Audiobook Review: The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross
Series: Laundry Files
Genre: Science Fiction, Occult
There is a list floating around Tumblr of Bioware voice actors who have narrated audiobooks. Having fallen in love with Fenris’ voice in Dragon Age II, I decided that The Atrocity Archives, read by Gideon Emery, was a necessary listen from Audible. Not that I blindly listen to an audiobook just because I want to hear sexy sweet nothings in my ear all day. The book’s blurb actually sounded interesting – though it certainly helped my enjoyment to believe that the character of Bob Howard looks exactly like Fenris, if Fenris happened to be moonlighting as a snarky IT guy who works for The Laundry.
Bob Howard is an employee at the Laundry Files, a bureaucratic organization that covertly monitors and deals with occult activities and the connections between other dimensions. He normally spends his day doing typical, mundane IT guy things, such as sorting through the messes Fred from accounting has made of his computer. Once or twice, he’s been sent out into the field, but after an unfortunate incident during an IT/Occult training course, Bob’s actions bring him to the attention of the Counter Possession Unit and leads him into doing a lot more out-of-office work.
I really liked that Bob is not a stereotypical, introverted nerd tossed into field work where he can skillfully display his incompetence in a mock attempt at playing a geeky James Bond. Bob might need to brush up on protocol and procedure, such as what not to do when a gorgeous redheaded scientist is kidnapped, but otherwise, Bob is quite capable of handling himself in the field and is a unique character unto himself.
For the first half, both Emery and the story kept me very entertained. Emery did an excellent job of making sure Bob’s attitude didn’t go over the edge and into the realm of unlikable characters and I loved the way Stross seamlessly worked in the occult aspects, solidly grounding them in reality through science and technology. There were a lot of technical references, but they were delivered with wit and sarcasm to make them amusing, and explained succinctly enough to make them accessible to someone as clueless about such technology as I am.
Unfortunately, this changes in the second half, once the Atrocity Archives are discovered and the plot thickens. At this point, explanations start to take over the story as Stross works in all sorts of details about Hitler’s obsession with the occult. It is all relevant to the plot, but where previous explanations were pithy, amusing and interesting, these were tiresome, interruptive wiki entries that slowed down what should have been the action part of the novel.
Because of this, a series that I initially expected to continue with became disappointing, though not so much so that I wouldn’t allow Fenris to seduce me into reading more books in the series.