The Atrocity Archives

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"The Concrete Jungle" redirects here. For the 1960 British film, see The Criminal. For the 1982 American film, see The Concrete Jungle (film).
The Atrocity Archives
TAA-cover.jpg
Author Charles Stross
Cover artist Steve Montiglio
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Golden Gryphon Press
Publication date
28 May 2004
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 295 pp
ISBN 1-930846-25-8
OCLC 53276312
Followed by The Jennifer Morgue

The Atrocity Archives (2004, ISBN 1-930846-25-8) contains two stories by British author Charles Stross, consisting of the short novel The Atrocity Archive (originally serialised in Spectrum SF) and The Concrete Jungle, which won the 2005 Hugo Award for Best Novella.

The stories are Lovecraftian spy thrillers involving a secret history of the 20th century, although they are not set in Lovecraft's universe.[1] Horror elements such as the Nazis using higher mathematics to open "gates" to other dimensions are combined with humorous elements satirising bureaucracy. The protagonist of both stories is a computer expert calling himself "Bob Oliver Francis Howard" (a pseudonym, or "craft name", as a person's real name can be used against him—a common feature of systems of magic, or, alternately, a "work name" as used by covert espionage agents) who has been conscripted into a secret British occult intelligence organisation, "The Laundry". (Although the pseudonym matches the author of the original Conan the Barbarian stories, it is more likely to be a reference to the "Bastard Operator From Hell" which matches the protagonist's nominal systems administration job and his attitude towards field work.)

A sequel entitled The Jennifer Morgue, patterned after the James Bond movies, was released in November in 2006. A third book, The Fuller Memorandum, was released in July 2010, followed by The Apocalypse Codex in July 2012. A fifth book, The Rhesus Chart, was released in July 2014.

Stross's earlier story "A Colder War" also mixes elements of Lovecraft and espionage, and is sometimes mistaken as a tie-in with the Bob Howard stories; however, the fictional background and assumptions are different.

Reception[edit]

Publishers Weekly was somewhat mixed in their review saying "though the characters all tend to sound the same, and Stross resorts to lengthy summary explanations to dispel confusion, the world he creates is wonderful fun."[2] The Washington Post called it "a bizarre yet effective yoking of the spy and horror genres."[3]

Inspiration[edit]

Stross states that his inspiration for the spy in these novels is closer to the out-of-place bureaucrats of Len Deighton than to the James Bond model. He also mentions that when he began writing the series in 1999, he chose as villains "an obscure but fanatical and unpleasant gang who might, conceivably, be planning an atrocity on American soil"; but that by the time the novel was to be published in late 2001, Al-Qaeda was no longer obscure, so he chose a different group to use in the novella.[4]

"Bob Howard"'s boss in the Laundry is given the pseudonym "James Jesus Angleton",[5] possibly out of a desire to irritate American intelligence agents.

In the afterword to the Science Fiction Book Club 2-in-1 edition of The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue, Stross notes that friends warned him against reading Declare while he was working on The Atrocity Archives due to the strong parallels between the two works. Stross also mentioned the similarities between the novel and the Delta Green game, similarities referenced in the short story "Pimpf" included with The Jennifer Morgue.

Adaptations[edit]

Cubicle 7 published a role-playing game based on the Laundry stories in July 2010.[6]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/08/interview-1.html#comment-56968
  2. ^ "THE ATROCITY ARCHIVES (Book)". Publishers Weekly 251 (17): 46. 26 April 2004. ISSN 0000-0019. 
  3. ^ Di Filippo, Paul (11 July 2004). "Other voices, other worlds and a dose of urban fantasy. By Paul Di Filippo". The Washington Post. p. BW10. Archived from the original on 3 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  4. ^ Stross, Charles. "Afterword: Inside the Fear Factory" in On Her Majesty's Occult Service. Science Fiction Book Club, 2007; pp. 245–257
  5. ^ http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/08/interview-1.html#comment-57011
  6. ^ Stross, Charlie (10 March 2010). "For sale; first edition of the Necronomicon (used once)". Charlie's Diary. Retrieved 22 June 2010.