Book: The Atrocity Archives
Author: Charles Stross
The Atrocity Archives is actually comprised of a novel, The Atrocity Archives, and a novella, The Concrete Jungle, and is the first in The Laundry Files series of books. The novel was originally published as a serial in the, apparently now defunct, magazine Spectrum SF.
Bob Howard (a pseudonym, not his real name as real names confer power) works for the Laundry, a branch of British Intelligence and the sole unit of the Special Operations Executive that survived the SOE's dissolution at the end of World War II, that is so secret that even the part of the Official Secrets Act (1916) that applies to knowledge of the Laundry is itself so secret that merely knowing that section exists is a criminal offence. This branch deals with the occult. Not in the traditional sense of magicians using spells though, as that doesn't work. The type of occult conjuration that uses mathematics, originally discovered by Alan Turing, unfortunately does.
It's unfortunate because it turns out that H. P. Lovecraft wasn't writing horror fiction, he was writing about creatures that actually exist - and they are not nice at all. Should you come across the right mathematics to contact them, they will only be happy to respond. In ways that are not very healthy for, at best, the contactee and, at worst, large parts of the world. Possibly all of it, or even the entire universe. It isn't clear whether Lovecraft's beings such as Great Cthulhu actually exist, or whether the creatures in the book are simply similar in outlook and behaviour. Reference is made to locations such as Arkham and Miskatonic University as being actual places, so possibly Cthulhu is real also.
Bob's main role at the Laundry is maintaining its computers and networks, as well as checking on such things as New Age websites and card collection games to make sure they haven't accidentally created something truly dangerous, but he wants a bit more action in his life. This desire results in him being assigned a small field task at the last minute, and later results in a field trip where he stumbles on a plot by some Middle Eastern terrorists and Nazi occultists who appear to have survived World War II, at which point life starts getting very dangerous.
The Concrete Jungle, which won the 2005 Hugo Award for Best Novella, also features Bob and the Laundry and is set after The Atrocity Archives. This novella involves Bob going to Milton Keynes, as apparently there are one too many concrete cows - Milton Keynes has a sculpture of several concrete cows standing in a field. The originals are currently in the Central Milton Keynes Shopping Centre; the replicas are in the original site of Bancroft, and it is this site that Bob visits, which at that time hosted the originals.
The Atrocity Archives presents the topics, which often involve people dying, with a somewhat humorous twist. The humour is very similar to that find in Rivers of London, which also had some very unpleasant things happening, so if you like one book you are quite likely to like the other. An enjoyable cross between spy fiction and horror, with a bit of humour thrown in.
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