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The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross

The Labyrinth Index (edition 2018)

by Charles Stross (Author)

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1325136,605 (3.87)6
Title:The Labyrinth Index
Authors:Charles Stross (Author)
Info:Tor.com (2018), 368 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross



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Showing 5 of 5
Pushed the series plot forward, but only by a single click of the cog. Did the previous books have a similar lurid focus on sex acts? I'll have to keep that in mind as I reread. It's been a while since I've read the previous books.

It seems to be easier and easier for people to become (this world's verson of) vampires. Like, literally 25% of the characters in this book ended up there. ( )
  sarcher | Jan 30, 2019 |
Told from Mhari the vampire’s semi-omniscient POV (she consults seers), the story picks up with the British government in thrall to the Black Pharaoh. Mhari and other politically wobbly operatives are sent to the US to find the President, since almost the entire country has forgotten him due to a geas cast by the American occult spy agency, which would rather have Cthulhu in charge. And that’s just part of it. I can see why Stross might want to end the series—he has rather written himself into a corner, or rather into an insane geometry now that the stars have come right—but I’d read more. ( )
  rivkat | Nov 26, 2018 |
"We fight on so that something that remembers being human might survive." (199)

The ninth of the Laundry Files novels allegedly begins a new plot arc, and it does conspicuously shift focus to characters that have previously been more peripheral to the series. But its enjoyment is still highly dependent on prior familiarity with the concepts and broad narrative that Stross has worked up in the previous volumes. Some exposition in the opening chapter is pitched just about right for returning junkies like me, who haven't had a fix since The Delirium Brief was published a year earlier, but it's not sufficient to ramp up real appreciation for the setting and character motivations here.

Without serious spoilering, since all of this is clear in the opening chapter, I can say that this book delivered two unexpected features right off. First, the narrating character switches to Mhari Murphy, who was introduced in the very first book, but has never before occupied the role of storyteller-diarist. Second, most of The Labyrinth Index takes place in the United States. I doubt Charles Stross was directly inspired by The Last Days of Christ the Vampire (and I'm not sure whatever became of my copy, read back in the 1980s), but there are some interesting points of conceptual contact between the two books.

As a commentary on the current state of American politics, the Stross novel is a bit oblique. In the contemporary Laundryverse USA under conditions of ongoing Nazgul-based coup, it is magically forbidden to think of the American Presidency, whereas in the "real" Trumplandia it is required that we think about it all the time. In any case, he still manages to highlight the extent to which the Imperial Presidency of the 21st century has all of the power and most of the institutional and cultural vices of an actual monarchy.

It was no surprise that I wolfed this book down in a couple of days. The story is consistent with the level of increased gloom established in the immediately previous volume, and it is dedicated to the author's father, who seems to have died while it was being written. The bleakness is not completely unrelenting, though. As usual, there is some real wit in the writing, and in the end the state of affairs is not markedly worse than the beginning. Indeed, under some definitions of the word, the book would qualify as a "comedy."
3 vote paradoxosalpha | Nov 25, 2018 |
With this installment in Stross' long-running series of occult-intelligence thrillers we are now in full-fledged "Nightmare Green" territory with the action focused on Mhari Miller (now Baroness Karnstein). In the wake of the decapitation of the previous British government Fabian Everyman, aka The Mandate, aka N'yar Lat-Hotep, is now the "New Management" and Mhari has been given the dirty job of finding out just what the hell is happening in the United States, which apparently has its own version of "New Management" in power; at least that's the official explanation. This could merely be a throwaway cover to get rid of some people who are no longer useful to the powers that be. If you've been following Stross up until this point you'll certainly want to read this novel, otherwise, go back to the start; those who have been reading from the start will be wondering what is the meaning of the hornet-like creature on the American cover package...it's probably nothing. ( )
  Shrike58 | Nov 12, 2018 |
Stross returns to the roots of the Laundry Files here: the previous few books had moved away from the original espionage themes, but in this book they are back with a vengeance: insertion of clandestine agents into enemy territory with an active -- not merely information-gathering -- remit. However, this is no Longer the Bondian storytelling of The Jennifer Morgue where one could cheer for the Laundry in relatively good conscience. This is firmly in the shades of grey territory where the best thing that can be said for the narrator is that she serves a lesser evil: which isn't saying much when the greater evil in question is Cthulhu. As an installment of the Case Nightmare Green arc, this provides far more context to just how much trouble the world is in: the Black Chamber isn't the only threat on the horizon, and the Mandate's plans for the future aren't very pleasant, either.

Mhari is an effective narrator for this stage of the series arc. She's probably less self-deceiving than any of the previous narrators -- she has to deal with the implications of her current state in such a way that anything other than very short-tern self-deception is very, very difficult -- but also has less expertise than, say, Bob or Mo, so her perspective is more limited.

This is the third spec fic book in two months of which the author has indicated, in one way or the other, that it's a response to Trumpian America. (The others, for reference, are Steven Erikson's Rejoice, a Knife to the Heart and Miles Cameron's Cold Iron.) Stross manages to set up an America which is actually worse than the current reality, and a different kind of crisis, but he still highlights, thematically, the way in which the US has a quasi-monarchical focus on the Presidency, not merely in a constitutional sense, but in terms of the social and emotional response of Americans to the office.

As always, this is well-written, worth picking up for anyone reading the series, and a good example of how to blend black humour with an otherwise very dark story to make it readable and enjoyable. ( )
1 vote jsburbidge | Nov 5, 2018 |
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