Book: The Jennifer Morgue
Author: Charles Stross
The Jennifer Morgue is the second book in Charles Stross's Laundry Files series. Although they are set in modern times and feature magic, the Laundry Files are not exactly urban fantasy, more urban Cthulhu (or Cthulhu Now if you get the reference). The book is comprised of the main novel and a short story, Pimpf, as well as an essay as the afterword.
The Jennifer Morgue is the sequel to The Atrocity Archives and covers the experiences of Laundry agent Bob Howard. The Laundry is the sole remnant of Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE), which was formed during the Second World War, that survived the dissolution of the rest of the agency at the end of the war. The Laundry deals with the occult and is so secret that even knowledge of its very existence is covered by the Official Secrets Act - as, indeed, is the relevant portion of the Act itself.
Credit: Shutterstock/LBBG - Sean GarrehyIn the Laundry's world, magic is real, but it isn't nice and dealing with it risks summoning up the eldritch horrors of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. Computers make magic (also known as mathematics) much easier, and generally less fatal as they don't involve running dangerous magic on fragile hardware (the human brain), unless said eldritch horrors are summoned up unintentionally.
In the main novel British agent Bob Howard is teamed up with a beautiful and exotic foreign spy in order to defeat a criminal mastermind and software billionaire called Ellis Billington who is showing an unhealthy (for the world) interest in a submerged artefact in the Caribbean codenamed JENNIFER MORGUE.
The overall plot may sound rather familiar, with it featuring a British secret agent, a beautiful foreign spy and a criminal mastermind with a plot that could endanger the world. This is no accident, and as a result Bob finds himself getting a taste for drinking vodka martinis, shaken, not stirred.
Although most of the story is told from Bob's point of view, occasional sections aren't, which can be a bit disconcerting for what is supposed to be a personal memoir (this is handled better in later books in the series). In The Jennifer Morgue, as with the previous novel in the series, the story is once again told with a fair amount of humour, despite the grim and dangerous situations Bob gets into and the deaths and destruction caused along the way. Even though the topics in general are darker than much urban fantasy, the book should still appeal to fans of that type of fiction.
The short story, Pimpf, covers the perils of computer game design and the unfortunate and unexpected consequences of online gaming (Neverwinter Nights in this case) when computers work very well at doing magic and summoning creatures that are less than friendly, something that can, and frequently does, happen by accident rather than design.
The Golden Age of Spying, the essay that is the afterword, discusses spying, Ian Fleming and the most famous fictional spy of all, James Bond, and includes a (fictional) interview with Ernst Stavro Blofeldt, the head of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (both also fictional).
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