Monday, April 02, 2007

Lovecraft meets Dilbert

Imagine that there are crawling tentacled horrors waiting at the bottom of the Mandelbrot set to invade reality and raven and slay. Imagine that there are people who know this - and therefore that there are secret government agencies whose job it is to stop them. Imagine those guardians of reality have managers, office politics, HR departments, paperclip audits, and all the petty bureaucracy that comes with being a modern, efficient government department.

That's pretty much the premise behind Charles Stross' The Atrocity Archives. It combines the horror of H P Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos with the horror of modern bureaucracy - with a good dose of geek humour thrown in. Magic being a science (and a specialised branch of mathematics, at that), it naturally attracts geeks - particularly when they inadvertently discover how to summon Nyarlathotep and almost destroy Birmingham. But it's not all laughs - there's about a squick a page of ickyness (more in some places), and the peculiar horror of a setting in which classified government documents blandly state

We remain convinced that this is the best defensive posture to adopt in order to minimise casualties when the Great Old Ones return from beyond the stars to eat our brains.

It's well worth reading, if you can get hold of it.


Hmmn. Were there such a secret government agency, you would no doubt be busy trying to expose it and bring it down.

Aha! At last we know who you truly serve !

Posted by Anonymous : 4/02/2007 10:37:00 AM

KD: I have only one thing to say to such baseless allegations: Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/02/2007 10:45:00 AM

So while, I was finding the translation("In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming") I came across this. Which I just had to share.

Cthulhu Babies!

Posted by Anonymous : 4/02/2007 11:11:00 AM

Charlie Stross is awesome. His latest, Glasshouse, is very good as well. It's been nominated for this year's Hugo's, along with the best Hard SF book I've read in ages, Blindsight by Peter Watts. Amoral genetically engineered space vampires. And first contact. And 30 pages of notes explaining the fairly credible science behind most of the book. The best hard SF book in a long, long time.

...also free on his website ( under a creative commons licence. Yay creative commons.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/02/2007 11:49:00 AM

>It's well worth reading, if you can get hold of it.

I certainly hope you didn't get the only copy in Borders! We've been looking for it for awhile.

I'm a big fan of Charles Stross as a science fiction writer. He is always intellectually stimulating and entertaining too. His Merchant Princes fantasy series is good too.jc

Posted by Amanda : 4/02/2007 08:48:00 PM

Yep, love his work. All of it.
There now a second book in the same setting. The Jennifer Morgue, probably still only in hardcover and with the sad decline of Sci-fi in bookshops last I was in NZ, probably only available by ordering it.

- Brother Conspicious

Posted by Anonymous : 4/02/2007 11:59:00 PM

hmmmm... bureaucratic horror.

i could use a decent explanation of that.

and, it looks like i'm behind the game on this stross guy. will have to track some down!

Posted by Anonymous : 4/03/2007 06:54:00 AM

I should point out that the good old Wellington Public Library has no fewer than 10 Stross titles (several copies of each in most cases), including Atrocity Archives, Glasshouse, and The Jennifer Morgue.

Of course they're almost always out, owing to their awesomeness. But if you're prepared to be patient (or to go to one of the suburban branches) you might just get lucky.

Posted by Jarrod : 4/03/2007 10:57:00 AM