July 2012

This is the fourth and very newly released Laundry novel. Unlike The Fuller Memorandum, Amazon Japan had it available pretty much as soon as it was published in the US. Normally I’d have re-read the series before going into this one but as those reading my book blogging know I’ve already re-read the sequence this year.

This time, Bob is up against a US televangelist. As with Fuller Memorandum, this deviates from first-person storytelling. This time, even more so. I remember Charlie struggling with how to tell the story he wanted to tell within the constraint of a first person “memoir” narrative but where the narrator in question is being moved into a management role and therefore lacking direct experience. The end point of this conundrum is deftly handled, but I’ll leave you to find out how he deals with it yourself.

This is, as usual, a well-written piece and a worthy addition to the Laundry Files. It is, though, not as scary as The Fuller Memorandum. I had to think hard to work out why. I think the problem is that both the bad guy and the “reveal” in TFM twist things around a lot and in particular the identity of the bad guy works well with the Buffy Principle (real life is scarier than monsters). This time the bad guy is a US televanglist. These guys are horrible, creepy and scary to begin with, so I at least am already inured to the horror of their actions.

Not that this isn’t scary, but it’s a different sort of scary. As CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN approaches, Bob’s scary life is getting scarier, including the fact that he’s not in control any more. Well, he is in control, but in the same way that a navigator in a rally car is in control, rather than the way a driver is in control. Now he’s got to set tactics and policy and wait for the results.

Interestingly, as I blogged about before, there are some interesting parallels with the Simon Canderous series, that come through even more so when the reality behind Mahogany Row is revealed. Not that I think either author is cribbing from the other – they’re just writing from a similar playbook style, I think.

If you haven’t read the Laundry, and aren’t totally freaked by Lovecraftian horrors (written into algorithmic science fiction) then what are you waiting for?

I’ve got way behind on my book blogging again recently, so a catch-up post for a series instead of dealing wth them all separately.

More urban fantasy again. The main character of this one is a former low-level thief and grifter with a talent for psychometry: the ability to psychically read the history of an object. He’s recruited to the New York Department of Extraordinary Affairs and does his best to go straight, though he still uses his talent to make extra money on the side, just without crossing the lines. There are some shades of the Laundry Files, with much more of an American slant to it, of course. The eldritch horrors of cultists, zombies, ghosts, vampires and sundry other bumps in the night are counterpoised with budget constraints, huge towering piles of paperwork, the Mayor’s Office of Plausible Deniability and management training courses.

In the first installment Simon Canderous, the aofrementioned psychometrist, has to deal with cultists gone mainstream: the Sectarian Defense League (cultists with a good PR agent) are planning some nasty shenanigans from their office in the Empire State Building and during a reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the meantime they send a fomer temp now benefits-enabled office worker to spy on and perhaps assassinate Simon. That works out well for him since they turn on her when she fails, and since she was only ever in it for the dental coverage she also turns, to him in more ways than one.

In the second installment, Simon’s past catches up with him and one of his former criminal associates gets him mixed up in something which seems just criminal at first but turns out to be intimately linked to the previous case. In the process Simon falsely triggers a vampire alert, but right at the end does encounter a vampire being tortured by the bad guy by being kep in vaporous state and unable to reform.

This turns out to be a major plot element of installment number three where we find out ust why vampires hadn’t been seen in the city for over two years. It’s not that they were gone, it’s that they have turned into a different sort of nasty. I’m rather unsure of this turn. It nicely pays off a mystery about SImon’s partner’s past which was introduced in the first book, but it’s a bit cliched these days to have vampires turn non-evil, but also the idea that  vampires who spent centuries being blood-thirsty vicious beasts should be forgiven is morally rather dubious. I don’t think he quite pulls this off.

The fourth installment slightly reminds me of Jim Butcher’s “Proven Guilty” in which much of the action takes place at a Horror movie convention. This one starts with the death by supernatural causes of a professor of film at NYU, who turns out to have been a partner of Simon’s boss thirty years before. The main plotline is quite nice in this one, but I think the personal denouement at the end may mean this series ust jumped the shark – the whole vampire girlfriend thing is very hard to get right and too easy to screw up badly.

I’ll see what the next one is like, but this may have gone off the rails at this point.

I hit another personal best in the pool today. Not bad for a guy with a hole in his leg. I did 50 lengths of a 25m pool using two lanes in 25 minutes and 45 seconds. My previous best was 26 minutes 38 seconds in a single lane. I’m pretty sure that changing lanes slows me down a tad (over 50 lengths even half a second per length adds 25 seconds) so I’m interested what I can manage when I’m next in one lane. This is also a best at the Ryogoku pool. The previous best was in the Kinshicho pool. In the Ryogoku pool they usually have two lanes set up for serious swimming, each one being fo an inner (quick) and outer (slow) half-lane. When there’s a class (they do young kids swimming classes, adult/elder exercise and swimming classes) or a school swimming club in, they restrict it to one lan. Kinshicho alwyas have at least two lanes allocated to serious swimming, sometimes up to four. In general these are all back and forth half lanes, though sometimes one side of the pool is set for one pair marked for “outer overtaking” (the Ryogoku concept is better for that one, I think). When I first started using the Kinshicho pool when it opened I always seemed to be slowed in there. I’m not sure if it was the extra walk and stairs (at the station and in the gym building) though I suspect it’s that the water/air temperature in that pool was a touch higher. They seem to have dropped the air and water temperature in there and that seems to help with my swimming speed. Or maybe I was just levelling up anyway and it’s coincidence that I seem to be faster at Kinshicho than even in one lane at Ryogoku. If it’s two lanes tomorrow at Ryogoku, then it will be one lane in Kinshicho on Tuesday anyway. I’ve had a dream of getting down to 25 minutes for fifty lengths, but wasn’t sure i could do it. It’s down to technique as much as anything at this point. I noticed that I had a “hitch” in my crawl style just after my hand enters the water and worked yesterday and today to kep a smoother action. It seem to have worked. I do alternate lengths crawl and breaststroke to work out different muscles.

Yesterday I took $DAUGHTER to Kinshicho Park. She reall enjoys the fountain (with sideshows) and the playground in there. It’s all new, rebuilt in the last two years. On the pedestrian way in nearest the train station there are 15 inch high removable bollards. I know exactly how high they are because there’s a hole in the skin on my shin 15 inches up where I walked into one of them. It’s hard to see down there them when carrying a toddler on your front and you’re paying attention to elders with walking frames, kids and adults on bikes and other parents with pushchairs.