Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Equoid by Charles Stross
I was fortunate to find via Facebook post a link to a free novella by Stross. His Laundry Files stories are always amusing, while simultaneously being a bit horrifying in their Lovecraftian way. Stross interweaves love letters from HPL himself with not quite Top Secret shadowy government documents and Bob Howard's wry narrative for a most entertaining tapestry.
It's a slow day in the office, filling out forms, when Bob Howard is called to his boss's office and given the assignment to head out into the English countryside to investigate a rumor that there's a unicorn infestation. Bob's not much of a country boy, but he heads out to face the music just the same. Along the way he encounters not only the arcane and unsavory equoids, but a number of very very British characters, whom I'm sure I would appreciate more if I were properly British myself.
Phrases like, "a tie that appears to be knitted from the intestines of long-dead badgers" appear every so often in the tale, causing one to chortle uncontrollably.
One of the key things in this story is the revelation for most of us, I am sure, that unicorns are not sparkly creatures who give sweet virgins pony rides, but rather more dangerous beasts.
"But I do assure you, young feller me lad, that unicorns are very real indeed, just like great white sharks and Ebola Zaire—and they’re just as much of a joking matter. Napalm, Mr. Howard, napalm and scorched earth: that’s the only language they understand. Sterilize it with fire and nerve gas, then station armed guards.”
Stross is a master of novel descriptive bits, such as, "Greg, for his part, is suitably subdued: even his beard hangs heavy, as if it senses a thunderstorm-drenching in the offing."
Fun read, and free, too!