Review: The Nightmare Stacks, by Charles Stross

Posted: July 15, 2016 in Book Reviews, Science Fiction, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Nightmare(The Nightmare Stacks, by Charles Stross. New York, Ace, 2016, 385 pp., $27.00)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

It’s always sad to see one of your favorite series running out of steam, but that’s what seems to be happening with Stross’s “Laundry Files” novels (regarding “applied computational demonology” — the summoning of “tentacled Lovecraftian horrors,” either intentionally or unintentionally, via mathematics or computation) .

This first became apparent with the last novel in the series, The Annihilation Score,  in which Stross ditched his longtime central character, the sardonic, very funny, perpetually harassed Bob Howard, in favor of Bob’s believably drawn and sympathetic, but humor-devoid wife, Mo. Why? Apparently just to do something different. He apparently felt that he’d run out the string with the Howard character, and would, after five very successful novels, try another central character.

Here, he’s turned to yet another central character, Alex one of the PHANGs (Post Human vampires infected with other-dimensional parasites)  formerly at the heart of an investment bank and now a “Laundry” employee, introduced in probably the best “Laundry” novel, The Rhesus Chart. Alex is a 24-year-old math-nerd virgin, and the character provides fertile ground for Stross’s dark humor. The description of Alex’s family get-together with his other-dimensional girlfriend, his kid sister, and her trans lover is cringe-inducing but extremely funny. As is a lot of the other material in the book. (At one point, Stross compares wearing a tie with castration.)

All of these very entertaining diversions aside, it’s difficult to see where Stross can go with this series after The Nightmare Stacks. He killed off one of his most intriguing secondary characters in The Rhesus Chart, whose tense relationship with Howard was one of the driving forces of the series. And in the last novel, The Annihilation Score, he seemed to have nowhere to go but to amp up the weirdness with everyday characters receiving super-hero powers.

Here, he’s ramped it up even more with a full-blown, and very lengthily described, alien invasion from another dimension.

It’s hard to see where he can go after this. I’ll read the next novel, yes–I’ve read the first seven–but I’m not especially looking forward to it.

Recommended only for “Laundry Files” completists.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia. He’s currently working on the sequel and an unrelated sci-fi novel.

Free Radicals front cover

  1. […] previous two books in this genre bending (sci-fi/fantasy/horror) series, The Annihilation Score and The Nightmare Stacks, marked a fairly sharp break from the five previous books in the series (not counting novellas and […]


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