variety of levels according to the size of the organisation. In my neck of the Home Office we have SCS1 and SCS2 staff both of whom are referred to as Directors, and I've seen people at my own level having the Director label when they work in very small agencies. So it probably makes sense to leave the Under-Secretary label on the senior officials, it pitches them at the right level (two down from the Permanent Secretary).

It's all very minor, and it didn't stop me thoroughly enjoying it, especially when I was reading about the meetings in the Peel building while sitting in it reading over lunch with line of sight to the Home Secretary's private office...

137:

Today: prologue-related questions:

1.) At what point of TAS should we assume the prologue to be written? If we were to assume that it was written (in-universe, by Mo) after the events that the book relates, it seems strange that she still seems extremely bothered by Mhari and Ramona. Yet if it was written earlier, then how can she talk about her superhero team experience in the past tense, and the violin as a going concern?

I remember having similar issues with the prologues of at least some of the previous books, most definitely with TRC's. Maybe Prologue Time in the Laundryverse is as vague and strange as Hotel Space?

2.) Mo mentions that she is a combat epistemologist, and essentially assures the reader that their questions about this will be answered later. Yet if I remember correctly she doesn't use her philosopher's mojo at all in TAS, and so we still haven't seen combat epistemology in action, and thus don't really know what it is. Or did I overlook some blink-and-you'll-miss-it epistemological beat-down somewhere?

138:

Just finished it, and it was fun.

One gigglicious little detail: all these senior sorcerers isolating themselves in spaces that are a few cubic meters in size, where nothing can get in and out, then spending hours in there.

I keep waiting for the air scrubbers to be turned on or air tanks to be cracked. But, despite the need for battery lanterns, no other tech is used.

I've got to admit, those are really great magical walls, keeping the air breathable without any contact with the larger universe around them. Cool trick, that. Similar magic should be included in all the "away" suits used by people walking through gates to airless worlds.

139:

Another typo:
US Ace Hardcover Edition, page 358, about 2/3 down:
"... Lester is calling me, even though the wards and chains and bindings of his case."

"though" should be "through". I didn't notice the error until the end of the sentence, which turned out to not be a full clause. Some sort of garden-path typo?

140:

Spooky ... is a cat on the mantelpiece, in the sense of Chekov's gun.

First word that comes to mind is littermates.

141:

Well, we know that Spooky is the key to getting our reluctant protagonists in the end. Getting them back together in the end, I meant to say. What a silly slip, didn't mean to make it at all. After all, I've never even read Accelerando. Really.

142:

Off topic, but speaking of the stars coming right, how about this star system:

http://www.aanda.org/articles/aa/abs/2015/06/aa25973-15/aa25973-15.html

And it's only 250 light years away.

143:

you want people who've proven they can handle losing their marbles.

If a person can handle what's happening, they haven't lost their marbles. Recognizing when your stress is making you unproductive and taking a sick day is a useful skill, though.

Good book. OGH has gotten better about explaining the Britishisms. I also liked the Delta Green references.

144:

Continuity glitch: in Rhesus Chart Bob says they have 2 spare bedrooms when offering Mhari a place to stay.
In Annihilation Score, Mo implies their place is 1 bedroom only when discussing how Bob and her could coexist.

145:

p115 of the US edition, footnote: "Secretary of State for the Home Department."

As a Brit long-term resident in the US, most of the glitches I pass over on the fly, but that one threw me too far out of the book.

146:

not a glitch - In the epilogue of TRC Bob says THE spare bedroom.

(Even though a suspicious little corner of my mind is reminding me that I didn’t offer Mhari the living room sofa, I offered her the spare bedroom, and what is she doing still here?

147:

"If a person can handle what's happening, they haven't lost their marbles."

People can generally function to some extent while in the process of having a nervous breakdown. Which is what I think is happening to Mo throughout the book (although she herself may not have been fully aware of it at the time).

148:

Why is part two titled "The Sorting Algorithm of Evil"? I can't remember any sorting algorithm (though granted, it's been two days since I finished reading the book, so maybe it's a detail that I've already forgotten? Still if it was an important enough detail for it to provide the title of a part of the book, that seems unlikely.)

149:

Still a glitch though, because they don't really need more than one spare bedroom, if they want to sleep in separate rooms, don't they?

150:

Unless having a spare bedroom is more essential than not eating Mo, that is.

Hmm. Actually it may be fairly crucial, come to think of it: isn't their house an official safe house? I guess they may need to keep a spare room in case someone needs to crash there for a while.

That said, considering that both Mo and Bob are crucial assets and in earlier books their superiors seemed to think they were better together (because it saved on counseling time), it might be worth talking to those superiors if the safe house could maybe make do with just a spare bed in the living room instead of a proper guest room.

152:

Ahh, that makes sense, thanks!

153:

Maybe the living room doubles as the spare bedroom, and the sofa is a sofabed. That would explain the discrepancy we seem to have discovered here. It would also make the solution to the nightly soul-eating risk I suggested previously more difficult...

(Though, hey, really: ward the living room and sleep on the fucking sofabed, Bob. Move to a hotel or sleep in the office for a few days when someone really needs to stay at the safe house. And have a good long talk with your wife. Marriage problem solved. - I mean, not *really* solved, of course, because Bob's still a monster and the world's still ending - but the latter thing, at least, surely is better dealt with together, with someone who knows about it and with whom you can talk about it, than alone, right? And, as a matter of fact, maybe the former is best mitigated by having a human being you're close to, close to you, too?)

154:

Oh, no, wait, that's a direct quote from TRC, isn't it? So, canonical spare bedroom.

Okay, Bob and/or Mo definitely need to go have a talk with whatever department deals with safe house allocation, then.

155:

So, what *was* Mhari doing in the living room, hours after she'd been told to leave? Will we ever find out?

156:

In the UK Kindle editions of both "The Annihilation Score" and "The Rhesus Chart", the footnotes are not links, but they still all appear at the end of the book, so it is much less easy to actually read them in context. Earlier books in the series do this properly.

157:

The footnotes work correctly in the UK editions for me (for Amazon's UI values of correctly -- tapping one that's near the edge of the screen is almost always misinterpreted as a page turn instead).

158:

"Secretary of State for the Home Department" is the formal title for the Home Secretary...

159:

Bingo.

Nervous breakdowns don't happen suddenly with no build-up; the warning signs come over a period of weeks or months. Also, once the rupture happens, if the source of stress is completely removed and the victim has a complete break from the situation that induced it -- and preferably a vacation -- they can recover surprisingly fast.

In case you hadn't spotted it, this novel is the story of Mo having a work-induced nervous breakdown, from start to finish. Notice her flinching in the cab on the way to Trafalgar Square, out of fear of snipers? That's not normal behaviour, is it?

160:
The Laundry sees Mo as de facto irreplaceable, but treats her as they had ten replacements in waiting _and_ that her current mission can be written of without consequecenses if she break downs a week before endgame – while (at least I see it as) it was necessary for Mo to be functioning for the mission to succeed, and a failure to the mission would be very bad for the Laundry (or the Greater London as a whole).

Irreplaceable and one of the few that can tackle the problemm. Coupled with the fact that she's been seen on The Telly (and YouTube, presumably) and thus is no longer 100% suitable as Agent CANDID (PTSD and escalating violin powers aside). I interpret this as a "damned if we do, damned if we don't" situation.

161:

Footnotes working ok for me on both Android Phone and iPad versions of Kindle App in both TRC and TAS. Of course I did have to google how to use them first....

162:

The only discrepancy is why Mhari hung around - everything else we can surmise thusly:

1. There is an empty spare bedroom that Bob offers Mhari.
2. Mhari dozes on sofa as she's waiting for Bob to come home so she wakes up when he comes in so she can seduce him. Remember also he's covered in blood and gore - being a Phang she may even find this a turn on even after the shower. He's also full of Not-Marriane so he may look even juicier.
3. Speculation - Mhari hangs around afterwards as she has nowhere safe to go, whilst the duty officers deal with the code red.
4. Faced with an angry Mo she is forced to run.

163:

Incidentally, after the Trafalgar Square incident results in her "outing", she's moved into a new role which might be assumed to be an R&R posting; cushy desk job with far less exposure to hideous nightmare-inducing tentacle monsters, a pay rise, lightweight management duties, and breathing room while she recovers.

Unfortunately this is before the SA notices something nasty sneaking up on the Laundry from elsewhere in the civil service, and before the Home Secretary lands on her ass.

164:

.. Are Mo and Mhari's rings important or foreshadowing? Because that bit made bells go off.

Ramora's van is a space ship, isn't it? If that's what the deep ones' consider beads... is the deep plan b "Go hide under the ice of Europa until the shitstorm ends"?

165:

The discrepancy discussed was actually whether there is a spare bedroom (which Bob could use, if they need to sleep in separate - and separately warded - rooms for soul eating avoidance reasons) or not. In TAS it seems like there isn't.

166:

I am very glad that the bedroom issue turned up in this thread as over the weekend I went on a bit of a book bender and read through from the Fuller Memorandum to the Annihilation Score. And I may have noticed a few inconsistencies in Bob & Mo's domestic arrangement that have been driving me up the wall.

So in Chapter 1 of the Fuller Memorandum (pg24, Orbit paperback 2010 UK edition) Mo and Bob are living together in a maisonette that they can barely afford on their civil service manager salaries. Then in Chapter 3 of the same book they get doorstepped by "Uncle Fester".

In Chapter 16 Rhesus Chart(pg 299/Location 4735 UK Kindle edition) "I do not tell her that the testing involved me being doorstepped by KGB zombies.Or articulate just how little faith I put in the DRESDEN RICE coffin-dodgers who are half of team alpha. For now, it's for her to know that "home" is a Victorian mid-terrace". Bob goes on to note that its a family sized home leaving them with two spare bedrooms.

Moving on to the Annihilation Score(Chapter 8,Location 2415 UK Kindle edition) they definitely only have one bedroom as "We can still live together.If it's only sleeping that's the issue,we just need another bedroom,locks and wards on the doors-" Mo goes on to note that a 2 bed in London is completely beyond their means as a couple.

167:

I liked the fishmobile; it was the right note of weirdness at the right time in the book. I did notice that you described the dolphins powering it as "existentially tormented", twice, which suggests dolphins that are incredibly depressed by the thought of another day swimming in pods and hunting for fish. It's not exactly a typo, but it's not the right adjective.

P.S. You apparently have a milder understanding than I do of what constitutes a nervous breakdown. At the end of the book, I'd say Mo is angry and feeling betrayed, but she hasn't shown any severely dysfunctional behavior yet. I used to know a woman who would respond to stress by staying in her one-bedroom apartment for two weeks (making her problems much worse); that's a breakdown.

168:

Maybe their house is like the house in House of Leaves...

169:

I'm pretty sure they moved house after the events in "The Fuller Memorandum". Not so sure about the 1/2 spare bedroom thing in their current dwelling, but it's all too easy to have insufficient space in something that is "officially" a two bedroom house.

170:

I've had a nervous breakdown. Mo is high-functioning and tends to power through anything that doesn't totally destroy her. In contrast, your acquaintance sounds like there was either bipolar or serious depressive illness at work there.

171:

Yeah, but... to the point of not being able to overcome the space issue to save one's marriage? Hm.

This suggests that there's a somewhat deeper issue at work here, and the room thing is being used - by both parties, as neither of them seem to see a way around it - as an excuse.

Of course there *are* several deeper issues going on here, though separation seems like a poor "solution" to any of them. I guess we'll have to wait a while to see how much of the seeming insurmountability of the whole mess is due to Mo's mental state at the moment...

172:

I'm sure them moving house was your intent. Its not like Bob & Mo have not had time and incentive to move between the books which would explain sudden changes of location.

Unfortunately Bob tells Mhari that his home is a safe house tested the hard way and makes a mental note referencing back to being doorstepped by KGB zombies being said test. Its the only reason it stuck in my head as a continuity issue.

173:

Oh! Thanks, and mea culpa :(

174:

A nervous breakdown, by definition, involves seriously dysfunctional behavior. Mo got justifiably angry and threw a tantrum, but it wasn't a breakdown.

175:
You apparently have a milder understanding than I do of what constitutes a nervous breakdown.

Well — it's one of those fuzzy definitions. You don't find it listed in ICD or DSM. Different folk define it different ways — or indeed don't find it a useful term at all.

At the end of the book, I'd say Mo is angry and feeling betrayed, but she hasn't shown any severely dysfunctional behavior yet

Apart from (from memory):

  • having timed crying jags as a "normal" coping mechanism which she's formalised into a ritual — and one she has to use during office time

  • having to have something that's not much short of an intervention by co-workers (which means it's damn obvious) to take just two or three hours of downtime a week

  • dropping completely out of her normal social network

  • sex life basically vanishing

  • disturbed sleep patterns

  • using drugs to sleep

  • breakdown of long-term relationship

  • worrying about snipers on taxi rides and at dinners

nope… nothing at all ;-)

But, because it was all from Mo's POV, it was presented as "normal" — which is often how it appears to folk who slowly build up more and more dysfunctional copying strategies over time. I think the only classic that Mo skipped on was alcohol abuse.

I dunno if it's coz I worked as a volunteer counsellor for a few years — but as soon as Mo described her crying-as-coping-mechanism thing the mental health side seemed pretty obvious. And I kind of liked how there was ambiguity in how much was Mo and how much was Lecter (just like the invisibility fuzzy line between sexism & superpower.)

176:
Mo got justifiably angry and threw a tantrum, but it wasn't a breakdown.

The tantrum wasn't the breakdown. Mo was in the middle of a nervous breakdown as the book started. That was my reading anyway.

177:

Dysfunction is not always obvious from the outside.

Someone I know well had a serious nervous breakdown a few years ago. She worked straight through it, with nothing much obviously wrong from the outside. It was only after she started to recover that anyone else found out she'd been having paranoid delusions (among other things). Because it was only once she was recovering from the psychotic break that she stopped assuming everyone was in on the conspiracy. From the outside, things looked fine right up until she announced that she was starting to wonder whether [obviously impossible thing] was actually true.

178:
So, what *was* Mhari doing in the living room, hours after she'd been told to leave? Will we ever find out?

It had only been a two hours — which isn't that much time to find a new place. Especially in the very early hours of the morning. Also she's locked in a warded safe house so I'm guessing that she'd have had to wake Bob to let her out.

179:

Regarding the extra bedroom:

In the distant beginning of Atrocity Archives Bob shared an apartment with Pinky and Brain, and the apartment was described as a comfortable bachelor den (although Pinky and Brain were a gay couple) without any need for fold out beds and lot of spare space - at least what Bob experiences as a young male without steady girlfriend. Then Mo moved in and P&B moved out.

P&B were true nerds with at least one experiment running and having a lot of "strange equipment, useful just in case". That indicates that the apartment have at least two dedicated bedrooms _and_ a separate living room. (Wasn't a cellar also mentioned?)

BoB and Mo could of course have moved to a smaller apartment, but I doubt it - both since it is never mentioned, there were no reason for it and I get the feeling that both want/need a steady base environment to balance all work-related experiences. "My home is my castle" for a pair that actually fight dragons ...

180:

Yeah, I do agree that it's unlikely she was doing anything more nefarious than maybe snooping around a bit. It's mostly just the suspicion Bob displayed within the text that made me consider there might be something else there, because often, when POV characters expression suspicion, the author wants us to be suspicious too. In this case, though, yeah, it *is* likely to be just ingrained professional paranoia on Bob's part, mixed with his bad history with her.

181:

Would be interesting to see that scene from Mhari's POV, btw.

182:

Could it possibly be retconned as Lecter placing a perception filter on the extra rooms to encourage them to separate and isolate mo? That would account for bob's green eyes as well, which dont make sense.

183:

Remember AA was set in the early 2000s, hard as it is to believe but London property prices have doubled in the last decade:

http://www.home.co.uk/guides/house_prices_report.htm?location=london&all=1

Seriously check out that graph! The average price of a flat in 2015 is equivalent to a detached house in 2000. So the rent on Bob, Pinky and Brain's flat would have been a lot more reasonable allowing for more space. Now Bob and Mo live in a house of some sort (doubtful detached, in my mind it's always been terrace). Those are pretty damn expensive so having less space makes sense.

I could totally see them having a box room that they refer to as the "spare room". If that's the case sleeping on the sofa might be more desirable, especially if it's a good sofa bed.

184:

Yup: that was my reading (writing?) too.

185:

182: I am aware of the London housing market, but believed that the Laundry acquired a bunch of houses during WW2 or some other time the price was low and kept them "for future use". Would the Laundry need to pay property taxes for such houses?

I also assumed that "terraced house" meant that the "house" had a terrace - not that it was a special type of structure.

186:

"expression suspicion"? WTF, brain.

Anyway, Inconsequental Question Time:

Why is the Human Cowboy addressed as Mr. Human? Wouldn't it make more sense to address him as Mr. Cowboy? ;-)

(Also, I think he should have called himself just "Cowboy" - based on superhero names like "Batman" or "Catwoman", of course, not North American cattle herders. But, yeah, I know. He wasn't very bright.)

187:

I also read Mo as having something of a nervous breakdown throughout this book, and attributed many of her slightly "off"-seeming moments to this.

There is one problem for me with this, though: as this is our only excursion into Mo's POV so far and is to remain so for the medium-term future, we don't have access to any sort of "stable baseline" for her character. It's thus very difficult to tell which parts of what we're seeing in TAS are "really Mo", and what is just her nervous breakdown in action (and/or the accumulated influence of Lecter) - especially as we've been told to take Bob's view of her with a large grain of salt, as well. She becomes almost unknowable this way. Which is a bit of a shame.

188:

(I feel like I'm posting far too much here - and on the reddit AMA, too - really sorry about that particular thread, btw, I just don't know how to stop - I'm that person who at a party will drone on and on about something long after anyone's stopped being interested. I really am sorry. -- What I really need is a proper Laundry fandom, not a comments thread on the author's blog. Because I'm in full fangirl obsession mode with this series, and with me, that basically means walls of text. Lots of them.)

189:

How will you handle the diversion of time in the real world and the Laundryverse? At least TRC could have happened in real time (i.e. 2014), but then book 9 will happen in 2015/2016 but appear in 2018 (and if we ever get a book 10, it will probably be 2016 and 2020 :).

One of the allures of the first books was that it somehow was plausible and could happen Right Now. But when book 9 appears, CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN would certainly already have happened in the real world (unless Bob & Mo somehow manage to really fend it off)...

190:

Ah.

Quick rundown for UK housing:

Detached : A dwelling that sits entirely within its own plot, unbuilt land (even down to a couple of inches ) on every side.

Semi (or semi-detached): a dwelling that shares a common wall with the dwelling to a single side. Unbuilt land to all other three sides.

Terraced: dwelling that shares two common walls with those dwellings to either side. Unbuilt land only front and back.

End of terrace : dwelling at either end of a terrace.

Note that an end of terrace dwelling could be described as semi-detached, but this never happens. Also, minimum number of dwellings in a terrace is three, maximum number of dwellings in a semi is two.

I have the feeling that the discussion above about whether Bob & Mo have a spare bedroom or not is close to an argument about why fictional characters never have full bladders.

191:

Coakes pretty much covered it but for further info this is an example of a terrace you might find in London (and is close to what I think of for Bob and Mos house)

http://images.int.nap.artirix.com/images/20130215/24/68/3/2468347-620x463.jpg

In terms of the property ownership IIRC the laundry doesn't own any property but try have an arrangement with the crown estate to lease properties to their employees at reduced rates. The crown estate is the property portfolio of the royal family that, thanks to some historical negotiations, sends most of the money it makes to the government (on my phone so typing is laborious but the history of the CE and what would happen to it should re UK dissolve the monarchy is very interesting)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crown_Estate

192:

The trouble is it's inconsistent. In TRC Bob descibes their house as Victorian mid-terrace house with two spare bedrooms. In TAS Mo reckons it's an inter-war semi-detached. Bob might be a little dense at times but I think even he would be able to tell the difference.

Either one or both of them isn't seeing their house as it actually is, or they are deliberately fudging the details. Aren't unreliable narrators fun?

193:

"Aren't unreliable narrators fun?"

They certainly provide an convenient explanation for inconsistencies. (Though the obsessive in me much prefers a narrative to be wholly internally consistent.)

194:

So when Mo is in front of the Audit Board, an Auditor with dark hair and an unrecognizable accent named "Seph" (short, apparently, for "Persephone") was one of her interrogators.

...has BASHFUL INCENDIARY, aka Persephone Hazard, been promoted to Auditor by any chance? Or is this a different character?

Other than that, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed the book. While as a programmer / computer geek I may have missed some of the more technological humor we get when it's Bob telling the story, overall, Annihilation Score was yet another solid entry in the Laundry Files and I'm glad that the series has been expanded to multiple narrators.

195:

I believe so, given that Persephone is sat next to a person introduced as "Johnny" in the meeting in Chapter 14. Where you find BASHFUL INCENDIARY, you'll soon find JOHNNY PRINCE...

196:

I spent most of the book thinking Mo was the bait and those two were the hook. Hey, it worked in Jennifer Morgue.

197:

Hmmm, a reference to the Iron Law of Bureaucracy and another one to Evolution in Action in the same paragraph. I wouldn't have figured you channeling your inner Jerry Pournelle, Charlie. Or is he possessing you, Lecter-style?

198:

Maybe their house is like the one in the Doctor Who episode The Lodger, and the extra bedrooms have been hidden from their minds.

199:

The one question I had was:

How much does a policeman of Jim's rank earn? Some of the little descriptions of personal effects seemed like he's wealthy, but that seems out-of-character with my knowledge of bureaucrats.

There's the midlife-crisis-mobile, the Rolex & the amount of effort put into the night with the limo.

I was starting to think that this was foreshadowing a cop on the take, but in the end, he was about the cleanest cop around.

Overall, this was wonderfully effective horror. The PTSD, the time wandering the grey wasteland between a somewhat happy marriage & a divorce, the manager's constant life of being butter spread on too much toast...

Also, having more Jo would have been nifty, but I guess she wasn't the right flavor to fit in more than she did.

200:

I know Charles doesn't like or watch much TV, but did anyone else see the "Dr. Julian Sanchez" name in there and wonder if it was a Garth Merenghi's Darkplace reference?

201:

"How much does a policeman of Jim's rank earn?"

According to the Met website, a Superintendant's salary starts at £63k and increments to £75k (plus a £6k London weighting).

Regards
Luke

202:

Chief Superintendents are paid pretty well. ~£83k according to Google which would put them in 97th percentile in the UK according to tax figures from the Inland Revenue.

Jim probably also gets a London weighting or other allowances.

So he's not quite a 1 percenter - but he aint far off!

203:

Jerry is an interesting guy and while I disagree profoundly with many of his views, the Iron Law of Bureaucracy really seems to hold up. In contrast, the "evolution in action" quip works a lot better applied to organizations than people!

204:

While I suspect this is one of OGH's occasional continuity glitches, there is a reasonable explanation in terms of internal consistency.

Bob repeatedly emphasizes that he's modifying details in his journal for reasons of security ("My name isn't really Bob Howard" etc.). In the prologue to TAS, Mo says "my patience with silly pseudonyms is at an all-time low. So I'll use pseudonyms where necessary...but the rest of the time I'll call a spade a bloody shovel".

They live in a Laundry safe house, so in view of this difference in attitude it's quite possible that Bob chose to disguise the appearance of the house for security reasons, and Mo didn't.

205:

Never heard of any of those things.

206:

Voice of God (as TVTropes would put it): They've moved house at least twice during the series (which covers a 10 year period so far).

Also, I see a lot of incomprehending comments by American readers who aren't aware that in UK estate agent terms, a "spare bedroom" is anything with a door and a window. We live in shoe boxes, folks, especially in London.

207:

Really liked the book, and loved to see Mo's POV for once! If only it wasn't just as she's coming apart at the seams... (Sigh. That's the problem with rooting for the protagonists of a cosmic horror story.)

But having recently re-read The Rhesus Chart, I have a continuity nit to pick: Mo and Bob's house seems to be losing rooms at an alarming rate. :)

Bob and Mo still live in the same place that Bob has been occupying since the beginning of the series, right? And by that point he was sharing the house with Pinky and Brain, who had their own rooms. (In fact, in The Atrocity Archives, the house is described as having "four double bedrooms", plus three cellar rooms, shared kitchen, dining room, living room, and a bathroom).

As of Rhesus Chart chapter 16, we're down to three bedrooms.
I quote: "I end up taking Mhari home---my home." [..] "We've got a spare bedroom you can use." (Actually, we've got two spare bedrooms: it's a family-sized house with no family to fill it.)". End quote. Mo and Bob have lived there together for 10 years at this point, so they might well have done some renovating and removed a wall to turn two bedrooms into one larger one, but at this point, a day before the Code Red, the house still has at least 3 bedrooms. Bob comments on it again in the last chapter of Rhesus Chart: "(Even though a suspicious little corner of my mind is reminding me that I didn't offer Mhari the living room sofa, I offered her the spare bedroom [..])".

But in TAS, it'a minor plot point that Mo and Bob sleeping separately isn't an option, because they don't have the space. End of chapter 8, "If it's only sleeping that's the issue, we just need another bedroom, locks and wards on the doors--" [..] - "In London. Stupid. Might as well ask for a lottery win.", plus some elaboration as to why a 2-bedroom apartment in Central London is completely beyond their pay grade. So at that point we seem to be down to 1 bedroom, kitchen, living room, bathroom and no usable (or at least livable) cellar space.

So is there a horror from beyond spacetime is slowly taking over the house making rooms disappear, and if so, when can we expect to see the short story? :)

208:

...and between initially writing that and fishing my sign-up confirmation out of my spam folder, the recent batch of comments happened. Nevermind.

209:

Well, Word of God in this case still doesn't resolve the contradiction between the bedroom issue in TAS and Bob's quote from TRC about the - sic - "family-sized" house. (Surely even in the UK nobody would call a house family-sized if the "spare" room was the size of a shoebox?)

Personally, I think I'll adopt Susan's fantastic explanation in #204 as my new headcanon on this issue. ;-)

210:

Note for Americans: depending on what part of London you look at, the average selling price for a 2 bedroom house (with about half the floor space you'd expect, incidentally -- small rooms) ranges from £450,000 to £1.3M. That's $750K to $2M.

As you might imagine, middle class working couples have difficulty affording somewhere to live -- it's worse than Manhattan or downtown SF.

211:

Yeah - there's a 3-bed terraced place that's just been sold on my street that was on with a guide price of £750-800k and it wasn't up for sale long enough to suppose that they didn't get the asking price.

I live in one of the 'cheap' areas of inner London, but I couldn't afford to move here now and, whilst I'm not on a Chief Superintendant's salary, I'm not doing too badly.

Regards
Luke

212:

I don't know if this is a reply to me (I'm German, have lived in the UK, still go there semi-frequently, and have friends in London who've lived in shoeboxes) but... Bob literally says "family-sized" about their house in TRC. Even in crazy London that would mean more than one bedroom, surely? And for their current house, the rent prices wouldn't mean much as they're not really renting on the private market? So it would make sense for them to have a bigger house at the moment than they normally would be able to afford? (I think Bob even says this explicitly in one of the previous books, either TRC or TAC.)

Anyway, sorry - I'm arguing with you again, and I really don't mean to, I'm just terminally nitpicky, which makes me a terrible person in conversation in general; I really should stay off the internet as I apparently have no self-control. Apologies. Apologies.

213:

You might find they would have two spare bedrooms if Bob got rid of his old crap treasured possessions.

In my experience spare rooms will be rapidly colonised by all the stuff you want to keep but have no immediate need for.

214:

In my experience spare rooms will be rapidly colonised by all the stuff you want to keep but have no immediate need for.

This. So much this.

215:

"Also, I see a lot of incomprehending comments by American readers who aren't aware that in UK estate agent terms, a "spare bedroom" is anything with a door and a window. We live in shoe boxes, folks, especially in London."

I believe this misunderstanding can be attributed to the old aphorism about how Americans think 100 years is a long time and the British think that 100 miles is a long way. ;)

216:

Things I learnt from reading the laundry files:

1. The Crown Estate is almost a frikkin' Sovereign Wealth fund! £8.1Bn of Assets.

2. It owns oil and gas rights around the UK - presumably to stop us drilling into a Blue Hades site. The Oil Rig and the seabed it sits on at the start of TAS could easily be owned/leased/managed by them.

3. If you want to play find Bob and Mo's house this interactive map could help.

http://www.thecrownestate.co.uk/estates-map/

217:

One interesting thing I noticed in this book is that Mhari (and to a lesser extent, Ramona) are shown in a glowingly positive light by their behavior, and despite this, Mo shows an extreme dislike of them in the beginning. Is this a side effect of her writing all this down after the events of the book (when Lecter is no longer pushing her mind toward the least charitable possible interpretations of all circumstances, and many of the sources of stress have been removed, and thus she ends up with much greater affection for the people who have stood by her and helped her during these trials)? Because, it's not merely that Mo's anger and jealousy are out of proportion with the situation (that's clearly Lecter and/or the nervous breakdown, and makes perfect sense), but that Mhari comes off as almost a saint. While Bob has a view of her that's negatively warped (and while the last book shows that she's grown more mature and become much more emotionally stable since the time period when Bob really knew her), I can't imagine that Bob's perception of her as being manipulative came totally out of whole cloth, I can't imagine Mo (knowing Bob's opinion, being predisposed against her for several reasons, and being extremely intelligent and perceptive) would totally miss out on it, and it's also pretty unlikely that Mhari was behaving the way she was entirely out of fear. (Basically, Mhari comes off as a reasonably caring and moral person with some major insecurities who genuinely likes Mo and wants to get along with her for reasons unrelated to not getting murdered.)

> Spooky is the cat on the mantlepiece
Clearly, Spooky is secretly the shape-shifting head of SOE Q. Because OGH is recycling plot twists ;-)

218:

Regarding rooms, the only thing I can say is that as an antipodean used to an ... inventive... use of the phrase 'double bedroom' in flatting terms, I was still gobsmacked by what could be called a bedroom when I moved to the UK.

219:

Great novel, I think you did the right thing in keeping the narrow perspective of the other books -- a lot of authors would have been side tracked with the implications of powers developing worldwide. The brief overview of what some other countries were doing was just enough, and leaves a lot to the imagination.

Being American, I was surprised at first at the situation in the US. But as I thought about it more, it did make since. Some of the prevailing themes in US superhero lore are rather libertarian and anti-government, with the government either hostile or bumbling and in the way for most the most part. The Black Chamber would see the potential threat right away, and move to contain it. (US supers wouldn't create the problems that the UK police were worried about -- they would outright kill "villians", or lock them up in their own illegal jail. The nicer ones might merely expose them on the internet, or plant things like drugs and weapons for the cops to find).

The Black Chamber either has someone who can detect powers or a magical detection system in place that also locates supers to move so quickly. Luckily, one of the other paradigms of US comics is superhero teams and working with shadowy secret organizations. So the Black Chamber probably has a rather nice stable of supers, both willing and unwilling (see the Suicide Squad as an example of forcing supervillians to work for the greater good).

The remaining supers that are operating on their own are either harmless or false flag. Since there is an expectation that superheros form teams, having a few public heroes out there allows the Black Chamber to attract potential recruits. Heck, some of the supervillians are probably also Black Chamber -- supervillians forming teams is another trope.

220:

Thinking about the rest of the world, it was interesting to read that the outbreak of powers is viewed differently (which makes sense). I expect it could cause a lot more problems in some places, like Africa. A level 5 super grabbing power in an African country seems pretty likely (even if they think they are a saint, prophet, witch, magician, or god). With over a billion people in Africa, there should be a thousand or so really powerful individuals there....

221:

Thinking about it, one weird thing was the internet memes. "Teamwork, we has it" was cute. On the other hand, I'm having trouble squaring that with an overworked field agent/professor turned middle manager outside her specialty. The people I've met in these roles are usually years behind in their cultural references. Their work is their life.

Another thing, although I hate to mention it. Will we ever seen a female major character with a well-developed sense of humor? Not that it was appropriate here, but still.

222:

Humour is tricky at times; jokes can sound completely different (and very unfunny indeed) if you switch gender, ethnicity, and social status on the joker and jokee. In particular, high-status individuals are free to joke about stuff that just isn't funny if you're on the receiving end. And bear in mind, professional women have to work twice as hard to get half the recognition of men in an equivalent occupation.

Not saying it's impossible, but it's a high bar to clear.

223:

At this point we know of 2 sources for Auditors: external assets (Persephone and Johnny) and former carriers of the violin (the SA, the auditor killed in the code red, and now Mo).

It is probably a very good idea to have external viewpoints included among the auditors. (Though apparently they aren't sufficient to pick up on systemic problems like 'of course there are no such things as vampires'.) Mo's part-time professorship may give her a partial external perspective, too.

I find myself wondering how the Laundry will generate internal candidates for auditors in the future, now that one of the apparent career tracks seems to be closed for the future.

Of course, CNG may make the problem moot.

224:

Im not sure there is much to choose between the 2 routes. External Assets are just people who have some deniability to the laundry, whilst I would say any internals who have some skill as a practitioner, and the right attitude can probably become an Auditor if the circumstances are right. I dont think the type of power is necessarily that relevant, be it Eater of Souls or Player of Violins.

Mo probably wasn't a DSS - but can't have been that far off. We know Bob is on the DSS path as Angleton's inheritor or a manager in External Assets.

I suspect the major qualification isn't magical firepower but attitude or # of nervous breakdowns or something OGH has yet to reveal.

One interesting question - Lockhart seems to be quite senior in the organisation, but hasn't yet displayed any magical powers - is he a normal? Ditto for Jez, which could suggest that anyone with powers could eventually become an Auditor, and those without powers are limited to being senior managers. Its worth noting that if we use Software Development as a metaphor - there are plenty of elite developers who are bossed around by very non-elite Project Managers.....

Although we haven't seen them yet - I rather suspect there is a quite a big class of people with Violin/Eater of Souls/Maguffin powers - regardless when CNG hits its stride what will differentiate people is not their power (i.e. lots more 5 sigma equivalents) - but the training and discipline needed to harness it effectively.

225:

I don't think you can assume that carrying the violin is a necessary prerequisite for being an Auditor. If you think about it, the personnel specs for an Auditor and for a custodian of the violin must be very similar (strong magical practitioner, extreme strength of character, very strong personal moral code), so it's hardly surprising that those who survive Lecter wind up as Auditors. With the advent of CNG, I'm sure there will be many opportunities to test the magical abilities and moral fibre of potential Auditors without the assistance of demonic musical instruments.

226:

Mo works in an organization that has an inordinate number of computer jockies (due to the Laundry's 'recruitment' policies clashing with the wide spread of pretty hefty computing power), and is married to someone who pretty frequently drops internet memes. (About half of these are prefaced with "as Bob says".) On top of that, "X: we Y it" is very 4chan-in-2005 -- Mo could be literally a decade behind in her cultural references and still make most of these, because internet memes have a very long tail and the least obtrusive of them (mostly snowclones like the above) just get integrated into language.

A lot of things that were formerly strongly associated with a particular internet community ("I can't even" with tumblr, "in b4" with /b/) have already leaked into common speech, to the point that my parents (who often ask me for help on how to use facebook) will speak aloud phrases that I vividly recall being shibboleths for particular places only a few years ago. Mo's references are mostly old enough and common enough that even someone who shuts herself away from media to the point of being totally unaware of a six-month-long epidemic of superheroism could be expected to be familiar with them; they are phrases that were transitioning from "community shibboleth" to "shibboleth for people who use the internet" around the time Bob was first starting to work under Angleton, and so depending on how much free time Bob has (and how much of it he ends up spending on reddit), it's possible that his dialect crystallized at that point and he's spent the past decade saying that stuff to Mo.

But, to be honest, I think it's uncharitable to assume Mo isn't an at least somewhat active member of internet culture and that all the references come to her through Bob. At the very least, she is required to use Facebook to a certain extent (although it's unclear how much of her Facebook is run by the Laundry to keep up appearances, she obviously has *access* to it); her exposure to facebook and Bob alone does plenty to account for exposure to internet culture. And, on top of that, she spent time teaching at a university and spends time giving violin lessons to students -- meaning that she has contacts in their early 20s outside of the Laundry (where as she rises in the ranks the average age of her peers accelerates; Angleton, who works in a bunker and is north of a hundred, is an outlier and should not have been counted).

227:

One other thing that popped into my mind: not only do the Laundry's decision-makers seem overly optimistic about how far they can push their agents before they break down completely, but they also seem to be a bit over-confident of the effectiveness of the geas aspect of their oaths of office.

I recall Bob getting chewed out by Lockhart for assuming his oath would stop him from leaking information to those outside a need-to-know loop, and there's the example of our favorite FCUK High Priestess from even earlier. (Speaking of which, was she able to negate part of her oath, or did she get around it by mentally squaring the circle, so to speak, and working in a sort of overlap between her oath and her beliefs? Or Would That Be Telling?)

228:

Longtime fan here. Thank you for all your work. I’m not much for commenting but I have to ask: What’s with the “Bob and Mo heartbreak hour”? Within the narrative it does not follow (to me at least). Yes, stress/overwork/horror etc etc but they were there to uphold each other and they’ve done a good job at it. Now Bob’s out of the house and barely a month later she’s snogging supercop in the back of a limo. She’s cheating on her husband with a classic honey pot trap? The combat epistemologist? As an epistemologist she’s not able to see the glaring problems with the info she’s provided?

Where the hell is the logic? Does it not apply on her behavior towards her husband? Trial separation because her husband did not want to be killed by a Lecter? Even if she was scared of the preta, she’s had years living with Bob’s “condition”. Seems to be a small problem artificially inflated. Frankly, it bothered the frakk out of me.

I loved the interactions with Lecter and the King in Yellow is a fantastic angle. Beautiful to see it in. Why the minute detailing of interminable meetings? Most of the book is meeting with high ranking bureaucrats, how they’re dressed, how they look, their jewelry….yes I get it, they are so high up, we need an oxygen mask to look at them. But I find it hard to care. I end skimming and I don’t want to skim.

I’m sorry if this sounds harsh. I love the series. The death scene of Patrick (McTavish’s friend) brought tears to my eyes.

That's all I've to say. Hell, I never know how to end letters.


229:

they also seem to be a bit over-confident of the effectiveness of the geas aspect of their oaths of office.

Yes, and that's a major plot point in books 7 and 8. (And yes, we get to meet Iris again.)

230:

You seem to have completely missed the point of the book, which was summed up in elevator pitch 1 in comment 7.

231:

Mo's dalliance rang completely true to me. When my wife and I got a diagnosis of a chronic, debilitating, life-changing disease, we both ran off the rails for a bit (and that's being charitable), even though we'd been living with the symptoms of something hazy and unfocused for years.

232:

Thank you for taking the time to answer me. All the best.

233:

Speaking parenthetically, because we're 233 comments in and only the die-hards are still reading at this point ...

I'm amused to see how many people are leaving 1-2 star reviews on goodreads and amazon because this isn't the book they expected.

They wanted a Bob novel, where Bob is a geek Mary-Sue hero and Mo is his plastic, perfect love interest.

Instead they're getting a work of lit-fic describing a middle-aged lady violinist's nervous breakdown, with added superheroes. (If you want an Iain Banks analogy, try "Canal Dreams".)

234:

I'll stand corrected then.

As for the "X: we Y it," reference, I didn't see it commonly until around 2012, which shows how far I am from 4-Chan.

235:

I recall first seeing it outside of 4chan around 2007, and around 2010 I started seeing it coming from people who had never heard of 4chan (but were still active on IRC). I feel like 2012 was around the time that heavy facebook users and people participating in internet communication many steps removed from 4chan started seeing it. But, I think its relatively quick spread was probably related to its association with lolcats -- which had already become a huge part of 'internet culture' outside 4chan years before. That said, rickrolling also became mainstream around the same time...

Snowclones have a pretty easy time navigating the internet compared to image macros and other carriers, since they are small, have a lot of potential for variation, and pretty much every service supports either text or images (so something can spread over instagram by being written on an image macro and then proceed to spread over IRC as plain text).

Let's say Mo first encountered this in 2012. She's still had three years to internalize it, and she's using it in a situation that's nearly optimal so she doesn't have to have very much exposure to it to consider it a reasonable turn of phrase.

(For the record, I consider myself relatively out of the loop when it comes to the latest and greatest memes. I'm nearly 30, meaning I'm twice the age of the youngest users on most of the media that produce and refine these memes and I'm 1.5x the age of the average user as weighed by verbosity. I'm also out of the loop due to time constraints -- I work all day & can't be caught browsing 4chan or reddit, & I don't usually have the energy to do so when I get home. While I have an interest in internet phenomena -- I've written essays on the subject -- all my case studies are five years out of date, and my own taste in snowclones dates to approximately that era. I need to remind myself that it is no longer 2010 when writing checks. Mo is probably a little less connected than I am, but since she has the vestiges of a social life and ties outside of work, she probably isn't significantly less with-it. At the very least, she's probably about as with-it as MTV -- which recently decided to remake itself in Vaporwave aesthetic, which peaked in 2011.)

236:

Not having read the book yet, but just jumping on this almost at random...
What I would like is more exploration of the multiverse, 666 squadron, the thing in the pyramid etc and less bureaucratic introspection. I'm not a "people person" and much prefer interesting ideas over character development (if it has to be one or the other). I suspect a large percentage of your fan base is as well.

237:

That may be what you want, but what makes you think you're my market? (Or the market I want this decade?)

Hint: I've said it before -- I get bored easily. I don't want to spend the next decade writing the same stuff I spent the last decade writing.

238:

> Notice her flinching in the cab on the way to Trafalgar Square, out of fear of snipers? That's not normal behaviour, is it?

In certain situations, why would it not be? Maybe not every day in London in our world, but there are plenty of places and times where snipers, IEDs etc. are a concern. And in the Laundryverse paranoia would seem to be a survival trait, though it brings along regrettable psychological consequences.

239:

Symptomatic of my cluelessness, I just learned what snowclone meant today. Thank you. I'm also somewhat closer in age to Mo than I am to you.

240:


> bureaucratic introspection

Having been an American federal bureaucrat myself, I *love* bureaucratic introspection scenes. OGH does briefings where the Facts Are Laid Out exceedingly well.

241:

So far as the 666 squadron goes, I'm fine either way.

I am starting to feel like I'm seeing Hogwarts math, where there are too few magicians for all the functions performed by the organization. If we've seen all but two people (one deceased) from an audit committee acting as serious tactical or strategic magicians, that implies a serious dearth of manpower in Mahogany Row. Normally, I'd expect that auditors to be the ones who "come in after the battle and bayonet the injured" as the saying goes. Seeing the senior auditor leading the charge against plots by other agencies seems weird to me.

Perhaps this is a misperception on my part, but it might be nice to put in some more suits in Mahogany Row, perhaps 23rd Special Headquarters Troops style, just to make sure it looks like there's something resembling a full roster of DSS types working on all the high caliber projects they have.

242:

What’s with the “Bob and Mo heartbreak hour”? Within the narrative it does not follow (to me at least).
An overly literal reading of the text is that Bob and Mo get in a fight at the end of Rhesus Chart and immediately go into separation mode. Which would indeed be a bit quick. But that's not what's going on.

If you look at the very first scene in Rhesus Chart (Mo and Bob eating sushi), you will notice that they were already in a row at that point. Bob thinks that it's about Pete, because that happens to be very neat and convenient for him. Pete is certainly a factor, but that's not what's really going on in that scene.

It's interesting to note that Bob (by the end of Rhesus Chart) dates their rough patch back to that sushi restaurant scene; I doubt it.

Here's my read: 2010!Bob and 2010!Mo are both in love and simply good friends. If it was between those two, they might have an argument every once in a while, but they'd get over it.

But 2014!Bob isn't 2010!Bob, and 2014!Mo isn't 2010!Mo. Both of them have been quietly falling apart for some time. For a long time, they could mutually support each other; recently, not so much, because the shit they have to deal with has gotten larger than they can admit to each other (or even themselves).

Mo turns into a pressure cooker. She just keeps it all inside, and comes up with an impressive (and disturbing) array of "coping" strategies. The ritualized dismissal of all of her problems as trivial (making a mental list of concerns and then checking them off), the crying jabs, the self-medication (sleeping pills, alcohol; seriously, keep track of how many evenings Mo has a drink or three before going to sleep). All of this has been hinted at in previous books; this time we get a first-hand view, and it's not pretty. Part of this is because she thinks Bob is not emotionally mature enough to deal with what's really going on inside her. She's not completely wrong (Bob really *is* pretty thick about some things) but she's seriously underestimating Bob in some ways.

Because, see, the 2014!Bob we get to see in the books (and that Mo gets to see, most of the time) is an act. A persona. It's real-Bob going "what would 2010!Bob do?" and acting accordingly. But 2010!Bob is dead, at least figuratively (and possibly literally too, jury's out on that). If you want to see what happened to that guy, check out the prologue and epilogue of The Fuller Memorandum. Ever since, the dorky geek we know and love has been an act Bob puts on, partly in an attempt to salvage his self-image (Bob has *severe* cognitive dissonance whenever something happens to remind him what he really is), partly because he's realized that his bumbling demeanor tends to make people severely (and often fatally) underestimate him, which is quite an asset in his position.

If you want to see what actual Bob is like, look at the scene in Rhesus Chart where he goes out to dinner with Mhari and casually drops the truth about her condition. Mhari calls him a bastard, and she has a point; the dynamics of that scene play out much the same way the early Angleton-Bob relationship did. Mhari isn't stupid. She's an expert manipulator making a play, and Bob casually sees through it all and completely pulls out the rug from under her. "Yeah, you were planning to lead me around by the nose; a) forget about that, b) you are a cursed entity and your living literally requires human sacrifices, c) but since you happen to be a useful asset, let's figure out how we can make this work". This is all well before Bob gets the full Eater of Souls package.

Mo doesn't seem to be aware of this side of Bob at all. Bob tries his best to hide it because dorky-Bob is very uncomfortable with nihilist, do-whatever-it-takes Bob. And quite probably afraid that this Bob is not one that Mo can love.

But just like Mo, Bob is coming apart at the seams; his inability to cope just manifests differently.

Final point: Bob is deeply upset by his soul-eating. He will kill people, but the human side of Bob still hates killing people, or getting people killed. With Mo, that used to be the case (witness the whole cultist mess in Amsterdam, and what it did to her), but she's crossed the rubicon lately. Witness the Vakilabad mess. The Iranian black-ops guy essentially told her "okay, either you banish these ghosts now, or we just lock you in here with them until you do". And her response is to kill him in cold blood in front of a dozen witnesses with just enough plausible deniability that the others present aren't forced to shoot at her right then. An act she describes, in her own words, as "I lost my temper".

Both Bob and Mo have quite a bodycount at this point. But it's made quite clear in the book that Bob is quite sickened to hear this, and that Mo, while clearly in full PTSD mode, isn't really aware of what she just admitted to. I hope that this is largely due to Lecter's influence; whether this is the case remains to be seen.

What is abundantly clear at this point is that both Mo and Bob are serious heavy-hitters. Bob denies it, partly because it's part of his shtick, partly because he's afraid to confront what it means. As for Mo, there are several scenes (with Mhari especially) in TAS where it's made very clear that Mo is a Very Scary Lady indeed and has that effect on people, which *she* is oblivous to (and continually surprised about). One final hint is how casually she interacts with the Senior Auditor, a character who (prior to this book) has essentially been defined by his scariness to all other Laundry employees above all else. Mo doesn't even seem to notice (Auditor material indeed).

I'm not sure whether current Bob and current Mo are even compatible in the way that their younger selves were anymore. They might or they might not. But either way, their relationship is gonna fall to pieces unless they can own up to what they are, and honestly work out how to deal with it. *This* is the wedge that's been driving them apart for years, more so than Bob's immaturity (especially since, as outlined above, he tends to play it up as part of his persona).

243:

My read is more that it's not a deficit in talent, but rather a deficit in talented people who can get the job done while (literally) under fire. I seem to remember something along these likes mentioned in TAA.

244:

I think it's partly tone dissonance. A plot with superheroes and an evil magic violin lends itself much more to camp than to serious drama. Since the basic structure was mostly Twilight (vampire guy maps to evil violin, werewolf guy maps to supercop, distant dad maps to distant husband), the drama felt a little underwhelming.

YMMV.

245:

Well, I buy your books, or at least some of them. Hence I am your market.

"(Or the market I want this decade?)"
You clearly don't want that market, but authors get locked into what brings in the money. It's a cost/benefit analysis right up to the point where you have enough money coming in that you can try and seriously break out. Can't please all the people all the time. Readers are fickle.

246:

I... didn't actually find the book *that* much less humourous than the previous ones?

247:

I didn't mind the relationship-heavy tone of the book, because I like the Laundryverse, period. Sure, I could stand to find out more about Squadron 666, and man do I hope we get some more 1st person Black Chamber viewpoints, but again, I just like the universe its in. If it was all schematics of a basilisk gun, well, TBH I would probably still be reading*, but Bob & Mo's relationship is one of the things that keeps the series from being a completely juvenile pleasure for me.

*I think I would probably read a short story about most any recurring character in the Laundryverse. would love to see the adventures of Young Dr. Mike Ford, or Johnny Prince's bildungsroman.

248:

Well, with all the questionable management skills we've seen from the likes of the SA, maybe the non-magical high-ranking people in the Laundry are simply there because they're *actually really good at management*? I mean, somebody has to be... :D

249:

According to something I watched recently, the average 1 person starter home (which will be a flat of course, not a house) in London these days has the same floor area as a underground carriage.

That really brought it home to me in my luxurious 2.5 underground carriage space! And it should work as a pretty good indicator for people as to how small the bedroom might be, given you've got to get a bathroom and a kitchen/living room in there too.

250:

I get the strong impression that she didn't (and still doesn't) really know the full extent of what Bob's "condition" entails; she seems to have only just realised that he could easily accidentally kill her any time he's slightly "out of it". I don't think she knows how much soul-eating he's done already.

This is speculation, but: I think Bob hasn't told her that much about it, up to now, because he's not really keen on thinking about it himself. (There's also the possibility that he's not *allowed* to tell her everything.)

251:

Oh, you can have a hilarious book with no one having any sense of humor in it whatsoever. I'm not arguing with that.

It's just that I was thinking over all of Charlie's books that I've read (and admittedly I haven't read the entire Merchant Prince's series), and I don't recall, offhand, a woman with a sense of humor. This isn't a fatal flaw by any means, but it just kind of jumped out at me when I thought about it. Competent, kickass, and serious is great in any gender, but so is goofy, self-deprecating and competent. It's just a passing thought.

252:

No comment on the book: I was unaware that E-books are still in different formats, and apparently my version doesn't speak to my unappetizing grey slab.

Or, put it another way: I find it odd that Mills n Boon aren't the universally accepted format given the #'s they shift.

I'm not going to pirate it, but I'm seriously looking at cracks and format translating software.

~

However:


Since no-one has asked:

Violin strings are traditionally made out of cat gut.

What are the strings of Mo's combat acoustical tech-upgrade to the lyre of Hermes made out of?


(Since we're being nice:

"Outside the cave [of his mother Maia] he [the infant god Hermes] found a tortoise feeding. He cleaned it out, and stretched across the shell strings made from the cattle he had sacrificed, and when he had thus devised a lyre he also invented a plectrum ... "

Others say that when Mercurius [Hermes] first made the lyre on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia, he made it with seven strings to correspond to the number of Atlantides, since Maia, his mother, was of their company. Later, when he had driven away the cattle of Apollo and had been caught in the act, to win pardon more easily, at Apollo’s request he gave him permission to claim the invention of the lyre, and received from him a certain staff as reward . . . )

Oh, and J.Thomas: No man is an island, but all women are the sea. Being voted off an island is only important if you're making sure it's the last bastion of hope left. (Iris Murdoch, The Sea, The Sea, I claim my prescience, or perhaps even Woolf: “Our apparitions, the things you know us by, are simply childish. Beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by.” )

253:

Superstrings, which may be why Mo's fingers bleed when she plays it (unless this was an homage to Grimtooth's traps or something similar). Cat gut, IIRC, is sheep gut, not feline intestines, and it's often wrapped around a metal wire. Metal and synthetic strings are also used.

254:

(Because it may be helpful to contextualise the following: 38-year-old female here. I.e. not reading this series from the POV of a male looking for a power fantasy.)

Mo never struck me as plastic. She always (well, post-TAA, anyway) seemed like the "tougher", more competent, and altogether more bad-ass of the two. She seemed, to me, first and foremost an agent, with girlfriend/wife coming a distant second, as defining terms go. It *made sense* that in TJM she was James Bond, and Bob was the Bond girl.

She's also quite perceptibly brittle and traumatised, in Bob's narrative as in her own, in a way that we rarely get to see in female characters - she's essentially a war veteran.

One of the things that got me so invested in the Bob-Mo relationship was the fact that we got to see Bob *taking care* of his war veteran wife. I liked that the *guy* had the caring part of the relationship, at least part of the time; I also assumed/hoped it was a mutual thing, and certainly got the impression that it was. And, well, it probably is; even disillusioned TAS Mo says so a couple of times – it's just not clear how much of Bob's *deepest* issues Mo knows about. Maybe he just cried on her shoulder about the apocalypse, and not so much about the fact that he's turning into a monster; just like she only cried on his about the apocalypse, and her murderous jobs, and not about the fact that the violin was messing with her mind.

I've seen some pretty ridiculous complaints in reviews, about the depiction of Mo's view of Bob (mostly, it appears, from insecure husbands/boyfriends – and I'm not projecting here; many literally referred to their relationship status in their reviews).

But not all who express dissatisfaction are motivated by a wish to see Mo as a perfect plastic girlfriend. It's entirely possible to be disappointed not because Mo acquired unwanted dimensions, but rather because the Mo-Bob relationship was actually very *interesting*. How many marriages with more or less equal ratios of trauma and support on both sides do we get in fiction? (Also, by now, roughly equal amounts of badassery...)

This sense of two very strong and yet very damaged people supporting each other as best they could is the thing I'd be missing and mourning, if this relationship was to end permanently. And I think it may be the reason why a lot of people latched onto this relationship.

255:

But... Mo does have a sense of humour? I think?

Granted, I'm German, and we're said to have a limited grasp of humour, so maybe my perception is off...

256:

I love everything about this comment. Pretty much exactly my view of the status of the relationship and the characters!

(And I do hope they find a way to keep their relationship alive despite all, because dammit, "separated by drastic changes" is basically what always happens, in RL and in fiction, and is thus boooooring. I'd much rather see the novelty of Making It Work.)

257:

catgut,
catgut [Credit: Dogmonster]
tough cord made from the intestines of certain animals, particularly sheep, and used for surgical ligatures and sutures, for the strings of violins and related instruments, and for the strings of tennis rackets and archery bows. The ancient Egyptians and Babylonians and the later Greeks and Romans used the intestines of herbivorous animals for much the same purposes.

https://www.britannica.com/technology/catgut

Reference chosen because "DogMonster" made it.


That's not why it's called cat gut.

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=catgut

http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJM189701281360404

I have this language called Anglo-Saxon you might be interested in...

It was a joke revolving around Shakespeare and Ancient poets. Never mind.


To wit:

As recent as 2014, we have a serious publication on violins showing this:

Simon Catling is named after the strings of the lute, viol and violin. Catline was the term for the gut used, which gave rise to the erroneous belief that it was catgut. Shakespeare himself did not fall for this – he knew that it was sheep gut, and says so. In Much Ado About Nothing Benedick reflects on the power of music: ‘Is it not strange that sheep’s guts should hale souls out of men’s bodies?’ Again, in Troilus and Cressida, Thersites exclaims ‘the fiddler Apollo get his sinews to make catlings on’.

http://www.thestrad.com/cpt-latests/how-well-did-shakespeare-know-the-violin/

It turns out that Shakespeare was probably making a joke in reference to a friend and a pun.


But that's not why it's called "Cat Gut".

Oh, and super-strings cannot form coherent matter. That's the point of them. (micro / macro collapse).

258:

Would you kindly expect that the surface detail isn't the point already?


Brave move by host: middle aged (she's under 40! young!) woman exasperated by hero of the brand and having naughty thoughts about the big bads (Sigh: "Alpha" males if you need to Reddit this).


Bold move.

259:

I'd like to see their relationship get rebuilt too.

It's worth pointing out that Bob's more invested in their relationship than Mo is. I'm not sure if that's because she has a history of divorce and being the glamorous redhead, while he has a history of being a nerd who rarely had a girlfriend, but it's worth noting.

As for Mo's sense of humor, I don't expect her to have one, given the situation she's in, but I was just thinking that my stereotype of a Strossian heroine is that she's more likely to be cracking heads than cracking jokes.

260:

Meta-

If you missed the joke, the real joke Shakespeare was making was ascribing Apollo as the originator of the stringed instruments when any classically trained mind (Shakespeare was, don't doubt it) knew instinctively that this was a power-subversion and satire on the original Greek tale. Hermes made it, Apollo swaggered in and claimed it, yadda yadda yadda.

There's a layer of satire you've entirely missed.


But, please:

Tell me more about how it's not actually made of cats.

261:

Well, Mo's the one who "wrote" TAS, so every funny bit that's in the book was put there by her. ;-)

And yes, Mo is currently less invested in the relationship than Bob, and their different backgrounds certainly play a role in that. It's kinda hard to judge if that's always been true or if it's an artifact of seven years of having her mind infiltrated - just like it's hard to judge in general how much of the Mo we meet in TAS is Mo, and how much is Lecter-filtered-through-Mo - and also: Mo-filtered-through-a-nervous-breakdown. Which troubles me a bit, because it means that the only "inside view" we get of this character who's very important to the series is during a time when she's not entirely herself. Many, many people, judging by reader reviews and reactions so far, seem to have interpreted TAS as the definitive word on Mo's personality and her inner life, and, well, it isn't, and shouldn't be seen as such.

262:

Her name could be translated as "Devouring Lady". However, the phonetic elements "bas" are written with an oil jar (the "t" is the feminine ending) which is not used when writing the word "devour". The oil jar gives an association with perfume which is strengthened by the fact that she was thought to be the mother of Nefertum (who was a god of perfume). Thus her name implies that she is sweet and precious, but that under the surface lay the heart of a predator. Bast was depicted as a cat, or as a woman with the head of a cat, a sand cat or a lion. She is often shown holding the ankh (representing the breath of life) or the papyrus wand (representing Lower Egypt). She occasionally bears a was-scepter (signifying strength) and is often accompanied by a litter of kittens.

http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/bast.html


Bast says there's also a joke around the "soul devourer" angle.

It's a joke about men, and how only they could take that path when the other is full of smell and beauty. But hey - if it makes you happier thinking that I'm CRACKPOT, feel free.

Just don't be surprised at the end game.


p.s.


If you can make puns in Ancient Egyptian and quote made-up-languages from ~16th C England and still get your monads correct (with reference to Hera), then perhaps you know a little bit or two.


Oh, right: silly woman "can't even science".

~


@Host - Not surprised at the 1/2 stars sadly. Your current modern mind is a limited thing.

263:

p.s.

Yes, that's a causal breach, nexus creating action (or, just, real smart setup like). But fuck it, unknown unknowns, perversion of an entire species and so on.

"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.


Cute. But you're playing a field where the substrate level has already been devoured.


Old Skool [YouTube: music: 4:01]

And, no. It's not John's Fault.

Smart minds will disentangle "Jihadi John" and the first speech given by that US man... "This is your fault John....

Won't link, it's a bit graphic. Suffice to say, there will be blood.

~


My boy's wicked smart

264:

Our Kind Do Not Go Mad


How Dare You.

Well, you tried.

You failed.

Declarations of Hostile Intent have been logged, despite protestations of Love, Trust, Truth and so on.

@Peanut gallery: don't fear Hell, fear the very real Solar Wind.


Fucking Muppets.

265:

what makes you think you're my market? (Or the market I want this decade?)

I completely understand getting bored with work that's gotten repetitive (what 40-year old doesn't). Still, remember that it took you two decades to build the fanbase you have, and replacing us is likely to be harder than you think. Especially if you write more books where a woman with supernatural powers that may damn her soul gets torn between a seductive monster and a heroic Boy Scout, because there are hundreds of those on the market.

266:

"Glowingly positive light" is overstating it a bit, I think, as is the characterization of Mo going nuclear at the sight of them.

Ramona and Mo are fine, I think. There's the history with Bob, but Mo gets that out in the open pretty quickly (on the North Sea platform), and by the end of the evening they're chatting like old friends and getting along fine. When Ramona joins the team, Mhari's the one freaking out, not Mo. Mo and Ramona seem to be already getting along pretty well at that point, and it helps that Ramona doesn't seem to have any ulterior motives on a personal level - professional, who can tell? She's a spy-turned-diplomat on a mission. Of course's there's gonna be hidden agendas, but on the matter in question, human and BLUE HADES interests seem to be aligned pretty well. (It's gonna be interesting to see what happens if that ever stops being the case.)

Mhari... now that's more complicated. She definitely seems to have gotten over the "psycho girlfriend from hell" phase that makes both Bob and Mo so predisposed against her. But I wouldn't exactly call "not currently in the middle of a string of dysfunctional/borderline abusive relationships" a glowing portrayal.

Mhari isn't stupid and she's not a sociopath. She is, however, by her own admission no less, a careerist opportunist primarily interested in saving her own hide.

Yes, she does not back-stab Mo. But why would she? Mhari's #2 in a newly established government department that's working as well as can expected given the circumstances, and has competent leadership. She's right on track to get exactly what she wants out of the job (as described in her entry interview), provided that Mo doesn't self-destruct along the way (which Mhari, thus, tries to prevent). Yes, she happens to be doing the right thing for Mo and the organization - but in a situation where doing so also happens to be best for her personally. In short, she's not being toxic or irrational, but she doesn't exactly deserve brownie points for this one.

And there's still the matter of a certain ring with a sympathetic link. We don't know how that ring got from Bob to the SA (who then gives it to Mo). And given Mhari's "oh shit" reaction when Mo turns up with it, there might be a bit more to it than we currently know. Possible explanations:

1. Mhari is merely freaked out because of the way she got that ring in the first place (a situation not exactly likely to endear her to Mo, to be sure).
2. There is something more going on between Bob and Mhari than we currently know of, and it's of a strictly personal nature. (I hope not.)
3. There's something more going on between Bob and Mhari that also involves (probably without Mhari's knowledge) the SA, the most likely candidate being a continuation of BLUE DANDELION (the "keep an eye on Mhari" op from Rhesus Chart).

We'll find out in due time, I'm sure.

267:

Um yes, the Laundry files are highly formulaic (/sarcasm).

Still, yes, I can see both sides in this dispute. Charlie doesn't strike me as a formula fiction writer (also sarcasm), so I don't see this happening again.

Still, if Alex the PHANG is the protagonist of the next book, we've got a real sucker (with some serious handicaps and a serious case of imposter syndrome, allegedly) who's going to get run through the mill. At least it's less likely to be a rerun of PTerry's Lords and Ladies or Carpe Jugulam.

268:

This one did seem very formulaic to me, which probably had a lot to do with its genesis as an "attack novel". If he'd taken more time, perhaps another character or two would have gotten some character development, so I wouldn't have known for certain who the mole was by the end of Act 1.

The next one wasn't an attack novel, so that's something.

269:

As much as I love the series, there are definitely some recurring themes that could seem like formulas.

Por ejemplo:

- no less than 3 false flag incidents (Concrete Jungle, Apocalypse Codex, Annihilation Score)

- no less than 3 times Human Resources is the lead human bad guy (Concrete Jungle, Pimpf, Fuller Memorandum)

- no less than 3 bungled invocations involving the wrong side of the pentacle/grid)
(2 times in Fuller Memorandum, Pimpf)

- no less than 3 times Mo &/or Bob are bait meant to draw the enemy out (Atrocity Archive, Fuller Memorandum, Rhesus Chart)

...but not all formulas are bad. I'm at the point where I notice the similarities, but I'm not annoyed by them.

270:

I completely understand getting bored with work that's gotten repetitive (what 40-year old doesn't). Still, remember that it took you two decades to build the fanbase you have, and replacing us is likely to be harder than you think.

You seem to forget that no fanbase is homogenous. I liked TAS very much, just *because* it was not the same all over again. Changing points of view is interesting, and a change of pace in the series is good in my opinion.

I also found the book quite humorous at times - and also Mo seemed to have a sense of humour. Considering the situation she's in she cracks quite a few jokes.

For me, 39-year old IT worker, the series resonates quite well. I'm also married, and while my marriage is in a much better condition than Mo's and Bob's, I feel a connection. Me and my partner both work in IT consultancy areas having even more restrictive controls on information sharing than usual, which makes discussing work at home sometimes a chore - but a necessary one to vent all the steam. So, having Mo's point of view of the whole story is a good thing.

271:

I'm reading also C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner books now. I amd now reading the fifth book in the series, and I've read the first six books. I haven't read that much about the later books, but these first ones sprang to my mind when reading TAS.

Especially I noticed the approach to authorities and government systems. In the Foreigner books (at least in the early ones) there is one viewpoint character whose opinions colour the books. On this reading, I notice that the attitude is easily summarized as "democracy = slow = bad, (almost absolute) monarchy = fast = good". This has been the situation in the first five books and seems to produce those results all the time. Also, the Atevi (the aliens in the books) are described to have a biological drive to produce these feudal monarchy societies.

In comparison, the Laundry books, especially TAS (and comments on this blog by OGH :) seem, to me, indicate that bureaucracies are mostly concerned about survival and only after that about their named mission. However the institutions and groups still seem to be doing a better job than single powerful individuals (or small groups). Look at the mess the police made in the book - mainly because they invoked laws which gave them a carte blanche, both individually and as a (small organization).

I'm not sure I'm reading what Charlie wrote, but at least it seems to me that working together and trying to communicate are the keys to success in the Laundry universe. I see the same thing also in the handling of the superheroes - I did read a lot of Marvel comics in the day and quite frankly find much of that stuff boring in its übermensch view.

(Also, props for spelling 'über' correctly in the books! I hate the 'uber'.)

272:

Those aren't the formulas I was talking about. See comment #265.

273:

I've just noticed something that feels close to a plot-hole of sorts in the relationship plot thread of the book: Mo doesn't mention Bob calling her or contacting her in any way after the Proms. This seems strange, almost out of character, because providing support in the aftermath of events exactly like that one has been one of his core functions in their relationship. Surely even if things between them have cooled considerably, he'd still at least give her a call to ask "are you okay?" (Mind, he must know she's not okay - he's known about her state for a while, and has even confronted their superiors about it. This is something he's not actually oblivious about.)

I can only assume that he was somewhere in the jungles of South America or some such place at the time. But even so, it seems strange for *Mo not even to mention the lack of a call from him*.

274:
Mhari... now that's more complicated. She definitely seems to have gotten over the "psycho girlfriend from hell" phase that makes both Bob and Mo so predisposed against her

Or rather she doesn't resemble the bunny-boiler story that Bob told us. One that might not be 100% accurate in hindsight… at least that was what I took from the Bob-Mhari interactions in TRC.

I know I had a nasty breakup in my youth which was all "psycho girlfriend from hell" at the time — but with the development of a few years hindsight and a dash of maturity turned into something closer to "Damn. I was a complete dick".

And Bob's not the most… introspective… of characters.

275:
You seem to forget that no fanbase is homogenous. I liked TAS very much, just *because* it was not the same all over again. Changing points of view is interesting, and a change of pace in the series is good in my opinion.

Ditto. I think I've bought everything that OGH has written, and of the Laundry novels this is now one of my favourites. Because, for me anyway, Bob's pasted on bumbling cuddly IT guy persona is become harder and harder to take seriously as he's levelled up. For me Mo was way more interesting and believable in this book that Bob has been for a good while.

Then again I think Glasshouse is the best thing OGH written… and sales of that sucked… so maybe me liking TAS is a bad sign ;-)

276:

Ebooks: for format shifting/library functions, you need to get Calibre. (Free, donation-supported, cross-platform.)

To deal with the annoying DRM locks, you need to google on "apprentice alf drm tools". Then install Calibre, the calibre plug-in from the tools, and one or more ebook storefront apps (e.g. the Kindle app). I will not provide further advice other than to say, piracy is naughty, but I'm happy for you to buy my ebooks and crack the DRM then transcode so you can use it on your e-reader of choice.

277:

Reread this comment again and the one word I *would* take exception with is "nihilist" (to characterise real-Bob). He's desperate, but not nihilist, not really. There is exactly one thing he deeply believes in, which is that he exists to fight Case Nightmare Green. He's not a nihilist (who believes in nothing) - he's the opposite: a fanatic. Although about the most reluctant fanatic ever, because he hates every single thing his deeply-held belief makes him do...

278:

NB: the relationship counselling scene in "The Delirium Brief" is going to be a real hoot. (I may have to make it a sequence of scenes as Bob and Mo break one counsellor after another. Hmm. Wonder if I can work in a "Mr & Mrs Smith" reference or two?)

279:

I liked TAS but I also really like the Bob books, including the ones in which his old personality is only pasted on - I like those precisely *for* that fact, because you can see that it's pasted on and there's something else underneath, and that discrepancy and how it's shifting is incredibly interesting to me.

(Just another reading audience data point. :-))

280:

Ahem: "Fuller Memorandum" was also an attack novel (took 24 days to write, start to finish). I think you're drawing a correlation here based on a data set of one.

281:

Oh, I liked the Annihilation Score a great deal. I started reading it skeptically, but it quickly convinced me it's a great book. I am happy to recommend Charlie as one of the great authors of our time, and the Annihilation Score as one of his better books.

For one thing, it is good that people grow out of their established niches in a long series like this, and begin looking for (or be groomed for) new ones. No Star Trek like everybody stay where you are for decades silliness here. This also goes for personal relationships. Mind, it was really difficult for me to finish TRC because I was anticipating the separation, and the Bob & Mo marriage was one of the key constants I really liked about the series so far, and it's unsettling to be forced to change.

282:

Or rather she doesn't resemble the bunny-boiler story that Bob told us. One that might not be 100% accurate in hindsight… at least that was what I took from the Bob-Mhari interactions in TRC.

Correct.

Do. Not. Believe. Everything. Bob. Tells. You.

283:

Incidentally, on the humour front?

Bob has your classic geek sense of humour.

Mo has a very dry -- even arid -- and ironic sense of humour. Which is less and less in evidence as the stress level mounts, because that's one of the things stress does to you.

284:

Hopefully they're not breaking them literally? ("Honey, I ate our marriage counselor"...)

-- Looking forward to it!

285:

I'm using "nihilist" as in the actual school of thought, not the Hollywood strawman version. In particular, in the sense of existential or moral nihilism.

Existential nihilism posits an universe that is ultimately uncaring, indifferent, and devoid of intrinsic meaning or value. Emphasis on "intrinsic". An existentialist is not someone who thinks that life is completely meaningless; an existentialist is someone who says that life is not *intrinsically* meaningful. That is, any value or meaning you assign to your life is not a metaphysical given; it's purely a subjective experience.

Before Fuller Memorandum, there's plenty of flippant remarks from Bob about how humans are mere insects compared to all the waiting horrors from spacetime, but he's making light of it, and he doesn't feel it; not really. Post-FM, that's changed.

As for moral nihilism, that's is pretty much the institutional stance of the Laundry - and, indeed, any other intelligence agency, real or fictional. It is certainly not a stance that either Mo or Bob take intentionally, but insofar as they follow orders, they are knowingly complicit in it. Which does terrible things to people, again, both in fiction and real life. Real-life spies are very much prone to alcoholism and paranoid delusions; this is one of the factors.

286:
I liked TAS but I also really like the Bob books, including the ones in which his old personality is only pasted on - I like those precisely *for* that fact, because you can see that it's pasted on and there's something else underneath, and that discrepancy and how it's shifting is incredibly interesting to me.

Oh I liked the Bob books too. I just like this last instalment more.

I'm probably being a dull reader but it felt to me that it should have been a little more obvious that Bob's persona was a bit pasted on earlier in the series.

He was Angleton's assistant. From Bob's POV that makes him a dogsbody in matrix management hell. From everybody else's POV he's Angleton's assistant which would be a deeply, deeply scary role to the rest of the Laundry.

That was obvious in how folk reacted to Bob in TRC (if not to Bob himself much of the time)… but t felt like it should have been obvious in folks reactions to Bob earlier on. However, it's been a while since I've read the earlier books so it's entirely possible I'm being dim and have missed stuff.

287:

Okay, so I just checked the actual Bob/Mhari scenes way back in TAA, not the heavily edited "greatest hits" version that Bob keeps telling himself over the years.

Short version: OGH got me pretty good there.

Long version: the actual relationship seems to boil down to:
1. Bob thinking he's in a capital-r Relationship
2. Mhari treating it as a casual fling with a roomie (and nothing more)
3. Mhari simultaneously looking for an actual boyfriend (Bob doesn't rate as boyfriend material in her view; he is woefully unaware of this.)

That's plenty dysfunctional alright; certainly not healthy. It's also pretty much in line with "Mhari the opportunist" (hey, she'll take getting laid over not having sex, and doesn't seem to particularly care about the signals that's sending to Bob). But bunny-boiler, yeah, not so much.

288:

>That's plenty dysfunctional alright; certainly not healthy

Just on the basis of what you've said I'm not seeing anything dysfunctional, they just want different things. There's nothing wrong with Mhari just wanting a casual relationship before finding something more serious.

289:

I guess if that's nihilism then I'm a nihilist, too. Huh. The more you learn... Though I'm still not sure if anyone who still *instinctively* values the continuation of human life can *really* be called a nihilist, even in that sense. Wouldn't you have to detach yourself from that instinct - and then, perhaps, decide *rationally* that it's still something that should be valued - to be a proper moral nihilist in the strict sense?

That said, I'd almost say that Bob isn't *quite* there yet, anyway, because he still *has* that instinct; it is, in fact, what keeps him going.

290:

(The last paragraph doesn't quite follow logically from the previous paragraph because it was left over from a draft and I hit the send button too soon.)

291:

If they had bothered to actually define the relationship and discovered that they want different things from it, it would be fine.

But at that point in the story, Mhari and Bob have been on-again off-again for several times already, and have already had fights over what Bob views as Mhari's sleeping around. Either they're unable (or unwilling) to actually articulate to each other what they want from the relationship, or Mhari knows full well that Bob wants an exclusive relationship but doesn't care. No matter which of these options it is, that seems pretty dysfunctional to me.

292:

Instinct vs. rationality is a different distinction, relevant to a different classical philosophical quandary, namely, what is consciousness? That's the kind of thing you need to tackle when you want to make a serious argument for why, say, eating animals is acceptable but eating humans is not.

Intrinsic vs. extrinsic meaning operates within a somewhat different framing perspective. Say you get a postcard from a friend. That means something to you, both literally ("this postcard is not utterly devoid of any meaning whatsoever") and in a broader sense. It will mean less to a random person from your hometown (which can read the postcard and look at the picture, but does not know you or your friend), even less to someone who can't read English, and less still to a dog trying to figure out whether postcards are edible. But all these layers of meaning are extrinsic; they stem from somewhere else, or from a relationship the postcard has to something else, not from the postcard itself. If you were to teleport that postcard into an otherwise completely lifeless universe, it would be utterly meaningless there.

To say that something is intrinsically meaningful is to say that it is meaningful in and of itself; its meaningfulness is an objective, not a subjective, truth. There's several ways this has, historically, been done. Teleology is a classic example; theist perspectives ("life is intrinsically valuable because it is a gift from god") are another.

When existential nihilism/existentialism says that life is inherently meaningless, it doesn't mean that existentialists cannot (or will not) experience meaning in their lives, or that they should not seek it out; it merely means that their subjective experience of meaning is all there is to it.

Bringing this back to the Laundryverse: Bob and Mo decide that they want to save as many people for as long as they can. They do this knowing full well that they live in a Cosmic Horror Story, and therefore cannot win (as said, as of TFM, Bob has become painfully aware of this). Even their greatest achievements are ultimately futile and merely postponing the inevitable. Objectively, they may have no chance to win; subjectively, they're doing the best they can, and even if they can't win, well, at least they tried.

Mo especially. A combat epistemologist who would rather die fighting in defiance of her universe than roll over quietly? How positively Socratic indeed. :)

293:

Hi Charles, great job as usual, and a worthy addition to the series; also, much character development, although I'd have really liked a bit more large-scale plot advancement, because both this book and the previous one seem (at least to me) to be a bit too focused on specific issues (vampires, superheroes) while the world is quite literally going to hell (or, more exactly, hell is at an increasing risk of coming to the world); also, I'm still curious about what the Sleeper in the Pyramid is doing now that he's been awakened.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I have a couple of criticisms to make.

First one: the focus of this story is a demonic violin; as soon as it was discovered that an arcane music sheet had been stolen, it became blatantly obvious where the story was heading; why did nobody seem to understand until too late that someone was obviously going to stage a performance of the King in Yellow with Lecter as the guest star? Some people were under considerable stress, but at least some others should really have been able to connect the dots.

Second one, and this is about writing style: I think that, while you did a very good job in conveying Mo's personality, viewpoints and emotional status, the same can't be said about her writing style and dialogue; she slips a bit too often into mannerisms that would rather belong to Bob, or to yourself. The most obvious case is when she's talking to Stanwick about her plans, and she writes "Hand her a tool that can install a rootkit in twenty million brains and she doesn’t see any risk". Now, what do we have here? A musician talking about rootkits. Bob's an IT guy, so he would obviously describe the situation this way; but Mo shouldn't even know what a heavily technical term such as "rootkit" means, and, even if she does, that definitely wouldn't be the first way to come to her mind to describe what's happening. She could talk about mass hypnosis, or whatever... but the very concept of a "rootkit" wouldn't come naturally to a non-IT person like her; even in the Laundryverse, where computers are heavily involved with magic, Mo's still not a computational demonologist, a software developer or a system engineer; she's a musician and a philosopher. There's no way she would see the world like a seasoned IT professional does, thinking in terms of buffer overflows, security exploits and rootkits.
What I think happened here is not so much a slip into Bob's style, as much as a slip into your own: you, just like Bob, used to work in IT (BTW, so do I), thus you find rather natural to describe mass mind manipulation as "installing a rootkit in twenty million brains"; and this is all well and good when you're writing as Bob, which shares a similar mindset with his author. However, this story is told from the POW of a person with completely a different skill set and life experience, thus her phrasing seemed rather odd for her.
Clearly, this is just a minor detail which didn't stop anyone from enjoying the book (if he/she was enjoying it in the first place, of course); but it breaks the whole "Mo's viewpoint" motive, and thus I respectfully suggest this is something you should pay a bit more attention to when telling stories from the POW of different characters.

294:

FWIW, I do know the difference between intrinsic meaning and extrinsic meaning. All I was trying to say, in my inept way, was that emotional attachment to - specifically! - *human* life (which Bob - and Mo's - motivation to keep fighting essentially is) constitutes something ever so slightly different, in actual lived experience, from the sort of meaning that all the grand narratives (God, Nation, etc.) tend to provide. Sure, on the abstract level you and I and Bob and Mo know that that particular attachment has no intrinsic meaning either; but it still holds power over them (and me; and possibly you, but I don't know you well enough to tell) in a way that other extrinsic meanings don't, and probably never did. Well, as you said: different levels of extrinsic meaning... but this is on a rather deeper level than the postcard example you chose. The deepest level, really. It still is extrinsic meaning from a pure, detached, philosophical point of view, but on the level of lived experience, it feels, in effect, about as close to intrinsic meaning as you can get - or at least it still clearly does to Bob and Mo. They *know* it isn't, but their bodies and the deepest layers of their minds don't know it.

I guess what I'm saying is that there are probably not very many people I'd really call fully nihilist? Because it's hard to overcome the bias for your own existence?

But of course what this really comes down to is just a defence of the colloquial use of the term nihilism, not the actual philosophical one, so, eh. Never mind. :D

295:

I had some issues with Mo's voice being rather like Bob's too, but I'm finding it helpful to rationalise it as a result of her spending a lot of time around an IT guy (who probably talks about this sort of stuff a fair bit), as well as - like someone in some comment higher up remarked - around Laundry folks, who are also frequently IT people due to the link between IT and magic in the Laundryverse.

I was bothered more by the absence of the markers of a philosopher's and musician's background in her writing than by the presence of those of an IT one. Unfortunately that absence is harder to explain.

296:

Having thought some more about OGH's suggestion that there may be a whole string of marriage counsellors to be broken in an upcoming novel: the idea amuses me greatly - but where are they going to find a sufficient number of counsellors with that high a security clearance?

I mean, the Laundry may be public by book 8 - but will all the details of what Bob (and - now that the violin is gone, to a lesser degree - Mo) can do be public, too? Bob, especially, is essentially one of apparently not very many nukes in the Laundry's arsenal; is he *allowed* to talk to anyone not on Mahogany Row about what he can do?

297:

Yes, that, too.

298:

Bear in mind, not only as Mo spent the last seven years living with a hardcore geek, she also works for an agency that is very rooted in computing.

Computer speak seems to be how the more modern generation of Laundry parses the magic and such, so not only does she live with it, she works with it and it's the common terminology.

299:

You know what, everybody? With my level of obsessiveness, I would probably be an asset to a wiki. So if anyone's starting one, I'm in.

300:

Page 279, US Ace Hardcover, bottom of the page:

"Would you trust your trainee team with it?" askss the SA.

301:

That's a possible reason, yes, but it looks more as a justification than an actual explanation.
Computer jargon is very technical by definition, and "rootkit" is not even something so common that it could reasonably creep into mainstream conversation for non-techs. Something like "brain virus", maybe... although for non-IT people the word "virus" is much easily associated with a cold that with a self-replicating piece of code that takes control of its host and makes it perform what it wants. But "brain rootkit"... is really much less likely to be used by anyone.
As an example, just today I saw a t-shirt with the text "life is too short to remove USB safely"; now, that's something quite geeky, but everyone who ever plugged something into a computer would recognize it instantly; and yet, a non-tech would never use it as a metaphor for "doing something hasty skipping proper procedure because who cares I don't have time to lose". They could talk about crossing with a red light, or whatever metaphorically similar comes to their minds; maybe a musician would talk about "playing an instrument without properly tuning it beforehand", I really don't know what metaphors musicians use. But surely a non-geek would never describe such a situation as "this is like unplugging an USB device unsafely".
And yet, here we have a musician/philosopher with no real technical background who sometimes talks just like a computer geek. Yes, she could have picked up some jargon and memes from her husband and workplace, but this is quite a stretch IMHO; this is why I interpreted it as a slip by Charles (which, as I said before, shares an IT mindset with Bob, thus could be very easily prone to such a slip).
Also, plese keep in mind that not everybody in the Laundry sees magic in terms of computing; and this has been a plot point multiple times, much to the dismay of Bob who was quite sure magic required technological support... before certain events forced him to an abrupt change of attitude.

302:

Mo's bonafides as a hacker could be considered established in Atrocity Archive when she comes over for their first date, sees the unpublished volume of Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming, and temporarily forgets Bob's even there.

Mo's bonafides as a nerd are established with the whole DND dice talk about Bob buying an iPhone. ("credit card takes hit from shiny" etc.)

Regardless of the knowledge deficit of some people in the Laundry, an interest in Knuth-level CS and using DND-speak for everyday life makes me think it is unsurprising that Mo would know what a rootkit is.

I mean, Johnny and Persephone knew what one was in TAC, and I reckon they identify as black ops badasses first and hackers not at all.

303:

BTW, the same also happens in that very same scene to Stanwick herself, who says "We know about the risks of installing a firmware upgrade in somebody’s brain". An Assistant Commissioner talking about firmware upgrades? That's even weirder than Mo talking about rootkits.

What I'm saying here is, those people should have no reason to talk like computer geeks. The whole scene just looked like it was written by an IT guy (which of course it was), using the sort of dialog he could use with his IT buddies. But it's really not very plausible as a conversation between a policewoman and a musician; even if they are talking about mass mind manipulation, they shouldn't be talking about it in those terms.

304:

Waaaay back in the Atrocity Archives Mo's research was in "Bayesian reasoning based on statistics.." and she raved (or at least Bob thought she raved) about Knuth's suppressed volume 4 of The Art of Computer Programming.

Mo might not be from the IT dept. but it doesn't mean she's not technical.

305:
And yet, here we have a musician/philosopher with no real technical background who sometimes talks just like a computer geek

On the other hand:

  • Rootkit is a word that's been used in headlines in non-technical British newspapers and online for at least five years ("Sony's long-term rootkit CD woes", "Apple users seeking free iWork hit by rootkit)", etc. During the Sony debacle my Mum asked whether she needed to worry about rootkits!
  • I'd disagree with no technical background. We've seen Mo and Bob bond over new hardware (Jesus phones, etc.). Shes also on the mathematics / statistics end of philosophy. She visibly geeked out over seeing the late "unpublished" volume of Knuth. That is not the sign of an untechnical person. Very much the opposite.


Also, plese keep in mind that not everybody in the Laundry sees magic in terms of computing; and this has been a plot point multiple times, much to the dismay of Bob who was quite sure magic required technological support

Computation != technology. The in-universe magic is all about computation. It just doesn't need to be computation instantiated in silicon.

And considering the risks I'd say that anybody vaguely competent in the Laundry is going to have a fairly deep understanding of the risks and terms of hacking/cracking.

306:

Oooh, good point. I'd forgotten about that. I really have to reread the series. (I did last year, but, well, it's been a year. One Laundry reread per year is reasonable, right? ;-))

307:

(Not that mum's are necessarily non-technical — but mine very definitely is ;-)

308:

(Was referring to the Knuth bit.)

309:

Bugger...some one beat me to it.

310:

My point is not about people knowing technical things... is about jargon appearing in their writing/talking style, even in casual conversations. I, as an IT guy, am all for using computer-related metaphors; but while some non-IT friends might very well understand them, they would never use them on their own.
A biologist can jokingly say "I feel ATP-deprived" instead of "I'm tired", and a neurologist can say "my serotonine levels are low" instead of "I'm sad". Non-specialized people with some background knowledge can probably understand both jokes, but they would never come up with them in the first place.
Having technical jargon pop-up in conversations is something that happens to your jargon; if you don't have a deeply engrained affinity for that jargon, it just doesn't come so natural.
I'd have much rather expected Mo to use musical or philosophical jargon in her conversations; and I'd definitely not have expected Stanwick to talk about firmware updates, when much more common and mundane terms a police officer knows (such as plain old "brainwashing") would have conveyed the exact same meaning.
Using "install a brain firmware update" instead of "brainwashing" is exactly the kind of joke a computer nerd would make... but a police officer would not.

311:

Now see, Stanwick saying it I agree with. That said, there is the no prize explanation that this is Mo recounting it, and it is the sort of thing she'd say. So there's the unreliable narrator out.

And I think Mo's technical bona fides are well established in universe. Mathematician who lives with a computer geek and works with other geeks.

I suspect you're also underestimating people's ability to absorb and use stuff. I used source code as a metaphor the other day, and if I were any less technical I wouldn't be able to post this response.

312:

I agree its a bit OOC for Stanwick. But Mo? After what various people have listed in the previous ten or fifteen coments, about textual evidence of Mo's tech background? I have no problem with Mo using those references at all.

And Stanwick, well, that may just be Mo reporting on the conversation in her own words, rather than trying to capture the exact words/flavour of speech the police woman was using. Angleton sometimes sounded strikingly like Bob, too, when Bob was writing about him.

(And yeah, of course ultimately it's the actual author shining through, probably. But as long as I can explain it away like this, I have no problem with this. ;-))

313:

Police officers can't also be computer nerds?

314:

Whatever explanation we may came up with for Mo and other people talking like computer geeks, I still think the simplest one is that Charles is just used to write using the POW of someone (Bob) who shares his technical background, thus sometimes he just slips into this habit even when a character should behave differently.

I'd really like to hear a word from OGH on this.

315:

Your argument appears to be based around the idea that behaviour is constrained by the jobs people have. You don't have to work in IT to be a computer geek (I'm a scientist, and I'm a computer geek - so are most of my colleagues). I'd bet that in the under-40 crowd, most computer geeks aren't IT workers at all. Most people born in the Western world after the late 70s grew up with some degree of computer technology around them; anyone born after 1990 grew up surrounded by it. I can't speak for the UK media, but terms like "security exploit" and "rootkit" are commonplace in the Canadian media.

316:

(Currently writing novel-length comment. Will only get around to finishing and posting it tomorrow night, though, due to Job_1 happening in the intervening time. Hope the thread sticks around until then...)

317:

(Rootkit less than exploit, but the point holds - these are not advanced technical terms known only to an elite few.)

318:

My big issues with TAS are as follows-

1)I really, really don't like Mo after getting a good look at her from the inside. Maybe if we had a story or two when she wasn't dealing with a quadruple whammy of PTSD, relationship issues, personal issues, and a workplace that could be called "stressful" without laughing, I'd have more sympathy. But, I've seen too many variations of the "Mo" female in my life, and the fact that Bob (a) hasn't cheated on Mo, but Mo possibly has been having something with Lecter and jumps right in to something with Officer Friendly/Jim...all while giving Bob grief about poor communication about Mhari.

I will admit that I understand that Mo should be on vacation somewhere and the Violin put in a warded oil drum of concrete and dumped somewhere extremely deep in the ocean(b). She's been dealing with issues of all sorts, including her lack of children, how her job makes her do horrible things and clean up horrible messes, and how she's feeling the various itches of her life. Regardless...I feel less about her in this book, even though I know all the issues she's going through.

2)There seems to be a bit of formula going on in the various Laundry books. Other people have pointed it out, and how it showed up here felt kind of forced at the end. Especially since it's the Police being the bad guys in this circumstance. The payoff wasn't quite ready for what you put into it.

3)Yes, I know Mo is in the middle of a Major Breakdown Of Her Psyche. However, the laws of physics starting to go weird would be something that everybody would notice and attention would be paid.

4)American perspective here...I can easily see Marvel/Disney and WB/DC grabbing the more sane superhero impersonators and using them for marketing. And, a hard fuzzy time thinking of how the Black Chamber would have access and control to four and five sigma superheros unless they were going to do things that just make for great character origin stories. For villains.

This might be the last Laundry book I buy in hardcover, if only because I need to start taking more control of my hardcover purchases due to the need to move.

(a)Unreliable narrator, I know. But the only one we've got.

(b)Without bothering BLUE HADES, of course.

319:

3)Yes, I know Mo is in the middle of a Major Breakdown Of Her Psyche. However, the laws of physics starting to go weird would be something that everybody would notice and attention would be paid.

I know I'm beginning to get terribly repetitive (beginning to? Hah.), but as this was the only actually suspension-of-disbelief-breaking thing for me in the book, I just wanted to add my "I agree" here once more. And even if I was willing to buy Mo's complete obliviousness here - which I can *just about* talk myself into doing - I don't believe that the Laundry *in general* wouldn't have started becoming aware of this during TRC already, and that it wouldn't have been something basically everybody working there would be aware of. *frowns*

320:

Alternate American perspective- as one who's horrified at our overly litigious society and the sprawl of our out of control security state, I found the Black Chamber/Disney/Marvel/DC response (possibly one and the same? who knows what's REALLY under Space Mountain? besides the basketball courts) INCREDIBLY realistic. It really drives home the combination of unnatural horrors plus mundane responses. And if the Black Chamber is possibly in the habit of trying to suborn entities like that in TAC, then a 4-5 sigma superhero doesn't seem impossible to contain and compel.

I also found myself thinking Mo was being unfair about Mhari being at the house at the end of TRC, but I am decidedly of the mind that if you're not actually doing anything wrong, then don't give people things to worry about that they can't control.
...Granted, I'm not married, and that doesn't peg my bogometer at all that someone like Mo would just lock in on THAT and no extenuating circumstances.

Like you, I found her commitment to Bob lacking as well, no matter what Bob did with Ramona in TJM, he was destiny entangled in the sex magic instances and when they made out underwater, I'm led to believe they were still under the influence of the Bond geas. So...he was less of a free actor than she is. Mo on the other hand seems pretty willing to jump right into the Friends-esque "it's a break! go wild!" with merely token guilt responses about her marriage.

TBH, the only nice thing she had to say about Bob was he was there to cuddle and occasionally fuck, which makes her not much better than Mhari. I'd be willing to bet this relationship means a lot more to him than it does to Mo.

321:

To buffer my last thought- Mo's been married and divorced before though, so very likely she's more jaded and less optimistic, if not less drinking-the-romantic-koolaid than Bob.

322:

Okay, jumping in again (and abandoning my novel-length comment on this same topic, for the time being, I think, because there are probably better uses of my time):

If that is *really* what we're supposed to get out of the text - "Mo doesn't really have any serious grievances about Bob, she just doesn't care all that much about him; also, she's almost pathologically jealous", then... that would be a crying shame. For a slew of reasons, some of which I've already talked about at length somewhere above; to add one I haven't talked about yet: it would veer dangerously close to some rather unfortunate stereotypes about women.

The problem is, the text is indeed pretty wide open to that interpretation. It takes real work, and a very close reading of this and previous books, in addition to a good understanding of the human psyche, to come to a different interpretation, like Fabian Giesen's at #242. Judging from readers' reactions on various sites I've been watching, most people don't put in that work/don't read that closely/etc. - your judgment of Mo is a widespread one.

I still think Fabian's interpretation, which I share, is probably closer to what OGH intended, but... if it takes this much work to unearth it, can it even be said to be there in the text? I think that *if* Fabian's interpretation is what's intended, it needed to be communicated a bit more clearly. Not massively more clearly, maybe - nobody wants to be hit over the head - but as it is, it basically takes an archaeologist to find what's really going on with Bob and Mo - and as for "the truth about Mo" in a more general sense, that's nearly unknowable, at the moment.

323:

Unsorted thoughts ...

While reading, I was waiting for the Jim==Lecter reveal, or something to that effect. The whole big, beatiful stranger thing seemd raher similiar between the dreams and the envounter with Jim. Also, in my reading, this was written by a Mo who assumes Bob will rad it at some time. So maybe things went further at the first date, but were redacted. Who will know?

In TRC, my feeling was that the auditors wouldnt mind Bob and Mo beeing apart, so that each have support from people who are not also crucial assets. Tough when your resident eater of soul can't be sent on an assignment because he's suffering secondary traumatiation from CANDID. The SA, together with Angleton, could have foreseen that Lecter and Eater don't mix, so driving them apart might even be the nicer alternative. And their spooks, are they supposed to hold an intervention and lay everything on the table?

Now I wonder if our friendly Russians from TFM will one day build their own violin and call forward the King in yellow.

I remember the word from god that he LF is in a praralell universe officially, I still read it as secret history and not as alternate. It's more fun like that (for example, to learn that Erich Zahn was active in my hometown, and then walk past a few violin makers ...). So superpowers + a major mass murder at the proms is a major suspension of disbelieve problem for me. Other believability problem for me: A cop who talks the way about authorianism as Jim does. I think understanding this part of social psychology would make it very hard to work in a police force. You'd not only deal with the explicit hierarchies, but also with the whole cop culture. The rest of the cops seemd pretty believable.

I know this is the TAS thread, bu I don't want to post TRC spoilers elsewhere ... I liked how the beginning of TRC was one great Angelton moment. Made the end more striking. sniff.

But back to topic, I really liked TAS, I liked Mo as a viewpint character and I liked a whole lot of other things about the book.

324:


"Mo doesn't really have any serious grievances about Bob, she just doesn't care all that much about him; also, she's almost pathologically jealous"

isn't *quite* what I said. I think the grievance about Mhari staying over WAS blown out of proportion, but there's plenty that's happened both in (and could have happened out of) book to strain the relationship on top of that. Frankly, I assumed that. It's realistic.

If we're going to assume projections in my judgment, then know I saw her hopping on that as just the most convenient tip of the iceberg to kickoff the breakup. In which case, she's not jealous, she's just been suppressing rage and this was a good point to let it rip in supposed justification.

I DID find the way she described Bob pretty much to be less than equivalent in feeling for him than he does for her, and unreliable narrator or not, Bob at least makes the effort to seem like he cares. But who knows, if Bob was writing book 7, maybe he'd also be at the point of describing Mo as a pleasant thing to squeeze in the middle of the night and naught more.

325:

Yeah, sorry, I was oversimplifying and exaggerating your viewpoint a bit there, and conflating it with all those reviews and reactions I've read elsewhere. I've just read a lot of similar interpretations of the situation tonight, and that was what the whole thing... congealed into, in my head, after a while.

326:

First off - loved it. A truly subversive perspective on the superhero thing.

One of the things I really liked about TAS was how Mo's mental health problems were presented. She was so far gone down the road of stress/PTSD that the coping strategies had become normalised and structured.

Added to Bruce's comment about breaking people being a miscalculation, why should it be miscalculation and not just an accepted factor of a lethally-dangerous operating environment?

A couple of years ago, one commentator noted that of the few available (auto/shadow)biographies of Hereford's finest, during the times when there was little enough trouble in the Kingdom that they generally handled it, was that three-quarters of them freely admitted to having had psychiatric treatment during their service, and then returning to duty afterwards - this being the 1970s to early 90s.

The observation was that their attitude appeared to dispense with much of the stigma of mental illness, in the sense of "you break a leg - you see the leg doctor, you get better, you soldier on. You break your head, you see the head doctor, you get better, you soldier on". The Army had a psychiatric wing in a military hospital (back when such things existed) where they helped people recover from such existential stresses. You don't invest years of time in selecting and training specialists at huge expense, only to discard them after the first illness.

Two tales from thirty years ago.

- Jungle warfare may be fought at incredibly close range, and often won by the person who fires first. Long-range small-team patrolling in jungle warfare is very, very stressful; and after several months of a black-and-white world in which "good=let live, not-good=kill", you needed to bring soldiers back gently. "Decompression" is vital. Less of an issue in the days of troopships, more of an issue courtesy of air travel if said soldier is back down town 48 hours later with a drink in them - and someone threatens them...

- Covert surveillance in a hostile urban environment is similarly stressful. Northern Ireland has seen several cases where undercover soldiers were found and killed brutally (and lots more where they were just off-duty soldiers in civilian clothes). I seem to remember a comment that in the early days, fifty percent of the covert operators suffered some kind of breakdown requiring psychiatric treatment; I met one who admitted that on the drive back home from Heathrow after returning from his tour, he had been utterly convinced he was being tailed by a PIRA spotter team; but aware enough to realise what this meant, and checked himself in for treatment.

That's not to say it's all good and well; recovery may only have been partial or superficial. Andy MacNab wrote a book called "7 Troop" (which I haven't read) that appears to describe the longer-term after-effects of such stresses.

Note that these tales are decades old; things may have (indeed, I really hope they have) changed for the better.

327:

and "rootkit" is not even something so common that it could reasonably creep into mainstream conversation for non-techs. Something like "brain virus", maybe...

What, you mean like, perhaps, "Snow Crash"? :)

Still trying to persuade firstborn to try reading it :)

328:

Strangely appropriate article about the mental health about the people dealing with our actual ongoing real world apocalypse: http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a36228/ballad-of-the-sad-climatologists-0815/

(Apologies if this is too far off topic.)

329:

Great story, thanks Mr. Stross!

One thing I still don't get though, is why BLUE HADES and/or DEEP SEVEN haven't wiped out humanity yet, or at least put the shaved apes in their proper place. You'd think they'd be getting awfully tired of the dangerous earth/universe-threatening antics the all too clever primates keep getting up to on the surface.

Any speculation as to why they haven't done so? If it's now too late (too many megadeaths during CNG is bad?), why not at some point in the (perhaps distant) past, before humanity reached a critical mass and became like a Wall Street bank - too big to fail (or kill off)?

330:

Hand her a tool that can install a rootkit in twenty million brains and she doesn’t see any risk

I'm not seeing the issue with her dialogue here. (Note: have not read the book, am jinking things atm). I fear that most responses are dealing with a DK level of misunderstanding about what host is doing.

Music and Math have always had extreme connections: there's plenty of evidence that the part of the brain that deals with them can do both.

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1869#2

http://www.abcmusicandme.com/images/impact%20of%20music%20on%20math.pdf

She's a combat epistemologist, so presumably she also does semantics: there's not a small chance that she's tailoring her spoken word to hack the minds of her listeners to get the maximal effect in the shortest amount of time.


Now I wonder if our friendly Russians from TFM will one day build their own violin and call forward the King in yellow.

Interesting; there's serious evidence that [Redacted].

Small note on meta-play. Last night "Ukrainian / Russian Hackers" released an interesting video allegedly showing the production of ISIL videos in a professional stage setting.

@Gallery. Call it serendipity, I had no idea that it was about to happen.

331:

I met one who admitted that on the drive back home from Heathrow after returning from his tour, he had been utterly convinced he was being tailed by a PIRA spotter team; but aware enough to realise what this meant, and checked himself in for treatment.

It was probably true, just not in the way he thought.

MI5 security detail keeping tabs on high priority target. By keeping the subject safe, they sent him mad.

Irony, bureaucracies are never good at it.

And yes, there's a comment I'm not making about certain services ruining their own assets due to ill-thought out policies. File under: Why ex-MI5 agents in the 1980/90's always presented in drag or other 'humorous' stereotypes to save their skins.


For the curious:

CyberBerkut Disinfo Video

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CyberBerkut

I'll leave you to work through that particular morass yourself if you're interested enough to pursue it.

Something, something, mirrors

Quite.

Just have to have a wider view of things.

332:

continuity error:

Uk hardback p 391 first para

Mo apparently perpetuates the common misconception that elgar wrote the music for 'jerusalem'
Hubert parry, 2nd head of the Royal College of Music, composed it.
the words are of course by william blake, poet and mystic

of course this rather spoils mo's subsequent droll aside

without breaking out the music nerd it's unlikely that differnces in universes between ours and Mo's would enable elgar to have writen it instead. and Mo should know the difference between Elgar and Parry (and their politics) sorry

apart from that:

thank you charlie, the boy dun good again

and here's another +1 for 'glass house' btw (but you knew that)

333:

I was thinking about posting that. Beat me to it! "Pre-traumatic Stress Disorder" is a real problem amongst climate change activists.

I'm working on a book that touches on that. I think one of the problems is that it is a literally unspeakable dread. As an example, try answering the following question:

What would the Earth look like if severe climate change happened, and humans survived?

It's hard to put the answer into words, isn't it? If you're having trouble, I think you've tripped over what the world unspeakable means.

334:

What would the Earth look like if severe climate change happened, and humans survived?


Two points:

1) It's not if, it's when. We're locked into 2oC now, no chances left.

2) Humans will survive, the real question is how many, and how warped their minds are. Lions, Tigers and Bears: a world without them (and dolphins, orcas and whales) tends to reinforce that old Biblical hubris angle.


If you want a serious look at this, I did some modelling for [redacted].

You're looking at about 4 billion deaths in the medium term for the median projections.

By medium - read 100 years.

Median - read 5oC warming + no cessation of over-harvesting of oceans and so on.

That's without factoring in limited nuclear exchanges over resources.


So, yeah.


We get depressed and act out. There's a reason for it.


If you want links, can be provided.


It's not a book, it's your future. *shrug*

335:

Fun facts you'll need to understand before you even deal with this:

1) Biological life has a temperature cut-off point. That point is about 48oC for all life, ranges from 42-46 for more complex life.

It's a hard maxim where desert happens and you can no longer support even simple behaviours. (c.f. Bedouins etc)

So, am I impressed by cities in deserts fueled by three billion years of life?

No. It's a giant sign stating how stupid you are.


2) Fresh water (aquifers etc) happens over geological time, not human time.

So, am I impressed by cities in deserts fueled by three million years of geology?

No. It's a giant sign stating how stupid you are.

3) Complex ecosystems cannot adapt (abapt - look into why the sabre-tooth tiger went extinct, over-adapation to a niche) in human time scales. Not even by cheating (GM tech etc).

So, am I impressed by a species who altered a few genes in corn to make it resistant to salt or less water?

No. It's a giant sign stating how stupid you are.


p.s.


We're not allowed to state publicly just how bad things will get, and very soon, because, you know: profits and safety.

336:

I'd say that, in the short term, you're more optimistic than I am. Long term, maybe not.

As for rapid adaptation, the part we're not thinking about are Dansgaard-Oeschger events. Rapid climate changes have happened repeatedly in the relatively recent past, and somehow, they didn't trigger an extinction event. Grant, they happened with the world being colder than it is now, but today's species did go through a bunch of rapid and repeated climatic whipsaws. That doesn't make me particularly optimistic for the future, because we've gridded up the world a bit too much and made it hard for things to migrate, but it does point out that we know less about how species adapt than we think we do.

337:

Dansgaard-Oeschger effects

Hmm.

It's basically positing that the end of the ice age caused localized temperature effects due to the balancing of climate [read: temperature / wind due to ocean effects]. This doesn't effect the carrying capacity of the Earth too much, since it's usually flattened out after ~+/- 500 years.

So, it's a McGuffin.

The important take away:

The events appear to reflect changes in the North Atlantic ocean circulation, perhaps triggered by an influx of fresh water.


That's the killer point: if that was solely the problem, then of course things wouldn't devolve. [c.f. Wine production in England in Roman times]


Note: adaption doesn't mean what you think it does.

ALL life is currently adapted to a min-max range (depending on location).

The 42 / 46 / 48 / 50 oC limits means something else:


It means, literally that certain biological forms cannot survive there.

We're working on models where these thresholds are passed, for +6 months / annum.

Hint: You were given the idea of "maxim" and you didn't understand it.


Try harder.

Pro tip: If you're in Australia, move now. Not even being funny.

338:

1) Biological life has a temperature cut-off point. That point is about 48oC for all life, ranges from 42-46 for more complex life.

No, we went over that before. It's somewhere above 110C for all life, and probably around 60-70C for complex life.

But this is kind of academic because it isn't very high for us.

2) Fresh water (aquifers etc) happens over geological time, not human time.

People argued that it was OK to empty ancient aquifers because they do nobody any good just sitting there. So we can ignore that wealth or we can use it. I thought that reasoning was short-sighted, but it did make a kind of sense in its day. I have no idea how long it will take to recharge aquifers under the new conditions, it will probably vary a lot. I hope it's real fast because otherwise with higher sea levels some of those aquifers may fill with seawater which would be a waste.

3) Complex ecosystems cannot adapt (abapt - look into why the sabre-tooth tiger went extinct, over-adapation to a niche) in human time scales. Not even by cheating (GM tech etc).

My senior year of college I visited the other campus and found an old man puttering in his lab. He designed sewage treatment systems. He got his start with a sewage treatment system which tolerated highly alkaline textile wastes -- it operated at pH 13 with a complex ecosystem including rotifers and nematodes. (Of course, the water was still high pH after it was purified, and the waste solids were high pH too.) He got another one working at pH 1. One that handled waste from an antibiotics factory. Heavy metals. Lots of extreme stuff. Every micro-organism in the world gets dumped into sewage treatment plants at some point, and the ones that survive there, stay. There was more variation than I could imagine. He shook his finger at me. "If you want to study adaptation, don't use pure cultures!"

The same year I read _The Natural History of Infectious Disease_ by W McFarlane Burnett. Burnett showed beyond doubt that the micro-organisms that cause human disease are evolving in real-time.

If you follow the current fashion and believe there are no ecosystems but only individual species that survive wherever they can with minimal mutualism, then under new stresses an "ecosystem" will probably get simpler but it will adapt as fast as its individual species adapt -- the ones with an effective generation time of 300 generations a year will adapt quickly, those with 10 generations a year slower, those with one generation in 3 years slowly, and those with a generation time of 12 years will have to play catch-up. But everything that doesn't go extinct quickly will adapt at least for awhile.

If you believe that communities tend to self-assemble over time, with each species that survives better when its biome is not disrupted evolving to less-often disrupt its own biomes, then they will still tend to simplify and they will be slower to restructure, but it will eventually happen. Adaptive radiation will happen too.

Human genetic modification would have to get a much better focus before it would make much difference. The tendency is that GM organisms don't survive well in nature, because humans don't know how to design them to fit into available ecological niches.

We're not allowed to state publicly just how bad things will get, and very soon, because, you know: profits and safety.

Things will surely get very bad, but there's a reasonable chance that humanity won't go extinct. If 10,000 humans survive in one biome long enough to figure out how to exploit other biomes once things settle down approaching some new equilibrium, humans will be fine from there. And if they have a strong cultural taboo not to use technology more complicated than a fist-axe, they might spread across the world in small numbers and take hundreds of thousands of years before they develop the means to disrupt everything again. It may have happened before and it may happen again.

339:

No, we went over that before. It's somewhere above 110C for all life, and probably around 60-70C for complex life.

No.

NASA research (and many others) specifically note the cut-off points I've mentioned. I didn't mention them out of the blue.

Bacteria on a black smoker =! life.

I have no idea how long it will take to recharge aquifers under the new conditions, it will probably vary a lot. I hope it's real fast because otherwise with higher sea levels some of those aquifers may fill with seawater which would be a waste.

It will take millions of years, presupposing that the ecologies that enabled water production still exist.

Hint: desert - doesn't fucking happen.

Human genetic modification would have to get a much better focus before it would make much difference. The tendency is that GM organisms don't survive well in nature, because humans don't know how to design them to fit into available ecological niches.

Finally, some kind of sense.

However:

Every micro-organism in the world gets dumped into sewage treatment plants at some point, and the ones that survive there, stay.


There's a notable exception to your rule here: if said man could have produced a bacteria that you could sprinkle over hazardous waste to remove the heavy metals (perhaps forming crystalline elements we could use)...

He'd be a multi-billionaire.

If you follow the current fashion and believe there are no ecosystems but only individual species that survive wherever they can with minimal mutualism

Where are you getting this from? This is literally insane, and I can't think of a single biologist / ecologist etc thinking like this in the 21st C.

Seriously! Cite!

Things will surely get very bad, but there's a reasonable chance that humanity won't go extinct.


I already stated that humans won't go extinct.

You seem to suffer under the aegis that the 50/50 rule over genetics and environment doesn't mean anything.


My point was simple: You've failed both. And the environment thing is the easiest one to alter.


Richest society on Earth:

320 mil pop

30-40% obesity levels

Poverty levels hitting 20%

Wealth Disparity (GMI) hitting levels of Nigeria / other 'developing' world countries

And so on.

I'm not messing around. The Rules


p.s.


That moment when stupidity ruined a potential brilliant resource.

340:

Read a bit more. D-O events are global thermohaline cycle twitching off and on due to ice building up around Greenland and Northern Canada, then dumping into the ocean. Basically, we're talking flickers of 5-10oF or more on a ~1500 year cycle, although there's so much variation in that 1500 year average that some say it looks random. Look up Bond Cycle and Heinrich event too, to get the full messiness.

For everyone else, the problem with the Pleistocene ice ages wasn't that it's cold, it's that out of the ~100,000 year ice age cycle, about 10-20,000 years is stably cold, about 10-20,000 years is stably warm (like now), and the rest of the time, the climate was oscillating between the two more stable states. At the cold end, due to various Milankovitch cycles, it's too cold for the ice to melt, and at the warm end, there's no enough ice at the poles to really mess up global thermohaline circulation. In between, Earth's it's too warm, but there's too much ice, so the climate fluctuates.

341:

Look up Bond Cycle and Heinrich event too, to get the full messiness.

Yes, I'm processing papers at the moment.

The issue is simple:

D-O events are global thermohaline cycle twitching off and on due to ice building up around Greenland and Northern Canada

No, this isn't correct.

From the papers I'm reading, the Southern cycle (Antarctica) is just as important, it's that we don't have enough data to model it.


The real issue is this:

Arctic ice is about to cease to exist (in that parrot sketch type "It's dead. Gone." way) and...


Here's the drum-roll:


Equilibrium based systems (hyper-cycles +/- 10k years +) cannot deal with this kind of instability.


It's the classic case of how to break 'stable' chaotic dynamic systems. i.e. removal of single (in this case, three) points of reference so that chaotic system cannot return to the base level.

I'll post the papers if you want.

342:

Intended or not, does it really matter, though? If I find it, I get to keep it! :)

Does OGH have his own vision of what really happened, themes he wants to cover, points he wants to make? No doubt he does, but just because he's the author doesn't mean he gets to decide what his words mean to me!

As long as an interpretation can be substantiated from the text, it's valid, whether intended by the author or not. And I tend to get bored with books that try to nail things down too rigidly, *especially* when I feel the author is lecturing me. My favorite stories have meant different things to me at different times.

Is "The Trial" a grim, dystopian drama about a man's life getting destroyed by a vast, uncaring, human-blind bureaucracy for no discernible reason? A polemic about the dangers of such organizations? Is it about blind obedience to authority? A projection of Kafka's own fears and insecurities? A parable about what is lost when the ideal of "justice" gets formalized? A comedy so pitch-black it actually lowers the room temperature by a few degrees? Why, all of the above (and more besides)! Some of these are definitely intended by the author, some almost certainly not. As for what we were supposed to get out of The Trial, the author left no doubt: nothing. Kafka asked his friend Max Brod to destroy all his unpublished or unfinished work after his death, which is almost all of it. I'm duly grateful Brod didn't comply. :)

343:

Most of the species on this planet survived these cycles. We're assuming they're evolved to an equilibrium, but perhaps that assumption is incorrect.

As for the D-O cycles, I'm not surprised that Antarctica is involved, but as you noted, there's not enough data to say. I used Alley's Two Mile Time Machine as my simple reference for the parts of the Bond cycle. His explanation will probably turn out to be wrong, but how is hard to tell.

For me, figuring out the role of bipolar seesaws is right up there with figuring out whether the East Antarctic ice sheet will fully melt or not. When the West Antarctic ice sheet melts, the circumpolar currents are going to go a lot closer to the south pole, and that's going to make things more complicated. Will that speed up warming? It doesn't look like anyone knows yet.

344:

Bacteria on a black smoker =! life.

They are, in fact, alive.

"I have no idea how long it will take to recharge aquifers under the new conditions, it will probably vary a lot."

It will take millions of years, presupposing that the ecologies that enabled water production still exist.

How do you know?

Water goes down, gases come up. That's slowed when you have impermeable or semipermeable layers. It's slowed when the water runs off before it can sink in, or when plants put some of the water back into the air. When the water and gases must travel through a few cracks in an impermeable layer, it can take a very long time to get a lot of movement. And of course sometimes aquifers full of gas slump a big and never again hold as much water.

But it very much depends on conditions for individual aquifers, and some of them might recharge pretty fast.

There's a notable exception to your rule here: if said man could have produced a bacteria that you could sprinkle over hazardous waste to remove the heavy metals (perhaps forming crystalline elements we could use)...

He'd be a multi-billionaire.

Unfortunately, no. It's been done. Bacterial mining is occasionally profitable, but it doesn't get done much which makes me think that there are glitches that haven't been resolved. Bacteria that collect heavy metals, sometimes specific heavy metals, exist and people get excited about them but they don't seem to make many fortunes. Possibly some of the work is secret. There are some that preferentially sequester uranium, and if one of them preferentially sequestered particular uranium isotopes I doubt I'd hear about it.

I don't know the details. People have gotten periodically excited about these things for 30+ years but it never seems to amount to much.

"If you follow the current fashion and believe there are no ecosystems but only individual species that survive wherever they can with minimal mutualism"

Where are you getting this from? This is literally insane, and I can't think of a single biologist / ecologist etc thinking like this in the 21st C.

Heteromeles provided a link last year, and I didn't find it quickly. It doesn't say exactly what I said, though. The argument is that plant communities don't exist, that each plant grows wherever it can mostly independent of what other plants are growing nearby. If there were plant communities for real, then their members would grow together and not apart but in reality the boundaries that limit where each kind of plant can grow overlap others and don't match up. So the plants live together sometimes and apart sometimes, and they are therefore not communities. There were some other arguments too.

I tend to think it's an overreaction to the elaborate community hypotheses an earlier generation of ecologists made, which were similarly hard to test.

"Things will surely get very bad, but there's a reasonable chance that humanity won't go extinct."

I already stated that humans won't go extinct.

How would you know? There's genetic evidence that we've probably come close before.

You seem to suffer under the aegis that the 50/50 rule over genetics and environment doesn't mean anything.

I don't know what you mean, had you discussed that before? What do you mean by a 50/50 rule over genetics and environment?

Small populations have various problems from being small.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_population_size

Besides the obvious things, it appears there are controls on transposable elements that can break down due to small population size. The last time I looked the details weren't clear but it was pretty clear that it happened.

A human population about size 10,000 is probably OK. A population size 100 is likely to have serious problems.

Lots of species have gone extinct and it isn't impossible humanity could too this time around. But I think there's a decent chance they won't. Small numbers of humans can survive off an ecosystem so impoverished you wouldn't expect they could, and if they know how to survive off half a dozen or so then usually one will zig when another zags, and they can squeak through the hard times.

345:

I think you made an incorrect generalization. So far as I'm concerned, mutualisms are universal or close to universal among eukaryotic species. Still, it doesn't follow that communities exist as physical entities. Most of the plant communities we name are basically the distribution patterns of the dominant plant species. If you look at the other 99% of plant species, they seldom precisely following the distribution of the dominants. They're following patterns dictated by their own biology and the biology of the other species they interact with, their symbionts.

There are two ways to think about this. One is that species interact with a lot of other species around them. This influences their evolutionary fitness (after all, some of those other species are predators, parasites, pathogens, competitors, or mutualists), and this leads to coevolution. When two species interact in a way that produces more offspring for both of them, it's a mutualism, pure and simple. It doesn't mean that they're then tied a hard-and-fast community by an obligate mutualism. Their two species probably don't associate in all populations, and in other settings, one species might parasitize the other (this has been observed in nature. Think about humans, lab rats, pet rats, and sewer rats). This is the geographic mosaic theory of coevolution, if you want to look it up.

Another way to think about this is effectively organisms outsource many of their metabolic functions to other organisms. We outsource some nutrient acquisition functions to bacteria in our stomachs, angiosperms outsource sex to insects, phosphorus acquisition to mycorrhizal fungi, and immunity to symbiotic endocellular fungi. In business terms, these are effectively subcontractor relationships. Just as in the business world, being a subcontractor to one firm does not necessarily mean that you do business only with that firm, nor does it mean that (if you own a franchise) that all your franchisees do business only with all the franchisees of your partner. This is equally true in the natural world.

The bottom line is that the existence of mutualisms doesn't imply the existence of communities. I know this messes with peoples' heads, but I got my degrees in plant community ecology, and I did my dissertation in an unmappable community type. When you know what to look for, there are a lot of them out there.

346:

> Bob's an IT guy, so he would obviously describe the situation this way; but Mo shouldn't even know what a heavily technical term such as "rootkit" means

I'm a graphic designer by trade, and I know what a rootkit is and (more-or-less) what it does, as does anybody who was on the interwebs when Sony started issuing them free with their music CDs. And it seems a very handy metaphor for the process, so why not use it?

Just 'cos we is artists does not make us dumb, or ignorant of the world outside our speciality.

347:

Isn't the oddity that someone who was trained in mathematics and philosophy suddenly (in TJM) turns out to be a concert-level violinist? Her ability wasn't evident in TAA. In TJM, it wasn't clear that Mo needed to be a high-level musician to play the white violin. Until this book, I'd assumed that combat fiddling and concert violin were two different skill sets, the same way that skeet shooting and combat shotgun are two different skills.

348:

I finished reading the book yesterday and spent a day thinking about it.

I really like the team of Mo, Ramona, and Mhari. It's wonderful to see them turned into more rich and well-rounded characters, leaning on each other for support and growing in the process.

I wonder how much of Mo's disillusionment with Bob originates from major differences in core values, even before we factor in work stress, PTSD, nervous breakdown, subversion by Lecter, and Bob sprouting green headlamps for eyes. Mo strikes me as a full-blown careerist who defines herself -- and adulthood generally -- in terms of her ability to master a profession and climb its given rungs for advancement. She was already a PhD seeking a tenure-track post before the Laundry got her, and once recruited she swiftly became AGENT CANDID. Meanwhile Bob was still bumbling around in hacker-slacker anti-corporate mode, reluctantly learning to save the world with the minimum possible concession to the demands of a traditional workplace. Moreover, it appears that the same passivity we've seem him display towards his career might be in play in his marriage -- and that would be bad news even if Mo wasn't a chronic overachiever.

That's why, even though it hurts (speaking as a Bob Howard fangirl, subtype middle-aged male) to see Mo dismiss Bob as something less than an adult, I'm forced to sympathize with her assessment. She might still be doing herself a disservice by defining adulthood so narrowly, on what's a pretty old-fashioned and patriarchal model, but it's a worldview she's clearly heavily invested in. She's like Mhari in that respect, and it's possible that Bob is bad husband material for Mo in the same way that he was bad boyfriend material for Mhari. Bob has many redeeming features, but they don't matter if he can't bring them home and put them to use for the sake of their relationship.

I also wonder if Bob's been making the mistake of thinking that he's being progressive and egalitarian when actually he's just dumping a lot of his responsibility for the relationship on Mo by failing to be decisive and proactive about all the little stuff that a marriage needs to survive.

Because: where the fuck was Bob? Where were the long e-mails working on patching up the marriage? Where was the simple gesture, like a bouquet and a nice card saying "I'm sorry, we'll find a way to work it out?" Where was Bob trying to do some conventionally nice and thoughtful things besides just cook some dinner when he comes home for a change of socks? As the book went on I kept expecting him to show up and contribute to the solution in some way, the way Mo did in TJM and TFM, but instead he's Just. Fucking. Gone.

As a long-time Laundry Files reader, I think Bob's absence from the plot (and my consequent distress as a fan) mirrors his absence from Mo's life, not just in that moment but for a long time leading up to that moment. Seen that way, her negative feelings and actions vis-a-vis the marriage make a lot of sense.

None of this sympathy for Mo stopped me from throwing the book across the room when she decided to make out with Jim in the back of a limo, however. Which made me realize: for many of us, the collapse of a marriage or a long-term relationship might be as close as we come to staring extra-dimensional be-tentacled horrors in the face. If people who love each other and have the best of intentions can't make things work, how can we hope to manage the really BIG problems in life? I know I spent the whole book worrying more about the marriage than I did about the cosmic horrors.

So now I'm sort of thinking that the failure of a marriage is a small example of the dysfunction of the Laundry which is a small example of the dysfunction of social and democratic institutions faced with the meltdown of capitalism, democracy, and the global climate, which means the Sleeper In The Pyramid really just needs to bide his time because the shaved apes do not have their act together at all.

Onward. I really love Ramona's fishmobile, and I wonder if BLUE HADES have their own superhero problem to contend with. If they're more like people than Ramona ever expected them to be, then that implies they might be subject to a lot of the same foibles and weaknesses as human beings, but on a much higher level of general advancement.

I liked the personification of Lecter and loved his connection to the King in Yellow even though the dream-sex-abuse thing was really goddamn creepy. Creepy and disturbing, but also effective in showing just how trapped AGENT CANDID is in her role.

All in all: a good job, even if it was hard to take in places. I suspect I'll get a better handle on things after a second reading.

349:
Isn't the oddity that someone who was trained in mathematics and philosophy suddenly (in TJM) turns out to be a concert-level violinist?

Is she one though? According to Mo in TAS "I have been playing the violin since I was eight years old" and yet "Third violin, maybe — at a pinch, if I really worked at it and the orchestra director was hard up for talent.".

Just coz Mo was forced to get up at a concert doesn't mean she is a concert level performer.

350:
She was already a PhD seeking a tenure-track post before the Laundry got her, and once recruited she swiftly became AGENT CANDID

I read Mo and Bob's careers fairly differently from that.

I saw her rapid progression from Laundry recruit to the bearer of the violin to be driven by what happened to her in TAC — which was, by and large, to be the victim of some truly awful shit with zero agency. Which Mo, being sane, took action to ensure it Would Not Happen Again. And after that she is basically stuck in that specialist role. Doing her own brand of truly awful shit on a regular basis.

Bob might not think of himself as a careerist but he's gone from low-level IT guy to Mahogany Row in about a decade. On the civil service side, and on the powers side, his rise has been meteoric.

I know a couple of Bob's. They still, by default, dress in the geeky t-shirts and the combat pants/leggings (depending on gender). They still geek out about the latest iPhone release and spend they're spare time doing weird things with arduino's and home automation. But they're also doing things like making strategic decisions about IT direction in international organisation, indirectly hiring/firing hundreds, etc.

Bob might think of himself as a cuddly geek… but look at the shit he actually *does*. His position in the civil service alone makes him one of the most powerful people in the country. And that's ignoring the Eater of Souls.

351:

"driven by what happened to her in TAC" < TAA, not TAC… damn TLAs ;-)

352:

I think you made an incorrect generalization. So far as I'm concerned, mutualisms are universal or close to universal among eukaryotic species. Still, it doesn't follow that communities exist as physical entities.

OK, so it is not a dichotomy but a squishy gradient of concepts. It sounded like a dichotomy to me before.

If we define a community as a large collection of species that do obligate mutualism and none of them can survive outside the community, then there aren't going to be very many of those.

If it's more analogous to a human community where people sometimes cooperate and sometimes compete, where they mostly try to avoid becoming notorious for failing to get along, where people who lack social power get stomped on if they get out of line but the powerful get a lot of slack, then there could be assemblages that are more communities or less. Just like human communities are sometimes tight-knit and sometimes more like temporary assemblages of drifters.

Experimental evolution studies on bacteria have shown that typically changes in regulation have more effect than changes in function. Assuming that generalizes to plants, they may be evolving signals to tell them when to do things that amount to cooperation and when to do things that amount to parasitism etc. Of course their genes don't have it defined that way, they just do whatever works. Having multiple strategies and rules to choose which strategy to use is one of the things that can work.

So I figure it's an open question how much community is going on. But if you find a bunch of plant species in a community where none of them have any alternative except to survive all together, and a failure of any one dooms the rest (like the chestnut blight didn't doom everything in forests that had chestnuts), then you have found something pretty extreme.

But if you say there are no communities, that sounds more like a dichotomy.

353:

Bob and Mo decide that they want to save as many people for as long as they can. They do this knowing full well that they live in a Cosmic Horror Story, and therefore cannot win (as said, as of TFM, Bob has become painfully aware of this). Even their greatest achievements are ultimately futile and merely postponing the inevitable.

It might not be inevitable. For all we know, this part of our universe might become a DMZ between two or more strong alien forces. Or it could become one entity's private hunting ground, that he occasionally bops out to for vacations but otherwise protects. There are lots of ways it could go that might leave humanity temporarily safe.

And nobody gets it better than that. All safety for anybody is temporary.

I can imagine the Laundry etc teaching a whole lot of people to pray to Jesus as the crisis approaches. If it makes them "taste bad" and therefore be less valuable, that could help a little.

354:

What are the strings of Mo's combat acoustical tech-upgrade to the lyre of Hermes made out of?

Considering what the rest of it is made of, presumably human gut. Or possibly some part of some entity that is more horrific than humans. Say there are magical beings that look mostly human but they have big beautiful white wings, and haloes, and they live for many thousands of years. Catch one of those and vivisect it for its intestines and make violin strings out of them while it watches, and slowly kill it with the violin as part of making the violin into its final form -- that might do it better than some measly human.

355:

Objectively, they may have no chance to win; subjectively, they're doing the best they can, and even if they can't win, well, at least they tried.

Actually there's several points in the books where they allude to CNG as being survivable, if very very difficult. Humanity could pull through in some form if it puts up a good enough defence and doesn't accidentally anihilate itself for as long as it takes for the stars finishing being right.

356:

Charlie,

I don't know if you're still following this thread, but there's something which I simply forgot earlier, and that is a big Thank You for the Dr. Mabuse reference in TAS. It made me happy, because it's so very rare to find a German pop culture reference in an English language work.

Also, Mabuse is a great reference particularly for TAS, because he's sort of a supervillain from the time before superheroes existed.

357:

I read Mo and Bob's careers fairly differently from that.

I saw her rapid progression from Laundry recruit to the bearer of the violin to be driven by what happened to her in TAC — which was, by and large, to be the victim of some truly awful shit with zero agency. Which Mo, being sane, took action to ensure it Would Not Happen Again. And after that she is basically stuck in that specialist role. Doing her own brand of truly awful shit on a regular basis.

I agree with you regarding Mo's motivation, but motivation alone doesn't account for her accomplishments. In TJM, 3.5 years after TAA, she is the bearer of the pale violin, in training to become a liaison with BLUE HADES, and on a first-name basis with at least one of the auditors (Judith). She's also perfectly willing to call on the auditors for backup in a pissing match with Angleton.

Moreover, she appears to have, in general, higher clearance than Bob in a lot of areas dealing with long-term Laundry strategy (see also BLUE HADES), and in TFM it's suggested that she has a greater familiarity than Bob with the theoretical research end of the Laundry (Mike Ford & co.). So I don't think she's just a pale-violin-playing specialist with a couple of part-time cover jobs. She has quickly integrated herself with the Laundry's management culture at a time when Bob still struggles to have civil conversations with his superiors. Which might be why Bob mostly sees the violin-playing specialist: historically he's not been cleared for the other work she's been doing.

If Bob's rise is meteoric, Mo's looks to me like it's cometary. (Or something that else that goes really, really fast.) I think it's due, at least in part, to the fact that she's internalized the rules and values of being a professional careerist, probably starting with the need, as a woman, to work twice as hard and put up with three times as much crap to make it in academia.

None of which detracts from Bob's accomplishments—I agree with you about those—but it might explain why Mo compares Bob Howard to Jim Grey and sees in the latter a "real adult" compared to the former, who (in her eyes) isn't. Jim plays by the rules Mo lives by. Bob doesn't. (The fact that Jim's working hard to court her, while Bob appears to have stopped courting her years ago, may also be a factor. Supporting with whisky and sympathy after a bad job isn't the same as courting and tending to the marriage.)

It doesn't mean Mo's right or Bob's wrong in their respective approaches to work, but it might very well point to a basic "clash of cultures" disagreement in their marriage that needs to be resolved, independent of the whole Eater of Souls thing.

358:

You ask the question "One thing I still don't get though, is why BLUE HADES and/or DEEP SEVEN haven't wiped out humanity yet, or at least put the shaved apes in their proper place. You'd think they'd be getting awfully tired of the dangerous earth/universe-threatening antics the all too clever primates keep getting up to on the surface.

Any speculation as to why they haven't done so?"

It does seem to be a big coincidence that the human population is reaching a hocky-stick peak just as the alignment for CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is due to occur. How do we know that we are not being farmed, to be sacrificed at the right time to form an invocation with which BLUE HADES will wipe out DEEP SEVEN forever? We know that BLUE HADES fears DEEP SEVEN, that fear might drive them to find any available weapon.

359:

The other thing to remember is the bureaucracy part. Mo doesn't just have a PhD, she'd made it into academia before she got sucked into the Laundry. Bob, conversely, got forcibly inducted into the Laundry after some side aspect of his master's thesis would have turned into a major summoning grid. Moreover, even before it went active, it was a summoning grid that set off red alarms all the way to London.* As a result, he never finished his graduate degree. He looks like a smaller fish, even though he's arguably far more dangerous than an academic who dabbled with the stuff but never had any truly dangerous thoughts of her own.

Still, Mo seems to define male maturity by conventional success, and arguably that broke up her first marriage (something I've certainly seen in academia). She lucked out by marrying someone who's willing to save her during her darkest moments and help her heal, but apparently that's not sexy enough for her. She's got a lot of growing up to do too.

Anyway, Mo's the kind of person who looks, on the surface, like she's great upper management material, because she was a success on the outside before getting sucked in. Of course they're going to start her in the middle. Unfortunately for her, aside from wards, it looks like she's largely dependent on outside technology. Drop her on a desert island, sans violin, and she's in trouble. Indeed, she's in trouble at the end, because she is sans violin, and her first reaction is to attempt to resign.

Bob's more interesting and dangerous, because he's always improvising his way out of messes. Worse, his idea of interesting improvs include what allegedly got him inducted in the first place.* Drop Bob on a desert island, and a pod of zombie dolphins will probably be getting him rescued by BLUE HADES in short order. Give him the white violin and it's going to get hacked. Even when his soul's been hacked and badly reinstalled, or when he's been rescued from a Cthonian after being set up by his own side, he doesn't think about resigning.

*The other, long denied story, is that he sniffed out the existence of the Laundry on his own, and that got him inducted. Whichever story is true, his lack of degree is on par with Bill Gates' lack of a degree in terms of what it says about his skills.

Hope our rationalizations are amusing Charlie.

360:

You have to realize that there's a lot of politics around the ideas of communities, and it's still causing damage to this day when we deal with vegetation. It's resulted in destroyed careers (look at the outcome of the Clements/Gleason conflict. Gleason was proven to be correct in the studies published as The Vegetation of Wisconsin, but only decades after he'd abandoned work on communities) and I have to deal with it regularly in local conservation issues.

In a bigger sense, we know from the fossil record that patterns of dominance and community composition change drastically over hundreds to thousands of years. Just about anywhere in North America or Europe, the forests of the past weren't the forests of the present. Pollen samples from varved lakes unambiguously show this. There aren't repeating patterns, where the same kind of forest evolves through succession repeatedly during warm periods. The better explanation is that trees spread out of refugia at different speeds mediated by things like seed size. Aspens spread quickly, beeches spread really slowly, and the forests are dominated by whatever tree species happened to have reached a particular spot at a particular time.

Looking into the future, because I don't believe in plant communities as entities, I assume that the forests of the future are going to be different too. My goal as a conservationist is simply to keep as many species from going extinct as possible. On the other side, people who do believe in communities are spending millions of dollars of carbon sequestration money trying to (for example) artificially recreate a forest that was burned out over a decade ago. They acknowledge that the trees they're planting might not live more than a few decades, but they go ahead anyway, because they're so convinced they're doing something useful by bulldozing the plants that did resprout after the fire, planting the trees they think should be there, and regularly burning around the trees they plant to recreate a "natural" fire regime from centuries ago, as reconstructed from burn records on a few trees.

There are a bunch of problems here, but the biggest one is that community-level analysis isn't all that useful for answering a lot of questions. Unfortunately, everyone wants to use it because it's comparatively easy to do. They don't spend a lot of time testing the reality of the communities they're seeing before they use them.

If you want a non-plant version, look at medicine. It's pretty routine for American medical research to divide subjects by race (black, white, asian, hispanic). Even though there's ample evidence that most human genetic diversity is in Africa and most blacks in America have ancestors of multiple races, they still use it. Even though there's ample evidence that the variation among members of any race is massively larger than the average statistical difference between races, they still do this (within- group variation swamps between-group variation in humans). What they're actually measuring are the biological effects of discrimination and socioeconomic class, but these effects are mistakenly and routinely ascribed to race, to the extent that physicians and pharmacists are told that certain drugs work better on some races than others. All of this is a result of the mistaken assumption that "the black community," "the white community," and "the Asian community" are based on biological realities, not cultural ones.

361:
It doesn't mean Mo's right or Bob's wrong in their respective approaches to work, but it might very well point to a basic "clash of cultures" disagreement in their marriage that needs to be resolved, independent of the whole Eater of Souls thing.

I can see that interpretation, but it's not how I read it.

I guess that the point I was trying to make poorly was that I don't see Bob as a failed careerist, and Mo as a successful careerist. I think they're both very successful, but in different domains. Bob's management — Angleton 2.0. Mo boot's on the ground — strategic weapon come inter(national|species) relations.

I didn't read her attraction to Jim as being because he's the anti-Bob WRT careers and "traditional" hierarchies. I thought it was because Jim did a good job of the things Bob doesn't do terribly well — reading people, emotions, relationships, reaching out, etc. As you said a relationships need more than whisky and sympathy.

Also — the beautiful woman dumping dull husband for the urbane successful handsome professional is such a f**king cliché that if it was in anything OGH wrote I'd expect it to have a large subversive spike rammed up it's arse so we could all point and laugh at it ;-)

362:
Also — the beautiful woman dumping dull husband for the urbane successful handsome professional is such a f**king cliché that if it was in anything OGH wrote I'd expect it to have a large subversive spike rammed up it's arse so we could all point and laugh at it ;-)

… and as soon as I hit "Submit" on that post this I realised that a cliché subversion is exactly what we've got with Mo/Jim. It's a gender-inverted sleeping-with-the-boss.

Feeling very stupid. #facepalm

363:

I could swear this has been addressed indirectly - Bob explained that the Launndry could use the Gorgon related tech to kill off a significant portion of the population to bring down the chances of something worse happening.

The problem is all that sudden death could ALSO summon something nasty.

So presumably, Blue Hades and Deep Seven have done more or less the same risk/benefit analysis and found the same thing. Killing us puts them more at risk.

364:

"However, the laws of physics starting to go weird would be something that everybody would notice and attention would be paid."

By who?

Note that the authorities very much have noticed. Regular people have noticed - the cabdriver and such.

As to attention....

I'm American. So I live in a country where vast swathes of the population don't believe in evolution or climate change. Most people don't know the laws of physics well enough to have much of an opinion on when stuff is blatantly violating it.

For instance, let's assume you, right now, saw the incident that outed Mo in a youtube video. Would you think that was real, or would you assume a viral marketing stunt.

And that's without the authorities running an op to spread disinfo about it.

Or how people react to street magic. Either you assume that stuff is possible, or you assume it's a trick.

Beyond that, as mentioned in the book, anything below four sigma is pretty much not flashy enough to be really noteworthy, and there aren't THAT many of them.

365:

You have to realize that there's a lot of politics around the ideas of communities, and it's still causing damage to this day when we deal with vegetation.

That makes sense. So the biological side of it is confused -- it's as hard to determine community boundaries as it is to define human communities. How much is Lake Woebegon a community, and how much is it just individual human beings just opportunisticly cooperating, competing, antagonizing and ignoring each other?

But politically you see people on the community side doing sloppy work with bad consequences, so it makes sense to oppose them.

My goal as a conservationist is simply to keep as many species from going extinct as possible.

I agree. Failing that, try to get at least 10,000 genomes sampled from as many as possible of the others.

On the other side, people who do believe in communities are spending millions of dollars of carbon sequestration money trying to (for example) artificially recreate a forest that was burned out over a decade ago. They acknowledge that the trees they're planting might not live more than a few decades, but they go ahead anyway, because they're so convinced they're doing something useful by bulldozing the plants that did resprout after the fire, planting the trees they think should be there, and regularly burning around the trees they plant to recreate a "natural" fire regime from centuries ago, as reconstructed from burn records on a few trees.

I'd support that sort of thing if it looked workable. But to the extent that we maybe used to have ecosystems that were finely-balanced, those are already gone. The tattered remnants have too many holes to succeed, and there are already too many immigrant species that are not adapted to the old ways. We can study interactions among what's left, and study how the new stuff fits in, and it might start to fit in faster than we'd expect. We might see results in a few human lifetimes. But trying to reconstruct the past, when we don't know how, is not going to work.

I think it's good to try to avoid random new importations of foreign species. Sometimes they have bad effects. Someday if the politics will allow it, we ought to minimise transport of humans and physical goods between bioregions. ;-) Though I'm afraid before that happens the economy would have to be so collapsed it wouldn't matter. And anyway the Dixie bioregion includes less than half of Texas. ;-)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:A_map_of_North_America%27s_bioregions,_improved_from_the_previous.jpg

There are a bunch of problems here, but the biggest one is that community-level analysis isn't all that useful for answering a lot of questions.

To my way of thinking, it implies a collection of useful questions.

Unfortunately, everyone wants to use it because it's comparatively easy to do.

That's backward. It's easy to do it wrong. ;-)

They don't spend a lot of time testing the reality of the communities they're seeing before they use them.

Also backward. If they assume that their a priori assumptions have to be right, they might as well be economists.

It looks to me like a potentially useful idea that is handicapped by its clueless supporters.

366:

Catch one of those and vivisect it for its intestines and make violin strings out of them while it watches, and slowly kill it with the violin as part of making the violin into its final form -- that might do it better than some measly human.

Salty.

You should visit the British Museum some time


The figure of the curvaceous naked woman was originally painted red. She wears the horned headdress characteristic of a Mesopotamian deity and holds a rod and ring of justice, symbols of her divinity. Her long multi-coloured wings hang downwards, indicating that she is a goddess of the Underworld. Her legs end in the talons of a bird of prey, similar to those of the two owls that flank her. The background was originally painted black, suggesting that she was associated with the night. She stands on the backs of two lions, and a scale pattern indicates mountains.

I'm always amused when Christians claim the iconography of winged Angels to be their invention or the Greeks claiming Owls and so on.

It's even funnier once you realize that Ishtar is the Goddess of love, war, fertility, and sexuality.

It's even funnier once you realize her symbol is commonly used as a symbol for chaos. Not only in "pop" culture (*ahem* Warhammer 40k) but also older Demonology texts.


Ahem.

p.s.

That picture might not be Ishtar.


Btw:

We can study interactions among what's left, and study how the new stuff fits in, and it might start to fit in faster than we'd expect. We might see results in a few human lifetimes. But trying to reconstruct the past, when we don't know how, is not going to work.

What Hetero didn't mention is that complexity and Time are very much part of these things.

There's a qualitative difference (Quantity vrs Qualitative) between ancient growth temperate forests and tree farms. Simply put: you can't replace something that took 5k+ years to grow / develop overnight.


Oh, and he's talking about different concepts of "community" to the anthropomorphic definition, that's fairly important to note.


I also think his specialty is blinding him to certain things, visa vie development of flowering plants and so on; Angiosperms' community moves far more into more complex territories that he's outlined so far. i.e. the role of insect communities, predation, mutualism (famously figs) and so on.

367:

Meanwhile Mo was trying to stop Jim from using his superpowers at the concert, because of K syndrome, which she STILL hasn't talked to him about, and he does it anyway, and she STILL doesn't talk to him about it afterwards.

Mo's procrastination here might have gotten Jim killed, and she's still procrastinating. Sheesh.

368:

I think the Laundry has avoided the Peter Principle. Partly because being promoted beyond your level of competence would likely be terminal.

369:

I guess that the point I was trying to make poorly was that I don't see Bob as a failed careerist, and Mo as a successful careerist. I think they're both very successful, but in different domains. Bob's management — Angleton 2.0. Mo boot's on the ground — strategic weapon come inter(national|species) relations.

I think I actually agree with you, in that neither of us sees Mo or Bob as a "failed" anything. But I think that it's highly possible that Bob and Mo define success, maturity, and adulthood in sufficiently different ways for themselves that the difference could be a serious roadblock to marital success.

I also think that characterizing Mo's career as "boots on the ground" fails to explain why she was ready and able to head up THPC when duty called, or why she's being tapped for the auditor job now. Her academic life pre-Laundry doesn't explain her readiness for those jobs either (I just think it might be an example of her attitude towards professional success). So of course I'm imagining things here, because we don't have four more books detailing the minutiae of Mo's career to fall back on, but I strongly suspect that she's done a lot more in the last 10 years of story time than just wield Lecter and visit the occasional BLUE HADES conference.


I didn't read her attraction to Jim as being because he's the anti-Bob WRT careers and "traditional" hierarchies. I thought it was because Jim did a good job of the things Bob doesn't do terribly well — reading people, emotions, relationships, reaching out, etc. As you said a relationships need more than whisky and sympathy.

That's very fair. I only frame Jim as the "anti-Bob" because of the way that Mo says that Jim is a "real adult," while Bob, apparently is not (in her eyes). For me—as a big fan of Bob Howard—that was one of the most crushing and heartbreaking aspects of Mo's disillusionment with her husband. "I'm not happy with my spouse anymore" is one level of disappointment, but "My spouse isn't even a real man/woman" edges into contempt, which I think deserves more explanation of Mo's values and expectations than we really get in the book.

(Or maybe I just need to re-read the book.)


Also — the beautiful woman dumping dull husband for the urbane successful handsome professional is such a f**king cliché that if it was in anything OGH wrote I'd expect it to have a large subversive spike rammed up it's arse so we could all point and laugh at it ;-)

… and as soon as I hit "Submit" on that post this I realised that a cliché subversion is exactly what we've got with Mo/Jim. It's a gender-inverted sleeping-with-the-boss.

Feeling very stupid. #facepalm

Oh hey—that never even occurred to me. So, well-spotted indeed!

370:

"Light of the World, Leader of Hosts,
Opener of the Womb, Righteous Judge, Lawgiver,
Goddess of Goddesses, Bestower of Strength,
Framer of All decress, Lady of Victory,
Forgiver of Sins, Torch of Heaven and Earth


You'd probably be surprised at the counter-weight culture showing Ishtar to be the real face of "Satan" and so on.

Perhaps not.


Note: after trawling forty or so websites, none of them can source it, or even read Sumerian. You'll probably want a document about cows, ownership and pastures for that.


If you wanted to start at the roots of Patriarchy and Abrahamic religions, it's a fairly obvious Nexus point.

"Gatekeeper, ho, open thy gate!
Open thy gate that I may enter!
If thou openest not the gate to let me enter,
I will break the door, I will wrench the lock,
I will smash the door-posts, I will force the doors.
I will bring up the dead to eat the living.
And the dead will outnumber the living."

I told you it would get old skool. Shame you blew your load so fast.

371:

p.s.

You get points for spotting "new" memes in ancient texts here. Zombieland - I think I linked to that already...


4,000+ years and you're still running the same mimetic software, without even realizing what's running it.


MEDIOCRE.

372:

Of course you're allowed to find your own meanings in texts - Death of the Author and all that (not that readers needed Barthes to start doing that). But that doesn't mean that wondering about the actual intention of the author is an illegitimate endeavour - especially when we're talking about an ongoing series that we're all eagerly awaiting new installments of, and about whose trajectory we may want to speculate. Trying to discern authorial intent is crucial to that kind of speculation.

Also, there's a difference between subtlety and obscurity, and also between intentional and accidental obscurity, and, last but not least, between multi-valence and... a mess ;-). Texts-as-riddles are fine; they can be lovely - but there needs to be a key somewhere, too (though this does not not necessarily have to be *in* the text). I don't think there *is* a key to many of the questions TAS leaves us with regarding Mo, and Mo-and-Bob, though.

And of course, texts of ultimate indeterminacy are fine and lovely, too. Yet with the Laundry, indeterminacy is currently located mostly within the Bob-Mo relationship, and I don't think that's a good place for it; it doesn't add anything very useful to the text. It turns the relationship into Schrödinger's marriage (inside the box, there are at least two different answers for each of the following, flippantly exaggerated questions: "Was this relationship ever based on love, or not? Is Mo bored of it, or is something deeper going on? How badly is Bob communicating? Is this crisis due to external stressors, or a fundamental incompatibility?" - etc.) and I can't see what purpose that indeterminacy, in that place, could possibly serve. And, as I said, I also don't think it was necessarily meant to be there either.

I think we were meant to read the real state of affairs, the real motivations and feelings between the lines – but the lines between which we're supposed to read aren't all there, for whatever reason. There's lots of good theories as to the central issues between Mo and Bob here in this thread, but none of them work without at least *some* amount of conjecture. Those theories are mostly based on absences in the text, and our assumptions about the causes of said absences. There's also - elsewhere, but also in a few comments in this thread - interpretations that I find harder to swallow (the - exaggerating again - "Mo got bored of her boy-toy" school of interpretation), but which are not exactly unsupported by the text either. While both the proponents of that school and we are entitled to our different interpretations of the text, either they or we are going to experience a (perhaps) jarring surprise if the box ever gets opened, in a future book. (But will it be opened? Can it be opened, even? With book 8 we're back to unreliable Bob, after all, who by definition can't know Mo's truth. Maybe the Bob-Mo relationship will always be Schrödinger's marrige - unless it is ended, which *would* be a way of opening the box.)

I'm sorry; this is very muddled. Eight hours of Job_1 killed my brain today. I'm not sure what point I was trying to make.

373:

I'm always amused when Christians claim the iconography of winged Angels to be their invention or the Greeks claiming Owls and so on.

You said this right after quoting me, so just in case I want to point out that I said nothing about christians in this context. Only a winged superhumanoid. There could easily be magical humanoids with wings in the Laundryverse, and they might make better parts for special violins than humans.

You're welcome to run with the comparative religion, it might fit in somehow.

374:

Still, Mo seems to define male maturity by conventional success, and arguably that broke up her first marriage (something I've certainly seen in academia). She lucked out by marrying someone who's willing to save her during her darkest moments and help her heal, but apparently that's not sexy enough for her. She's got a lot of growing up to do too.

When a marriage is on the rocks it's extremely likely that both parties have some growing up to do. My memory is that Mo's first marriage was to a lawyer, which supports the idea that she values conventional markers of success. Sometimes the things we've learned to value aren't the things we actually need, and it takes experience and introspection to figure these things out; but when we're under stress and don't have time to reflect, we revert to the old values because they feel like they ought to be solid, even if maybe they're not.

So I find it plausible that Mo needs to learn some more unconventional values, while Bob might be in an opposite situation, needing to learn some conventional values in order to become a good partner and team player


Anyway, Mo's the kind of person who looks, on the surface, like she's great upper management material, because she was a success on the outside before getting sucked in. Of course they're going to start her in the middle.

She was an academic who hadn't yet earned tenure. By itself that doesn't make her upper management material. But if her specialization was relevant and if she threw herself into the job from the get-go (unlike Bob, who spent the first couple of years moping around bored and resentful) then that might have earned her a place on the fast track.

Unfortunately for her, aside from wards, it looks like she's largely dependent on outside technology. Drop her on a desert island, sans violin, and she's in trouble. Indeed, she's in trouble at the end, because she is sans violin, and her first reaction is to attempt to resign.

I think wanting to resign had more to do with the PTSD and an attendant sense of self-loathing than being incapable without the violin. I'm reserving judgment on how thaumaturgically gifted Mo is sans-violin because we just don't have the back-story to support a conclusion. (Also: magical gifts are not the only thing the Laundry needs.) (Also also: being able to escape a desert island doesn't really say anything about being able to manage large numbers of people in the middle of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.)


Bob's more interesting and dangerous, because he's always improvising his way out of messes. Worse, his idea of interesting improvs include what allegedly got him inducted in the first place.* Drop Bob on a desert island, and a pod of zombie dolphins will probably be getting him rescued by BLUE HADES in short order.

I don't think that makes Bob more interesting; it just means his character is designed to appeal to our MacGyver fantasies.


Give him the white violin and it's going to get hacked.

We don't know that at all. Giving Bob the white violin might be like giving the Ring to Boromir, or like giving Stormbringer to Moonglum.


Even when his soul's been hacked and badly reinstalled, or when he's been rescued from a Cthonian after being set up by his own side, he doesn't think about resigning.

True! And that's one of Bob's great virtues, bedrock loyalty to the cause. On the other hand, maybe neither of those cases is equivalent what amounts to enduring years of psychological abuse at the hands of the instrument that Mo's had to wield in such horrible ways.

And maybe an upper management person needs to be able and be inclined to think more critically about the cause itself: its shape, structure, values, and assumptions.


Hope our rationalizations are amusing Charlie.

That's what we're here for. The, um...payback. So to speak.

375:

So many climate people here! Interesting. Reading about a fictional apocalypse to relieve the stresses of staring an actual one in the face? (Me? Just an occasional activist. Less and less so lately, though it should be more and more so instead, really. I don't know where to start.)

Going wildly off-topic here, but would anyone be willing to answer some questions, and give some reading recs to a layperson who may be in the very early stages of thinking about a far-future novel set against a climate-change backdrop? I have no science background at all, though. Contact: thisisreallyhappening@gmx.de -- Thanks.

376:

It was probably true, just not in the way he thought. MI5 security detail keeping tabs on high priority target. By keeping the subject safe, they sent him mad.

Spoken like a true conspiracy theorist - hear hooves, think zebras :)

But no, sometimes Occam's Razor is valid. After nearly a year in a lethal environment, he was wound up tighter than a tight thing; as I said, it apparently happened to a lot of operators.

377:

Given the power levels involved, would a separate bedroom in the same safe house be that much safer than twin beds in the same room?

378:

You're welcome to run with the comparative religion, it might fit in somehow.

I'm really not talking to you at this point.

Let's put in another way:

You're channeling a certain modality of existence.

I'm channeling another.


Your side thinks it won.

My side doesn't work in binary terms and certainly doesn't work in that old 1-1 vrs combat stuff. (Desert? I thought it was only 40 days, not 400? There's a bit of cheating going on).


But I'm glad to note you're unable to go that deep: I was always able to reach back that far. (And further still: the songs of the Orcas before they split and why they did is a tale of beauty and sadness within the realms of Shakespeare).

Your resonance to this: deep sea sonar that after the genocide made them deaf.

You're psychopaths and you don't even realize it.

In a yurt made of mammoth bones, at edge of darkness we lurked, made real by the fears and tales spun within its confines, and yet, we were the ones who loved them, touched their souls when shamans drank reindeer piss, despite what they wrought...

I stood on a bridge, made of stone, with flurries of snow masking the opposite side. Armor is cold, even under the padding in this climate. There's a sound to combat, usually stark, but in the muffled snow, when we met it was faint, leading to a dissociation that I could feel and see amongst my comrades. Smell, the smell though: snow muffles that too until blood is spilled, then it focuses the mind...

Sadly, this forum can't process ancient Sumerian. I'd do ancient Greek, but even that knowledge is fading from the world.

379:

But no, sometimes Occam's Razor is valid. After nearly a year in a lethal environment, he was wound up tighter than a tight thing; as I said, it apparently happened to a lot of operators.


There's a number of cases where benign surveillance has caused assets to either have a break down or suspect it's the 'bad guys'.

There's even a white paper on it, circa 1989.


Want a link?

380:

I think a separate room could be warded. Really *strongly* warded.

381:

Unless I'm misunderstanding, the Senior Auditors are management, albeit in a different way than Angleton and company.

So Mo isn't really failing so much on a different career track.

382:

Speaking of absences in the text: while Bob angsts quite a bit about their not having children due to Case Nightmare Green, this particular reason for angsting is conspicuous by its absense in Mo's narrative. Just another example of Bob being more invested in the longterm durability of their relationship? Or is Mo suppressing this particular desire so fervently that it's effectively disappeared from her conscious mind?

383:

I don't know about London, but in Sydney "terraces" are row houses with common walls on both sides.

384:

There's lots of good theories as to the central issues between Mo and Bob here in this thread, but none of them work without at least *some* amount of conjecture.

I think that's just how it works.

I'm going through something similar now. My wife is having a period of personal growth, and she's hard to get along with. She's re-inventing herself and she doesn't want to interact with me the ways she used to -- which is fine with me. She has an online friend, they are part of the team that runs an online game, she thinks they are much more like each other than either is like me and she spends much more time with him than with me. She has lots of victories in the game and lots of perceived failures in real life while I'm around.

She gets angry at me for anything that goes wrong, and for things that went wrong ten years ago. Then she forgives me. Then it happens again. Sometimes she shares stories with me about great things that happened in the game. She has no interest in my science or math or marketing or social change stories. She says we have different interests now. I could join the game as a newbie character, and level up, and after a long time if I played with the right spirit maybe I could help run it too, but only if every one of the current GMs said yes. It doesn't look like a plausible way to connect.

If we split up, is it because I don't fit into the life she wants to live? Because she found somebody better? Because of my many faults? Because I didn't try hard enough? Etc etc etc. If we stay together we'll have a story we agree on about what happened, and the story won't matter much. The other way round the stories won't matter much either, and there will be no way to tell how true any of them are.

At random times I'll remember incidents when I could have been more sensitive, if I was somebody else. Times I made mistakes and she got frustrated with me. Times I put up with things that maybe I shouldn't have. It's all pointless but people do it when they aren't the one who chose to quit.

Maybe it won't go like that. Schroedinger marriage. There's a thousand stories people can tell, but when it works they can pick any story and it's fine. If it stops working they want an explanation, but there are lots of JustSo stories with no validation. The stories that probably have predictive value are deeply unsatisfying.

You want a simple clear explanation in a novel. Charlie could give you one, since it's his story. What he did is more like real life and sometimes real life is deeply unsatisfying.

385:

I'm really not talking to you at this point.

OK, no problem. I may respond to something you said if it calls up something interesting, and I won't particularly be talking to you. You need not feel any obligation to reply.

386:

Yeah, but the difference here is, you've never spent time *in* your wife's head; you only ever get to see her from the outside. A degree of uncertainty is unavoidable.

Whereas we just did spend time in Mo's head, yet some very central things in there were just left... blank, in a way that many of us find really puzzling, for a POV character. And "well, that's how it is with people in Real Life" isn't always a good enough explanation for fiction, because fiction is created intentionally and thus generally has a higher "meaning-content" and a higher... determinacy than Real Life. So any blanks in a fictional text deserve to be interrogated; and if said interrogation yields contradictions, it makes sense to wonder why they're there - what do they add to the narrative; why do these particular things need to have two (or more) possible meanings, etc.

387:

I'm really not saying that things should never be vague or mysterious or open to different interpretations or whatever. (Believe it or not, I've actually got an M.A. in English lit, and focused a lot on postmodern stuff at the time, so I've read my share of this kind of thing, and a fair bit of the attendant theory, as well, although I'm decidedly rusty on the latter now.) I just... don't see why *this particular thing* should be vague, mysterious etc. *Especially* after spending a whole book in Mo's head. (And yes, I know that we are not always conscious of all our own feelings and motivations and what not, so why should Mo be... but, again, this is fiction, and you can signal stuff to readers even by ommission; I'm just not sure that was what was going on here. If it was, it certainly hasn't reached many readers.)

388:

Anyway, about to embark on full reread now; maybe I'll find stuff in it this time that I missed the first time around.

389:

Neither of them communicate with their supposed peers very well. And that obviously includes each other.

390:

Still, remember that it took you two decades to build the fanbase you have, and replacing us is likely to be harder than you think.

"Us"?

Speak for yourself white man.

391:

"You're psychopaths and you don't even realize it."

Well it depends where the cut off is.

My wife and I both scored 64% on that Channel 4 test, which we found that hysterically funny. Everyone else seemed to find it slightly disturbing. No fun some people...

Returning to our unhappy couple. It does seem clear to me that if Bob & Mo read each other's journals then Mhari & Jim are both going to need a 100 mile head start.

Granted Mhari didn't sleep with Bob, but the offer was there and as for Jim...Bob's turning into a literal green eyed monster who can eat your soul, not just a proverbial one.

On the upside Mr & Mrs Smith ends happily. Which is nice.

392:

Not Mo's head - Mo's diary. Leaves a lot more wiggle room.

393:

Whereas we just did spend time in Mo's head, yet some very central things in there were just left... blank, in a way that many of us find really puzzling, for a POV character.

You want her to make sense. But quite possibly she does not make sense.

It isn't just women. Have you ever known a man who had two girlfriends who didn't know about each other? Simple common sense says it can't possibly end well, but somehow he doesn't pay any attention to that. Lots of times people don't make sense.

Sometimes people try hard to be sensible. "Erin is in seventh grade, the mortgage will be paid off in eleven years, Darryl is on track for that promotion. My life is going as planned, let's not mess it up."

Other times it's more like "I can't stand this one more day. I can't stand this one more day. I can't stand this.... Oh hey, I can do something different and things will change. Maybe I'll wind up with something I can't stand. Should I take that chance? Yes. Sure. Why not?"

If Mo hasn't settled on a single story to explain what's going on, it only means she hasn't got everything settled yet.

If she winds up marrying this new guy, she'll probably have a story about how she saw all along how special she was, and Bob was just a kid with no social skills. But if he gets killed right away, she might wind up with any story about him that makes her feel good about herself.

If she gets back together with Bob, she has a ready-made story that Lecter's evil influence was warping her mind.

If she winds up alone she might decide that it's time for her to put all her attention into saving the world and give up on silly primate men.

But she just has not decided yet. Schroedinger woman.

And "well, that's how it is with people in Real Life" isn't always a good enough explanation for fiction, because fiction is created intentionally and thus generally has a higher "meaning-content" and a higher... determinacy than Real Life.

You can demand that. I offer you two hypotheses:

1. Charlie thought he was giving you what you want, but he didn't understand how much ambiguity he left in the story so he in fact failed to give you what you wanted.

2. Charlie intended it to be this way, and you can accept it or complain about it.

I'm leaning heavily toward #2, but I have no proof.

394:

Well it depends where the cut off is.

The cut off point was where your previous desire for power, quick energy and profit did genocide. Moby Dick isn't about what you think it's about.

Hint: that was before 1914 / 1939.


The later sonar stuff is just confirmation of that will-to-death. You've no idea what you destroyed, which is rather telling about your species.

However, I'm glad you all find it so amusing.


Hand her a tool that can install a rootkit in twenty million brains and she doesn’t see any risk

It's not 20 million, it's about ~5 billion.

It's the G_D zone of your brain.


It's not even hard to hack: you've childish texts from 2,000 years ago, brands made up by infantile surface level muppets where persona becomes product, Utopian dreams sold as theory as well as a cornucopia of other surface level entities exploiting it.

Bernays was able to hack entire societies just by the simple linkage of desire - product.

Muppets.

You're fucked.

Hint: Our Kind Do Not Go Mad.


Your kind does though. You're collectively psychotic and your response is "MEH, I DID THIS TEST ONLINE THOUGH".


This thread mentioned 4,000,000,000 people dying.


This thread mentioned the genocide of whales, orcas and so on. Remind me why we can't hack into that 5 billion figure and break the world?


Oh. Right. We can. Makes your present tense "We came. We saw. He died." a little bit pathetic.


Stupid us for stopping it and all that.

395:

No need to go somewhere if you're already there.

396:

ah...don't you love the smell of incomprehension in the morning.

I wasn't challenging your assertion that as a species we could be seen as psychopaths. I was challenging your arrogant assertion that no of us were aware of the fact, save for you.

I do apologise if the rebuke was too subtle.

397:

Oh sure, it's too late to wipe out humanity now. But the Deep Ones and Chthonians have been around for a loooong time. Their physicists/astronomers/soothsayers must have known the "stars were coming right" well in advance (like aeons beforehand).

And they must have known for a long time how dangerous humans, dugout canoes not withstanding, could be when fooling around with things they shouldn't. You think they would have done something thousands of years ago, say just after the time hip, happening Carcosa suddenly disappeared and became dim, lost Carcosa. No need to wait around until something like PROJECT JOTUNHEIM to realize the big monkeys were trouble. Best to wipe 'em out before they reach critical mass...

398:
Best to wipe 'em out before they reach critical mass...

My reading is that best case we're the first line of defence, worst case we're chum/chaff for the Deep Ones and Chthonians.

The stars are going to align whatever happens. If nobody else is around the nasties from parallel dimensions are going to want to snack anyway — and will go to the effort of breaking down whatever effective defences our fiery and fishy friends have built because they're hungry.

However with a population of billions of defenceless snackable human's just laying around the planet are our cross-dimensional terrors really going to go to all the effort to dig the old ones out?

399:
Unless I'm misunderstanding, the Senior Auditors are management, albeit in a different way than Angleton and company.

They're both in the same organisation, but have very different mission statements.

Angleton, Bob et al are tasked with saving the world from the other worldly horrors.

The Auditors are oversight / enforcement. They're tasked with making sure that the rest of the Laundry doesn't turn into a world ending other worldly horror itself.

Or at least that's my understanding…

400:
I don't think that makes Bob more interesting; it just means his character is designed to appeal to our MacGyver fantasies.

Also, how often is Bob in a MacGyver situation because he didn't plan, didn't think through worse-case-scenarios, trusted the wrong person, didn't have a backup plan, didn't have a backup, backup plan, didn't phone in for extra resources, didn't notify folk of where he was, etc. ?

Admittedly I read some of that as Angleton delivering Bob the training-programme-from-hell ;-)

Mo, on the other hand, is the veteran of (by this point in the story) dozens of planned missions. Which were successful. Because she's still alive. The first time we see a non-newbie Mo come close to fouling up is here — when she's in the middle of a nervous breakdown. And the reason she survives and the day is saved is that, despite being in the middle of a nervous breakdown, she's built a capable functional team…

My reading is that while Bob might be awesome at getting off the desert island, Mo is awesome at making sure that you never end up there in the first place, and if you do it's in a well stocked lifeboat with a satphone.

401:

Well, one of central narrative devices for the series is that it's being narrated by their protagonists, in-universe as part of the extended debrief, to be tossed into the appropriate case files.

I think it's an appropriate choice for what is, after all, still spy fiction. Compartmentalization and the resulting mushroom management ("keep them in the dark and feed them shit") is the name of the game. Frequent operational SNAFUs and blue-on-blue incidents caused by all the false flag operations and keeping assets in the dark are some of the many exciting failure modes of that approach. [Anyone who thinks the Laundry series is getting formulaic for having too many of these fuck-ups might want to read up on the actual track record of intelligence agencies; "Legacy of Ashes" is a good start.]

Insofar as the text makes it hard to know where Mo and Bob currently stand, it seems to me a large part of the problem is that they sure don't seem to know either!

So, to address your point directly: I think the "real state of affairs" is, quite simply, "it's complicated". As for "real motivations", the "real feelings"... I don't know. Those are abstractions that don't really match my personal experience, not all the time anyway.

Sure, sometimes I have a concrete plan towards a concrete goal, I execute it, and my actions are clearly motivated by the desire to achieve that goal. Other times... I just don't know. Why am I sitting here right now, writing this? I don't really know. I mean sure, if you asked me right now I could come up with an answer that would withhold casual scrutiny, but does that mean it's my real motivation?

I've done some stupid and self-sabotaging stuff in my life, things that I regret, and that *even at the time* I knew were stupid and self-sabotaging and I was gonna regret them. What the hell was I trying to achieve? Beats me. Did I even have a single "real" motivation? Or at least a dominant one?

Of course, often these things are a hell of a lot easier to see from the outside than from the inside. Hence, therapists. ("Bob and Mo do relationship counseling": a hundred times yes!).

It would certainly be easier to tell what's going on between Mo and Bob given an impartial, omniscient narrator, but it depends on what you want to get out of it. I find the ambiguity quite enjoyable - makes me a lot more invested in the text than I otherwise would be. It got me to start a series re-read in fact. :)

402:
And of course, texts of ultimate indeterminacy are fine and lovely, too. Yet with the Laundry, indeterminacy is currently located mostly within the Bob-Mo relationship, and I don't think that's a good place for it; it doesn't add anything very useful to the text

FWIW I rather like that indeterminacy. At the non-plot level the playing around with the standard there's-always-a-baddie in relationship breakdowns is entertaining for me. It also made me question and reinterpret stuff that I'd read previously which is one of my favourite authorial tricks in general.

Plot wise I think the ambiguity in the Bob-Mo relationship plays completely into a longer-term character arc I think I started seeing a few years back.

(Also, personally, I still totally ship Moward — and hope they sort it all out ;-)

403:

Bob and Mo just do very different things in general.

Bob is a Laundry full-time employee. He does fieldwork but the majority of his workload (purely in terms of billable hours) is a normal office job. Mo by contrast is run as a part-time consultant at the Laundry, a college professor (before her cover was blown anyway), and yeah, supernatural hitman.

Bob is an OCCINT operative. He's the guy you send in to investigate when something fishy is going on and it's not yet sure what response, if any, is required.

Mo is... very much not that. Mo is on the other end of the red phone once things have progressed *well* past the "keep an eye on it" stage into "full-blown emergency", and someone calls in an airstrike.

So if Bob often has to improvise on the job, that's at least in part because he gets sent into unknown territory with a fuzzy mission statement and questionable intel.

This is work that Mo wouldn't do. Not because she's not qualified or capable, but because her express motivation for becoming a "cleaner" was that she vowed to never again be the bait after TAA - and for what, you have to stay away from intelligence ops. Because in an intel op, if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, then tag, you're it.

Note the timing. There's the secret meeting in TRC where Bob and Mo come up, it's mentioned that Mo is starting to lose the plot, and then she gets the North Sea platform asssignment that starts TAS. Note that her job in TAS - unlike anything we've seen her do before - is an intel op, and Mo's the bait. That wasn't a fuck-up. It was clear *at that meeting* that this op might end up burning Mo, and because she was nearing the end of her useful shelf-life as CANDID anyway, this was considered acceptable.

And that's assuming that Laundry top brass at that point knew something fishy was going on (Freudstein) and were planning to use Mo to draw them out, but did not know any specifics. That is, they moved her into the line of fire and knew there was a risk she'd draw attention.

If, on the other hand, they already knew at the time of the meeting that Freudstein were planning to make a play for the white violin, well. At the very least, they knew they were hanging Mo out to dry. At the worst, her getting sent out to "busk" on an incident and getting caught on camera might have been part of the plan.

404:

You want her to make sense.

No, I want the author to communicate *some* things *slightly* more clearly; there's a difference. And this *can* be done in indirect and subtle ways - by omission, allusion, implication, while preserving ambiguity.

I wouldn't be so disturbed by this whole issue if there weren't so damn many people, apparently, who read the book as a straight condemnation of Mo, without any ambiguity about it (and this seems to include even some readers who were predisposed to like her). Of course you could say those are all just readers who weren't reading attentively enough... but, I dunno, that's maybe a bit too pat an answer.

Anyway; it *is* a matter of degrees, not of absolutes, and as always, ultimately a matter of taste. This just wasn't quite to my taste, is all. Doesn't mean I don't still love this series to pieces.

405:

One final remark on intelligence agencies before I shut up and get off my hobby horse: (I'll keep it brief)

The biggest conceit in the Laundryverse is, well, magic. No doubt.
But a close second is the Laundry as an intelligence agency that produces fuck-ups by the truckload but still manages to, by and large, achieve its mission statement.

Real intelligence agencies got the first part down but struggle with the second. I already mentioned "Legacy of Ashes". A shorter read is Adam Curtis' "Bugger" talking about MI5 and its origins (not what you'd expect).

Essay's here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/entries/3662a707-0af9-3149-963f-47bea720b460

406:

I've started my reread, and one thing Mo says in chapter two about Bob really struck me as exemplifying how off she is in some ways in her judgment of him:

"He's finally stepped across a threshold I passed long ago, realised that he has responsibilities larger than his own life."

Uhm, Mo. He realised that *at least as far back as TJM* (when someone, was it Billington himself?, tried to turn him, or made a show of trying to turn him, and he discovered, to his own surprise, that he was a loyal Laundry agent). Being an agent of the Laundry, doing the kind of thing Bob does, is *all about* having responsibilities larger than your own life.

How can Mo not realise that? It's a fundamental fact about Bob. o.O

I guess he just takes it as read that they *both* understand this, that it's the bedrock of both their lives. He's apparently never actually talked about it.

(But - says the little voice at the back of my head that *always* has a "but" - how can they know about, and talk about, CNG, without that ever coming up? Fighting CNG *is* the "responsibility larger than your own life" that dominates both their lives!)

407:

It's also interesting that realising that Bob "now" knows that he has responsibilities larger than his own life makes her *uncomfortable* - because that's how it's framed: it's not just the Eater of Souls that makes her uncomfortable, it's Bob's "new" sense of responsibility. It's almost as if she *needed* him to be the innocent man-child.

408:

My reading of the "responsibilities larger than his own life" refers to their otherworldly burdens (Eater of Souls / Violin) rather than their loyalty to a higher cause.

The quote with a bit more context - my emphasis:

"This is a new and unfamiliar Bob. Whether he’s lying or not, whether he was hosting an innocent sleepover in a safe house or carrying on an affair in my own bed while I was away, pales into insignificance compared to the unwelcome realization that he isn’t just Bob anymore, but Bob with eldritch necromantic strings attached. He’s finally stepped across a threshold I passed long ago, realized that he has responsibilities larger than his own life. And it means we’re into terra incognita.

I read that as Mo being a knowing bearer of the violin for many, many years. She understands what it is, and where it came from, and has been living with that horror for not far off a decade. Bob has really only just started to grok the full implications of being Bob + Eater of Souls. And those implications are even less familiar to Mo.

Bob has also only just realised what Lecter really is…

409:

Putting it as "having responsibilities larger than your own life" is a mighty strange way of putting it, though. And it stands at the end of that description of Bob's new situation as if it was a self-evident summary of it.

410:

It's also worth noting that Bob really has had eldritch necromantic strings attached since TFM; they've just turned from strings to veritable steel cables now. Makes me wonder (again) how much or rather how little, I suppose, he's talked about the entire Eater of Souls thing before...

411:

Didn't strike me as strange. One of the core parts of that scene for me is their realisation that Violin/Speaker is as big a part of their relationship as the personal Mo/Bob. "responsibilities larger than your own life" seems a pretty good summing up from my perspective.

412:

(And yeah, the likelihood of the answer to that being "not at all" is of course approaching 1.)

413:

Again, personal tastes and predispositions, probably, but it strikes me as a strange way of putting it because it's a) very general (as I said above, the terms could easily apply to everything Bob has been doing for the Laundry in general), and b) the responsibility part isn't what makes the violin and the Eater such distinctive burdens; what makes them distinctive, it seems to me, is rather the fact that they mess with your mind and identity, and make you do inhuman things to boot.

Of course, focusing on the latter is actually deeply terrifying, so it makes sense to cast it as something more manageable ("responsibility") instead, I guess.

414:

There seem to be a great many things that Bob, ahem, neglected to mention to Mo.

Exhibit B: Persephone Hazard. She shows up in one of Mo's audits. ("Seph". The physical description matches.) Mo doesn't recognize her at all. So either Mo knows about her but doesn't make the connection (seems out of character), Bob has told Mo a version of TAC that doesn't involve her (a rather significant omission, don't you think?), or he hasn't told Mo any details about TAC at all.

If so, this one's another ticking time bomb. After Mhari showing up unannounced at their house and given Mo's insecurities about getting older, this is bad. "Why do you never seem to mention any of the many attractive women you are apparently encountering at work on a regular basis": oh dear.

Now, we "know" from Bob's journals that nothing happened with either Ramona, Persephone or Mhari, provided he isn't straight-out lying (who knows? I sure hope not). But this is not the kind of thing to keep quiet about in front of a wife with deep-seated lingering trust issues.

415:

I confess that I've been distressed to read of the Bob/Mo relationship disaster. With the end of the world coming, disaster singularities of all sorts pending, and so much else, you'd think that it wouldn't sour my enjoyment of the series as much as it has, but it somehow has.

Hearing about the marriage counseling to come and the cat on the shelf gave me hope.

The disposal of Lector was nicely handled. The King in Yellow got his fingernail back. Which leaves the King trapped and the fingernail integrated with him. Instead of Lector being tossed someplace accessible and left as a lurking time bomb, the King in Yellow got the merger with Lector he was seeking -- just on the wrong side of the dimensional prison portal.

I've not really enjoyed the author's SF, but the Laundry Files have always been on my must read/must buy immediately list.

Reading the spoiler thread has kept them there whereas just reading the book, down to Mo making sure she has her non-Bob underwear on, didn't. I realize she was being set up, but so far the series has had a lot of Bob avoiding temptation, this novel had a lot of what looked like MO flirting with temptation and drawing back only because of the operational issues (but still going forward with future plans to move the matter along).

Including it in the material to be read after her death by Bob (and others) was more of a "sorry about that Bob, but I've emotionally written you off" moment, though the thread (and the author's comments), redeems her somewhat.

Otherwise this has been fun to read. My grandfather was a cultural attache in Austria, transitioning to Jordan at the time of his retirement. It has been fun to read the British flavor.

416:

BTW, for those comparing the lion goddess to other things:

http://www.adrr.com/hero/wildhunt/ISHTAR.htm

Just a short reprise from the epic of Gilgamesh.

417:

" or he hasn't told Mo any details about TAC at all."

His geas didn't allow him to. It was a plot point early in TRC.

Whatever did happen with Mhari it didn't set off Mo's ward, but at what point in the proceedings she stopped (or Bob said no) is a moot.

418:

While I've already put in my $0.02 here on other, more specific topics, I'd just like to say that this is by far my favorite Laundry book. I'm very happy to be out of Bob's head (interpret for yourself what it means that I consider narration from the point of view of someone with severe PTSD undergoing a nervous breakdown to be a marked improvement), but I can understand why a lot of people would like to be back there.

When TAA came out, geeky man-child power fantasies were a niche (a profitable one -- see Buffy, the c. 2001 Spiderman film -- but still niche), but now it's an industry where a lot of the bias against it is gone; the idea that being in that position could be a stifling form of arrested development or that looking at it from an outside perspective is a good idea has become an unusual idea (look at all the backlash Simon Pegg got for his sober and well-reasoned analysis about the popularity of franchises intended for children with adults; not a few of those franchises are SFnal or immerse themselves in traditionally SFnal elements, and to the extent that adults have replaced children in the audience for these things, they have self-identified as nerds). I feel like the increased commercialization of nerd-dom as an identity is becoming an excuse for putting the specific archetype that Bob represents on a pedestal and simultaneously producing fairly dumbed-down media that gets by on the strength of its ability to reference other, often better media.

The Laundry was always anything but dumb, but it nevertheless hit all the other sweet spots (white male hetero nerd protagonist who saves the world with science and ingenuity, frequent pop culture references, witty dialogue, SF-horror setting), and so I feel like a lot of people who were particularly attached to, say, Joss Whedon and the Moffat Doctor Who serials could latch onto early Laundry books, massively underestimate their depth, and then get totally confused when they get to this one and discover it's largely about a middle-aged woman dealing with combat trauma while simultaneously confronting marital stress. (After all, I've seen this particular pattern over and over in other places. I've seen probably ten or twenty young, somewhat stupid people latch onto Evangelion because they like mech shows and then decide that they didn't like the ending because they couldn't understand it. I assume that these people are the core audience for Michael Bay movies.)

I can understand people wanting comfortably recognizable media -- it's nice to rest your brain for a while -- but SF has a history and a reputation to live up to as progressive and brain-bending; while the Laundry is the most mainstream-friendly of OGH's series (and potentially the least brain-bending because you can often ignore the more complicated plot points and just focus on the explosions, if you're that kind of person), I like that it's taken a decidedly more interesting turn. I feel like we're getting to the point where the most interesting stories in this universe are the ones Bob isn't capable of telling because he won't allow himself to break character, the same way that the most interesting stories in the Marvel universe are the ones that Disney/Marvel will never make into a film because the fans can't even deal with Thor being a girl, let alone the kind of subversive stuff that Ellis and Morrison and others might inject into the continuity. (I realize that Morrison was always associated with DC. Whatever. Point remains.)

Anyway, long story short: I hope Alex isn't too much like Bob, and that we'll continue to get out of Bob's head, because it's cramped in there.

419:
Now, we "know" from Bob's journals that nothing happened with either Ramona, Persephone or Mhari, provided he isn't straight-out lying

I dunno… there's a lot of Clinton-esque wiggle room, if you'll pardon the expression, in the scene where Mhari jumps into bed with Bob at the end of TRC. I can read "A moment passes, then she lets go of me" at least two different ways.

420:

Oh Dear. I think we have a good idea how thinks went wrong with Iris. The Oath of office can be abused by those in the Chain of command outside the Laundry.

And if there can be a group of kid diddler MPs/Lords, whose to say there isn't a Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh chapter in HMG. Especially if there's a similar post Wilson ban on spying on MPs that applies to the laundry. BOBP starts off as some sort of high end decadent club, get a few MPs in, use the juju to get the movers and shakers, and suddenly, a hidden BOBP branch can subvert the Laundry's Oath of office.

Otoh one big conspiracy versus many competing conspiracies is more realistic. (The ACPO, the home office, etc. all having their own intersecting plots).

421:

We learn in TAC that the Oath of Office works by piggybacking on your own conscience. Bob is able to accidentally reveal secrets (minor ones to be sure) when he is given the destiny entangled tattoos. Given this I think people may be able to act in ways contrary to Laundry policy if they think what they are doing best serves the Laundry. It's a combination of rules lawyering and the phenomenon of no one ever thinking they're the bad guy.

422:

Moward? Shouldn't that be Mob? :D

(Yes, I am disappointed forever that the official name for Kirk/Spock isn't Kock.)

423:

If you are looking for my market, I would like to see the pilots from Cabin Pressure meet up with RAF 666. There has to be a better explanation for why their plane was full of gold wiring.

424:

I was avoiding this thread until I actually read the book; so I am coming late to the party.

I like a lot of what I have read here about the Mo/Bo relationship: you guys have said a lot of what was on my mind and more or better. Hmpf, in particular, has done yeo-person's work here in unpacking a lot of these issues both with the content and how we received it.

A lot of the relationship stuff was mean to my romantic ideals and comfortable fantasies about characters, but I can live with that. My biggest problem with the book was the Mo did not pop for me as a separate narrative voice from Bob's. Some of the secondary characters, particularly Ramona, also just did not seem to have real identity beyond the needs of the plot. Ramona on the oil derrick was plausibly a successor to the Morgue Ramona. Ramona in the office seemed like someone who was literally there to meet a diversity quota. She had absolutely no personality and was there to hand in reports and take Mo on hen nights. What? (I assume other people have noticed that Ms. Random potentially has the same nick name as Dr. O'Brien. And since her pseudonym was created by Bob, what was squirming around in his sub-conscious?) Ramona is a good example because we have a baseline for her, as opposed to say Busy-bee. Secondary characters used to pop more. Is this an indication Mo is actually worse at seeing people than Bob?

Anyway, there was lots of good stuff in this, but overall I am slightly disappointed. Granted, I have ridiculously high expectations for Laundry books and a lot of investment here; so take any negativity on my part with that in mind.

425:

Mo, on the other hand, is the veteran of (by this point in the story) dozens of planned missions. Which were successful. Because she's still alive. The first time we see a non-newbie Mo come close to fouling up is here — when she's in the middle of a nervous breakdown. And the reason she survives and the day is saved is that, despite being in the middle of a nervous breakdown, she's built a capable functional team…

My reading is that while Bob might be awesome at getting off the desert island, Mo is awesome at making sure that you never end up there in the first place, and if you do it's in a well stocked lifeboat with a satphone.


This. So much. In my headcannon, the three or four missing Dominique O'Brien novels are all about how she got good at this stuff.

426:

Hi Hmpf,

Believe it or not, I've just completed a rough draft of a book that I wrote in part for people like you. The topic is "what will the Earth look like if severe climate change happens, and humans don't go extinct." At this point, I'm waiting to hear back from some experts and figuring out how to get it to market.

The only reason I'm mentioning this is that I wanted to write that novel you're thinking about a few years ago, and I started doing the research too. I quickly realized that researching the background was a much bigger project than the novel, and decided to make the background the book. Three years later, I've got a draft. Since I've been hearing more about "pre-traumatic stress syndrome" and related fears, I strongly suspect the audience is much bigger than science fiction writers, ecologists, and climate scientists.

Still, it took me three years to do the research, I have a solid background in ecology, and I've read a good chunk of IPCC5 along with a great many other papers and books. Hopefully, my book will make it a lot easier for everyone to get their heads around this kind of future, so you can spend more time on other things, like writing novels about it, figuring out how to avoid it, working on the technology we'd need to do more than survive in it, or letting me know which part of my predictions are absolutely, without a doubt, dead wrong.

Over the years, people on this site have provided a lot of good feedback, and Charlie's been supportive. You folk are definitely getting a collective thank you in the acknowledgements.

427:
In my headcannon, the three or four missing Dominique O'Brien novels are all about how she got good at this stuff.

I know OGH has cried off pastiches — but a Tom Clancy-esque novel (or novella?) of a Mo/Artists Rifles mission would be huge fun ;-)

428:

In an inadvertent way, didn't Bob become the Most Interesting Man in the World (TM) by not being there?

He exorcises demons in a Mayan Temple
He saved sheep from possession in the Outback
He cooks chicken for his wife
He played a Bond Girl but never lost his raw masculinity

He lures mermaids back to land
He saves cartoon badass ladies
The SAS call him for help
He absorbed his boss' soul
He haunts himself because no one else has the balls to do it

He is the most interesting undead geek in the world

429:

He has never wanted to go to the Opera
He does not wear a power suit
Vampires think he is too intense
He's a loose cannon AND he plays by the rules
Destiny Entanglement has a name
And that name is:
BOB

430:

Yeah I had the One Last Night at the Opera line in my head. That intersecting with the King in Yellow and mentioning the increased interest due to True Detective was amusing.

Strange is the night where the black stars rise,

And strange moons circle through the skies,

But stranger still is

Lost Carcosa

431:

I know OGH has cried off pastiches — but a Tom Clancy-esque novel (or novella?) of a Mo/Artists Rifles mission would be huge fun ;-)

I'll confess I've never read Clancy, but I'd love to see Mo, Barnes, and Scary Spice decommission some infovores. :D

432:

I love the ambiguity about whether Bob Howard is supposed to be from Robert E. Howard, the noted Mythos author, or short for something like Bob Oscar Finley Howard. I'm assuming both.

433:

I was refraining from mentioning True Detective. Supposedly the cult is committing outrages as the only means to create a rent in our reality and reach Carcosa. But seriously, how interesting can Carcosa be? I mean for something like Lecter, I get it. But what would make it worth that price for humans?

I am also surprised that people did not mourn for the dolphins. When I was a kid that would have bothered me as much as dog or cat atrocities.

434:

His full name, as stated in the books, is Robert Oliver Francis Howard.

435:

His full name, as stated in the books, is Robert Oliver Francis Howard.

I see. ROFH. Rolling On Floor Howling.

436:

On the question of Bob not being a grown up compared to Friendly:

1) Grey is using his wife to indirectly subsidize his sports car and related glam.

2) Grey uses his daughter as bait to get around a woman who would otherwise be reluctant to go out with him for personal and professional reasons.

3) Grey chose an occupation that would give him clear rules and material support for his entire adult life.

4) Grey cannot see past her Invisibility Power any better than Bob, maybe less.

5) Grey has fresh eyes and a degree in Psychology, but cannot see Mo is having a nervous breakdown. Or he is using that (eww). Or he is being driven to date her by a departmental geas, which does not say much for a developing future relationship. Or he is not doing a very good job of addressing her needs if he does see she's falling apart.

I am not saying Bob is a model of mature manhood, but Mo is clearly discounting him and building up the Blue Helmet Special here. Like another poster noted, Mo seems to be developing a contempt for Bob which we don't see reciprocated, whatever other problems of miscommunication are going on.

Anyway, why won't somebody think of the cat? Cats from broken homes have been demonstrated to have horrible matriculation rates for post-secondary education.

437:

I've just completed a rough draft of a book that I wrote in part for people like you. The topic is "what will the Earth look like if severe climate change happens, and humans don't go extinct."

That's a book I'd buy. Hardcover.

438:

You seem to assume, though, that the inside of Bob's head is essentially unchanging. I don't think that's likely to be the case.

For my part, I enjoy being inside Bob's head precisely because I can see that things are already changing in there - and I'm *really* curious how different it will look in a year or two. And, for that matter, I didn't find Bob a particularly interesting protagonist pre-TFM, when he really was just the geeky man-child hero. But TFM pushed him onto a road I'm intensely interested in... and I don't think power fantasy has a lot to do with it, in the end. He's grown more powerful, yes, but more importantly, he's grown more... alien. *That's* the bit I'm interested in.

439:

You sound like the perfect partner for the conversation I need to have. Mind if I pick your brain a bit, sometime? Doesn't have to be now. My e-mail address is: thisisreallyhappening@gmx.de.

440:

I'd read that. :D

441:

Ah-hah! I'd forgotten that.

For anyone who missed the reference, google BOFH and have some fun. I should note that there are probably some major spoilers hiding in there for future Laundry books, although damned if I can figure out which ones they are.

442:

His full pseudonym, you mean...

In my headcanon his real name is Simon. (Based on the admittedly rather tenuous theory that he may have chosen his BOFH pseud not just because he liked and identified with the stories, but also because he shared a name with the author. - Yes, I know: unlikely.)

443:

I wasn't challenging your assertion that as a species we could be seen as psychopaths. I was challenging your arrogant assertion that no of us were aware of the fact, save for you.

Ahh, but that's not quite what I was saying. 64% and I'm fairly sure you're sill able to have meaningful relationships.

Imagine you were an Orca, or a Whale or a Dolphin.


BTW, for those comparing the lion goddess to other things:

Just a short reprise from the epic of Gilgamesh.

That's an interesting one.

Professional (circa 1998) website of a business, portal to HeroQuest (! out of print now, I think), to Shadowrun to dialogue that doesn't mention Ishtar at all, and certainly doesn't equate to her character.

The dialogue is fairly unique, btw, and has little to do with the original: it's essentially Christian responses to a strawman, quoth: "Our G_D is better than yours".

Odd little link.

And checked: that's amazing. It's actually your personal website / business. That's really cute (and horribly dangerous).

I will challenge him boldly, I will cry out aloud in Uruk, " I am the strongest here, I have
come to change the old order, I am he who was born in the hills, I am he who is
strongest of all."'...

Did you see him who lied to the gods while swearing an oath?" "I saw him." "How does he fare?" "He drinks …… which has been drunk …… the libation place at the entrance (?) to the nether world."

or

Your lovers have found you like a brazier which smoulders in the cold, a backdoor which keeps out neither squall of wind nor storm, a castle which crushes the garrison, pitch that blackens the bearer, a water-skin that chafes tile carrier, a stone which falls from the parapet, a battering-ram turned back from the enemy, a sandal that trips the wearer....

Anu said to great Ishtar, 'If I do what you desire there will be seven years of drought throughout Uruk when corn will be seedless husks. Have you saved grain enough for the people and grass for the cattle?' Ishtar replied. 'I have saved grain for the people, grass for the cattle; for seven years of seedless husks there is grain and there is grass enough...

Then Ishtar the sweet-voiced Queen of Heaven cried out like a woman in travail: "Alas the days of old are turned to dust because I commanded evil; why did I command this evil in the council of all the
gods? I commanded wars to destroy the people, but are they not my people, for I brought them forth? Now like the spawn of fish they float in the ocean.

For something a little more authentic.

Something something "Egyptian Plagues are really original" *cough* *cough*

http://www.rosemike.net/quotes/misc/epic_gil.pdf

The role of the goddess in legitimizing political power was not, however, restricted to her masculine aspect as the warlike Ištar but is attested also for the sexual Inana in her female aspect. Attributed to early Sumerian history, the so-called "sacred marriage" ceremony celebrated the marriage of Inana (represented by her high priestess) and Dumuzi (represented by the ruler) during the New Year's festival to ensure prosperity and abundance (Szarzyńska 2000: 63). Practiced in the late third and early second millennium BCE, the sacred marriage rite, which may have "have been only an intellectual construct, rather than an event in real life", nevertheless served to express the relationship between the king and the divine world (Jones 2003: 291).

http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/inanaitar/


Just in case you're interested in what I was actually saying.

p.s.

I did say that the picture supplied probably wasn't Ishtar.

But our God
He is the shepherd; husband
He marks the fall of every sparrow;
His Son healed the lion;
and sold himself for each of us.


Hint: Judas was the good guy, not only because of the "I knew that you knew that I knew that it had to be done". Later events in Jewish history (AD70 - revolts) show this to be accurate.

Basic theology: if Christ is the Son of G_D, then he would necessarily prevent a rebellion that would result in a blood-bath: but he can't do that without renouncing (totally) his spiritual mission. And Judas (check his background), unlike the fishermen, probably had enough political nouse to understand this.

So, basically, Jesus needed a man (not himself) to be guilty of betrayal. Now that's not a fun fact, at all (and the whining on day three, really?).

What they didn't count upon was the "mob being maneuvered into pardoning Barabbas". And, what a can of worms that little name is. Jesus Barabbas, oi vey - quite literally a nexus point of political upheaval over contemporary politics, where the mythical figure "freed" by Pilate [could never happen: not how Roman Law worked, nor did Herod command that kind of intercession at that point] is the rebel Jesus with a Confederate flag over his manly chest.


Essay over.

444:

Translation:


Jesus Barabbas is the pre 70AD re-writing of the reality to allow revolution to happen.

It's the Superman fiction against the sad reality. Best case: Jesus was trying his best (donkeys and palm fronds) to avert the Jewish people getting fucking spanked, hard, and had to make Judas pin it on the Romans.

Oh, wait: that happened. Three fucking times. @Gallery: I've no skin in your games, but being honest: Roman Law was kind to the Jewish people. They merely killed about ~500,000 and redrew their maps.

The people they hated?

Carthage. Find it on a map.


Moving on visa vie Barabbas:

It gets erased once the Romans get involved (AD180-300) and made into something nonsensical. (Yes: the Romans were big on Law. Do you really think they'd that one slip? Pilate would have been summoned back to Rome and executed / exiled (depending on political weight) immediately if he'd actually done it).


It's a foot note of New Testament oddity due to the shifting politics of the time.


p.s.


Sadducee / Pharisee.

Read the Bible - it's so fucking inept, it puts the wrong power Elite in control for the period. It puts those who were in power @AD 60+ as the bad guys... when they weren't when Jesus was alive.

~


Hmm.

Let's go Meta:

Strange. I seem to know a fuck of a lot more about this that you did / do.

445:

Err, Stafford and Heroquest are still live, though mutated.

http://smile.amazon.com/HeroQuest-Rules-Robin-D-Laws/dp/0857441035/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1436832700&sr=8-3&keywords=heroquest

Glorantha just had some major updates and a successful kickstarter.


As for the dangerous, already been through three serious attempts at identity theft.

Appreciate you backlogged out of the poem. There is a lot of old stuff there, you know how it is.

Otherwise, so you are saying Gilgamesh should have taken the goddess on as a lover?

http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/inanaitar/ not a bad text. There are some nice ones from the 1970s that have the entire barley god cycle, the attempt to conquer hell and a different story than Campbell posited.

Anyway, back to the original thread.

447:

I'll say it again.

The British Museum fresco / sculpture hasn't been 100% identified of actually being Ishtar.

Be careful when you tap into the old times: sometimes you get winged entities you didn't expect.

448:

Oh, and cute.

Warhammer and 40K and so on.


They're currently really dumb, but I did a bit of work for them way back then when the magazine and printed sheets via mail order were the only way to get your lead figurines. That excitement when the next catalog was released on slight green sheet. It's maybe not a coincidence that Ishtar's symbol is Chaos...

Life is strange [YouTube: Alan Moore: 4:01]

449:

At least you aren't calling me cute.

I think we've reached equilibrium.

450:

Of course, everything New Testament-related you write is actually bullshit. Or rather, a half-understood, half-digested, and half-correctly-regurgitated mash of some aspects of New Testament-related research of the last 100 years. So there's a grain of truth in there somewhere, but it's mashed into and buried under heaps of bollocks.

Bottom line: because so many people feel qualified to voice factual opinions about religion (and specifically the christian religion), the Dunning-Kruger effect kicks hard.

I am also amused that—according to your world view (which isn't yours alone by far!)—while the biblical authors cannot be trusted because being inaccurate, having interests, having used source material, etc., etc., apparently the mesopotamian texts (and their modern echoes!) can be taken at face value and don't need any critical evaluation at all. Thus spreading the monumentally dumb myth that the Bible/the New Testament/the christian faith/Christianity (take your pick) is stupid/false/without value/a lie/a conspiracy/an evil conspiracy to rule the world (take your pick), while the sumerian/babylonian/egyptian/canaanite/chinese/mayan/etc. (take your pick) mythology you happen to fancy is the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

One thing that can and should be said for Christianity is that it has created theology == a critical reception and evaluation of its own sacred texts, traditions and dogmas. That's a good thing and distinguishes it from most (if not all) other religions. But that people take this as proof against the validity of Christianity, while at the same time totally uncritically absorbing non-christian mythological concepts is hilarious.

As I said, I am amused.

451:

A point of order ...

I realise that some cultural exposition is required for the US audience, but the framing concept of TAS, is that Mo is writing for an internal audience, Laundry officers who need to grok their (persumably desperate) situation. I think they would be expected to know what the Last Night of the Proms is.

Assuming that they are contemporary, and not one or two generations removed, separated from 21st century culture by an apocalypse or two, viewing the Promenade Concerts audience as we would view the Elizabethan peanut gallery at The Globe.

..

452:

@406
"He's finally stepped across a threshold I passed long ago, realised that he has responsibilities larger than his own life."

The key difference is between risking your own life in defence of the realm, and taking institutional responsibility for other people's lives, one way or another. Lockhart makes this point to Bob explicitly in The Apocalypse Codex, and Mo realises that Bob has got it at the end of The Rhesus Chart when he stops her ending Mhari, because that's his duty.

453:

I wonder if Mo's problem with visibility is not so much magically enhanced middle-aged-woman syndrome as a consequence of her emerging deeply-scary-sorcerorness. We know that Mahogony Row is apparently empty, and maybe Invisible College should be taken literally .

454:

Otherwise, so you are saying Gilgamesh should have taken the goddess on as a lover?

If you read through that secondary link on the politics / symbolism of the time, then yes. Basically, it was his job to marry her.

Part of the point of the Epic is "what happens when you break social codes"


I am also amused that—according to your world view (which isn't yours alone by far!)—while the biblical authors cannot be trusted because being inaccurate, having interests, having used source material, etc., etc., apparently the mesopotamian texts (and their modern echoes!) can be taken at face value and don't need any critical evaluation at all. Thus spreading the monumentally dumb myth that the Bible/the New Testament/the christian faith/Christianity (take your pick) is stupid/false/without value/a lie/a conspiracy/an evil conspiracy to rule the world (take your pick), while the sumerian/babylonian/egyptian/canaanite/chinese/mayan/etc. (take your pick) mythology you happen to fancy is the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Strange.

My second link goes direct to some fairly critical analysis of Ishtar and so on.

Although I'm glad you've hitched onto the new-age re-imagining of Ishtar that's so common. Hint: I directly quoted the bits of Gilgamesh that shows she wasn't exactly a New Age entity. (She has a lot of analog with Hera. Strange how I keep doing that thing called foreshadowing).

So, exactly how was I not providing a critique of the mis-appropriation of Ishtar in the modern world?

DK effect indeed.

Moving on:

One thing that can and should be said for Christianity is that it has created theology == a critical reception and evaluation of its own sacred texts, traditions and dogmas. That's a good thing and distinguishes it from most (if not all) other religions. But that people take this as proof against the validity of Christianity, while at the same time totally uncritically absorbing non-christian mythological concepts is hilarious.

Actually, this is largely incorrect. Buddhism for one has a long history of various schools and interpretations - India / China gap and then mutation into Zen. To claim Christianity is somehow unique here is blinkers and wishful thinking.

It was the Roman codification (council of Nicea, Constantine) of Christianity that produced the "official" version (pre-reformation). Dead sea scrolls and so on.

It's called the Arian Controversy: you'll want to note the importance of Philo and logos. (You know, John's version of the NT - without which the entire religion would be a footnote).

(Yes, yes, I know: wrong Aryans though).


But please: outline exactly where my misunderstanding of Christianity lies, please. I'm quite open to the fact that the history of the times were re-written by contemporary sources.

Oh, and that Sadducee / Pharisee thing? You'll really want to understand what happened to the Sadducees and where they vanished to.

No, seriously. If you can't answer the basic question of where / why the political Elites get re-written you're in the DK zone.

Hint: Elites be Eliting and money talks.

455:

Formatting burp.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arian_controversy

[[ fixed on the original for you - mod ]]

456:

We my no be locked into 2 degrees.
There may be a second chance to put things right as long as we don't waste it.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150709092955.htm#.VZ_eTA2ZdAM.mailto

457:

There may be a second chance to put things right as long as we don't waste it.


Yes, well.

I'm quite familiar with that one - we're locked into 2oC, that little hiatus is more about preventing the 5oC. That's if people get their act together...

Baroness Joyce Anelay on the matter yesterday


Note to self: getting sloppy, it's the alcholol. Apologies, timey-wimey stuff.

458:

Of course, everything New Testament-related you write is actually bullshit. Or rather, a half-understood, half-digested, and half-correctly-regurgitated mash of some aspects of New Testament-related research of the last 100 years. So there's a grain of truth in there somewhere, but it's mashed into and buried under heaps of bollocks.

But isn't it some ways better to recycle the shit than dump it in the water that people downstream need?

High-entropy old myth provides the topsoil that new myth grows in.

I am also amused that—according to your world view (which isn't yours alone by far!)—while the biblical authors cannot be trusted because being inaccurate, having interests, having used source material, etc., etc., apparently the mesopotamian texts (and their modern echoes!) can be taken at face value and don't need any critical evaluation at all.

She isn't doing that. She has critically evaluated all that stuff herself and she is sure that she is right. That's not the same. "Everybody I know who is right always agrees with ME."

She makes a show of pointing out that things people believe may not be so. Note for example that she linked to a picture of somebody with wings, and repeatedly claimed that it's unknown whether or not it's Ishtar. No one here suggested it might be Ishtar except her, nobody suggested that it might be important whether or not it was Ishtar except her, but this is evidence that she carefully considers the evidence.

Anyway, the old written sources are like the potshards that the archeologists use, but less so. If you find a bunch of pieces of a cracked pot or three mixed together, you may be able to fit them together and see how the pots were shaped, maybe with only a few missing pieces. It works.

But when you try to figure out exactly how ancient people's misconceptions worked, based on texts....

Imagine that future historical theologians try to understand communism and libertarianism from surviving texts. They have some things by Ayn Rand and Hayek, some things by Marx and Trotsky, and they want to make sense of it. They try to trace out the heresies and the purges.

But in fact most libertarians don't care about the subtle theology, they just know that people should be free, and that free people make agreements that benefit all the free people who make the agreements, and that's good enough. People of good will will try to work things out, and you can't force people to have good will.

Similarly most communists didn't care about the subtle details, they just wanted to fight oppression and to build a better world for their grandchildren.

It's *very difficult* to get a complex message across to a lot of people, it takes a dedicated self-selected elite cadre that drills members for years before sending them out to enforce orthodoxy. Most people humor them, learning enough to get by the password checks and shibboleth checks, and otherwise go about their personal business. They continually build in scraps of old myth wherever it happens to fit.

We almost surely have more people studying the details of sumerian mythology than the sumerians did. Because we have so many more people, and so much more surplus.

Why would anyone think there is a correct answer? Why would they think there is any *there* there? Because they are confident in their abilities to process text. Because they believe there is meaning beyond what they create, and that they are good at finding the true meanings and rejecting the false ones.

Isn't it good for people to be confident in their abilities? Particularly when it's ancient bullshit they are confident about. People who are confident that they understand the real true economics are doing far more to destroy the world.

People who believe they are right about ancient religions are mostly harmless.

459:

No one here suggested it might be Ishtar except her, nobody suggested that it might be important whether or not it was Ishtar except her, but this is evidence that she carefully considers the evidence...

People who believe they are right about ancient religions are mostly harmless.

I'm fairly ambivalent on Sumerian mythology, as I can't read the original anymore, although I like the fact that the earliest records of Ishtar are about cows, fields and who owns what. I'm fully aware that someone with a PhD in it could (and should) run my arguments over with a steam-roller.

It's a meta-point about having a female protagonist, Bob not being quite a reliable narrator and what happens if things had worked out differently. (You'll note that most of the New Age appropriation of Ishtar is tied to the female & various counter-culture narratives that dislike patriarchy).

Since the discussion is about whether or not Mo is believable, I thought it had potential as a parallel course. It was also a joke, of sorts. (Gilgamesh).

So it goes.


Explanation since no-one followed the crumbs: the relief could also be Ereshkigal.

One of these myths is Inanna's descent to the netherworld and her reception by her sister who presides over it; Ereshkigal traps her sister in her kingdom and Inanna is only able to leave it by sacrificing her husband Dumuzi in exchange for herself.

The other myth is the story of Nergal, the plague god. Once, the gods held a banquet that Ereshkigal as queen of the Netherworld cannot come up to attend. They invite her to send a messenger and she sends Namtar, her vizier. He is treated well by all but disrespected by Nergal. As a result of this, Nergal is banished to the kingdom controlled by the goddess. Versions vary at this point, but all of them result in him becoming her husband.[2] In later tradition, Nergal is said to have been the victor, taking her as wife and ruling the land himself.


I'll let you see what I was theorizing for the future of Mo / Bob and the obvious Warhammer 40k pun (intended).

460:

Nergal is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as the deity of the city of Cuth (Cuthah): "And the men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal" (2 Kings, 17:30). According to the rabbins, his emblem was a cock[1] and Nergal means a "dunghill cock",[2] although standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion. He is a son of Enlil and Ninlil, along with Nanna and Ninurta.


It's funny how much doesn't change.

Lion / Cock, slandering the competition with penis jokes and so on.

461:

Why would you expect this to have a big effect? If solar irradiance has increased 0.3% since the Maunder minimum, and it decreases 0.3% for a decade or two, how much difference would that make?

They have a model which has been 97% accurate across 3 cycles, which is not all that surprising since they used data from the last 3 cycles to build the model. It predicts a giant change over the next 2 cycles. That gives me hope since there isn't much hope in the current estimates, so anything new could be an improvement.

But what model is used to predict that this will be a big improvement, and what evidence do we have that the model makes good predictions?

462:

But what model is used to predict that this will be a big improvement, and what evidence do we have that the model makes good predictions?

It doesn't look like there's a version out in the wild at the moment.

Here's stuff she's published previously:

http://computing.unn.ac.uk/staff/slmv5/kinetics/publications.php

http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/view/creators/Zharkova=3AValentina=3A=3A.html


PREDICTION OF SOLAR ACTIVITY FROM SOLAR BACKGROUND MAGNETIC FIELD
VARIATIONS IN CYCLES 21–23
(Warning: PDF)

I lack the ability to do the math, I'll leave it up to scientists to see if their work is good enough for accurate predictions.

463:

I like that, the idea that one joins the invisible college by becoming invisible.

I'm all for more spoiler discussion.

464:

It's more like, the inside of Bob's head isn't keeping up with his position and his situation. Bob has a self-projection (as other people have mentioned) where he identifies very strongly with early-Laundry-Bob and he tries to pretend as though his current decisions are being made through early-Laundry-Bob's gloss. This is clearly not true -- Bob has become intelligent, informed, empowered, and responsible in a way that people don't get to be while remaining fully human, and he sits in a place in the Laundry hierarchy that he wasn't even aware of during the first book. Bob is playing with power. This makes it irritating (and maybe even a little bit unrealistic) that he is capable of the depths of self-delusion that allows him to convince himself (and Mo) that he's still this archetypal nerd-boy thrown in over his head. Bob is heir to the Angleton throne, and it's not until we got outside his head that it really became clear that he knows how to *ahem* negotiate from a position of power. He's going and disabling Angleton's traps not because it's a shit job and he's at the bottom of the ladder, but because not even the other DSSes or the auditors would be capable of doing it.

Bob is no longer human, but it's clear that he hasn't really realized or internalized that. The scope of his changes are almost invisible until you see him from Mo's perspective, and Mo has been shieled from most of this. I'd like to see what he looks like from Mhari's perspective -- she left a loser stuck in the IT department who had gotten roped into the system for making winamp visualizations, and she comes back to find that he's become three steps down from Cthulhu.

465:

"But what model is used to predict that this will be a big improvement, and what evidence do we have that the model makes good predictions?"

It doesn't look like there's a version out in the wild at the moment.

Here's stuff she's published previously:

That's about the model that predicts solar activity. It's likely to be an important idea -- there might be two different important dynamos. Of course you can fit data better with twice as many parameters, I'll wait and see how well it fits later data. If it doesn't predict well they can fit better with three dynamos, or four. Like epicycles.

I'm more interested in the next step. If it turns out to be real, how well can we predict climate from solar activity? Everybody believes that sunspots affect weather, but how well can they predict what the effect will be from something that hasn't happened for several hundred years?

And of course temperature is not the only thing we care about. I like the idea that it can bring some hope. A couple decades breather to get things done would be welcome, and maybe people will be more ready to do something if they think it isn't hopeless. But it's plausible to me at this point that the results they're hoping for are not exactly predictable.

466:

I'm fully aware that someone with a PhD in it could (and should) run my arguments over with a steam-roller.

They would presumably have more data available to them. And they could make arguments from authority. Beyond that, not necessarily.

You make arguments based on the assumption that ancient academics were like modern academics. You jump to reasonable conclusions with the assumption that people haven't changed that much. Sometimes I have enough background to follow, and when I do I find your conclusions reasonable. But an academic who is not supposed to go beyond the evidence would not do that.

Like, in the Bible, Samson bragged a lot. "He killed ten thousand with the jawbone of an ass." A literal interpretation would be that he was walking around unarmed, and met up with ten thousand warriors, and he picked up a part of a donkey skeleton and killed them with it. And who can prove that the literal interpretation was not what was intended?

I think whether a PhD could outdo you, would depend on how good that particular PhD was. He would have more data that he couldn't particularly share, and he would have the authority of his degree. Beyond that it's pot luck.

If your conclusions match up with what authorities thought around 20-30 years ago, he will probably have solid arguments handy to knock them down. Because the generation of PhDs of that time needed to make their reputation knocking down those beliefs. 25-30 years from now, a new generation will have knocked down a lot of what he believes now.

So if we took apart your ideas into a list of individual claims, and asked PhDs to mark them each true/false, you'd likely get about 50% now and a different 50% later, because you are an original thinker and not that closely aligned with today's orthodoxy. But if instead we put them together into some coherent story, probably most would say it has big flaws both times. Because they are pushing their own stories.

To my own way of thinking, the better conclusion is "not proven". I tend to like your stories when I understand them, independent of the possibility that they might be objectively true. Usually there's no proof, there's only a preponderance of evidence, and the evidence keeps shifting over time.

467:

I tend to like your stories when I understand them, independent of the possibility that they might be objectively true. Usually there's no proof, there's only a preponderance of evidence, and the evidence keeps shifting over time.

I'm just amused by how much of the Warhammer lore is re-purposed Sumerian mythology, via Moorcock.

It's literally reinserting old Gods back into the cultural space whilst only getting flack for being mildly subversive. I'm surprised there's no potted lore linking Ian Livingstone (CBE), the NWO and Elite Occultists altering Christian society and so on. Conspiracy sites often disappoint in their banality: for the peanut gallery, no I don't think he's done that. However, you'll note that the W40k chaos beasties are all the bad guys, so it's more appropriation / slander, so ironically it's doing the same work as the Rabbins.

Nergal: (Sun -War - Underworld/Plague) linked to the planet Mars - Ares - Mars - Satanic Demon - Chaos God


Quite the little potted history for a minor Lion, still puttering along after 2,500 years.

But, regarding ancient minds etc - there was already a clear cut distinction between poetry, fiction and history back then:

The so-called "Legend of the King of Cuthah", a fragmentary inscription of the Akkadian literary genre called narû, written as if it were transcribed from a royal stele, is in fact part of the "Legend of Naram-Sin", not to be read as history, found in the cuneiform library at Sultantepe, north of Harran.


The Rabbit Hole.


What's really going to twist your melon is that they're the precursors to the Samaritans. Yep, same ones as in the parables...

468:

One person's "irritating" is another person's "interesting". I'm interested in cognitive dissonance, so Bob's headspace at the moment is fascinating to me, and not irritating at all.

I also don't think it's unrealistic. People generally don't react to huge changes in their lives with a sudden realisation of "hey, I'm a different person now!" It's a more gradual process, even for people who aren't Bob. And let's also keep in mind that Bob is confronted with something rather more disturbing than just the progression of his career. I'd expect most people's heads to hang onto the idea of being human for a while, in a comparable situation - and hang onto it hard. So Bob has a very understandable motivation for clinging to what's left of his old self-image. A refusal to grow up doesn't really have that much to do with it, at this point. (And, I may be alone in this, but TRC Bob's voice did strike me as notably more mature already than earlier Bob.)

469:

Unrelated to previous (except maybe to my pointless remark about my "real name" headcanon speculation yesterday):

I wonder what'll happen with "Bob"'s code name in book eight. If the Laundry goes public, and he's to appear on TV, will he do that under his real name? Or will it be like interviews with secret service people and so on are sometimes done, as a shadowy silhouette without a name? (The Laundry's existence being public knowledge doesn't mean individual operatives being "out", after all.)

If he does end up becoming known as a Laundry agent under his real name, are we going to find out, too? (I don't know why I'm so interested in his name, I just am... *Probably* some