The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

The Atrocity Archives - Charles Stross, Ken MacLeod

What if solving really complicated math problems actually opened portals to other universes. Or summoned things from them to here? And considering the calculation powers of computers, what if that put all the lovecraftian horrors of the multiverse just a few lines of code away? What if indeed. 


Obviously we'd need a super-secret government agency to keep this kind of information safely secret, and cover it up when that doesn't work.


This is fantastic stuff for anyone who has ever worked in IT cubicle hell, or for a government department, particularly anyone of a certain vintage. Say, old enough to know instantly what a reference to a usenet group is, or to laugh themselves silly at the thought of pranking a boss by having them sent on a two week sendmail configuration course. Your average MCSE need not apply.


Also be warned, this is two long novellas (I'd have called them novel length, to be honest). I didn't realise that and was a little disconcerted when the story seemed to be resolving itself and there was half a book to go.


There's a far better review than mine here, which now that I've read it, I have to concur with pretty much the entire thing: which is also where I came across the book, and I am so glad I did.


There is a decent plot in here too, and finely drawn characters, the first story in my opinion better than the second, but the second is far more accessible on a density-of-geek jokes scale.  It's a little on the info-dumpy side of what I prefer, but I think it's necessary here, and I actually didn't find myself skimming much as I usually do when there's a 4 page monologue by the narrator on the mechanics of the world. And it's not all up front, it's doled out in chunks as you go, which helps.


All  of which leaves me in a quandary. I think if you are exactly the right audience (and I am), you'll find this stuff hilarious in the way that people who were teenagers or in their 20's in the 80's find Ready Player One hilarious. And if you're not, you'll be rather mystified  if not a little miffed by the fact you know there's a ton of jokes you're missing, exactly the way my kids feel about Ready Player One. 


So four stars from me, but this is definitely a love it or hate it experience, so check the sample first.