Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross

This seventh novel in the Laundry Files series takes another detour away from the story of Bob Howard, which seems to have stalled out in the midst of the breakup of his marriage, to pick up a fresh POV in Alex Schwartz, one of the PHANGs who was recruited after the scandal at the investment bank where he was working, in The Rhesus Chart.

Alex gets caught up in an incursion by beings from another plane, upon which humans have based their stories of elves. They're not exactly the singing elves of Middle Earth, and in fact their society is very warlike. They send a spy, one of the "princesses" ahead to gather information, and she assumes the form and identity of a theater arts major named Cassie, whom Alex falls head over heels for - despite figuring out fairly quickly that she's not exactly what she seems to be.

Filled with the usual Stross drolleries like,

"She racks her brain: but Cassie has no memory of ritual castration as a tool of management in this place, unless it's symbolized by the neck-wrappings man male uruk wear as part of their uniforms."

"She doesn't have any lectures to attend until four and the weather's nice: she might as well go to college and raid the theatrical wardrobe for something fancy to wear to the end of the world."

Alex, who is definitely not warrior-class, turns out to have more up his sleeve than most people thought. The "elves" pretty much use brute force spellcasting, which uses a lot of their own energy and mana stolen from the environment, but Alex is a programmer (hmm...I need to re-read the Wizardry series by Cook) and when he sets a DO LOOP to work on gathering spellcasting power, it's a wonderful thing.

This one really gets back to some of the things I used to love in the series. Hopefully we'll continue see more of the same goodness from Stross.

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