The novel “The Fuller Memorandum” by Charles Stross was published for the first time in 2010. It’s the third novel of the Laundry series and follows “The Jennifer Morgue“.
Bob Howard is sent to carry out a routine mission but something goes awry and a civilian is killed. His wife Mo comes back from a mission but she’s clearly distressed by what happened to her. While they try to comfort each other a zombie tries to kill them.
As if things weren’t already bad enough Bob discovers that his boss Angleton is missing and an important document known as the “Fuller Memorandum” is no longer in the Laundry archives. Bob gets involved in an investigation that includes all the recent events and must get ready for CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, the code for the end of the world caused by the arrival of one of the Great Old Ones.
In “The Fuller Memorandum” Bob Howard’s adventures continue as an agent of the Laundry, the British agency specializing in handling supernatural events. Two stories available on-line are set between this novel and the previous one “The Jennifer Morgue”: “Down on the Farm” (also included in the anthology “Wireless”) and “Overtime”. In particular, the first one is totally autonomous from the rest of the series but contains various information about Bob Howard’s narrative universe.
The story told in “The Fuller Memorandum” is independent from the previous ones and in the first part Charles Stross provides the information necessary to understand this fictional universe in which magic is actually an extension of physical and mathematical sciences. The references to previous Bob Howard’s adventures however can provide only a partial understanding of the history of this character and the Laundry.
In essence, you can read this novel having no previous knowledge of its fictional world but to enjoy it fully it’s better to start from the beginning by reading “The Atrocity Archives”. This way you can truly appreciate the development of the main characters but also the information included in the various stories about the Laundry and its history. “The Fuller Memorandum” in particular provides information about the agency that reveal some of its secrets.
Charles Stross loves to be inspired to classics of espionage to write the Laundry novels: in “The Fuller Memorandum”, the style is inspired to the espionage stories by Anthony Price. Among the characters in this novel there are Roskill and Panin, a tribute to two recurring characters in Price’s stories. As for the inspiration of the novel topics, there’s a threat whose secret is hidden in the past and a trusted person, in this case Angleton, who suddenly becomes unreliable.
The Laundry stories are a mix of espionage, horror inspired by the works of Lovecraft, and geek culture with its caustic humor. “The Fuller Memorandum” has a tone darker than the previous stories and that can be noticed from the beginning. Sure, there are some hilarious parts such as those concerning the “JesusPhone” but in this novel you can feel the coming of the Crawling Chaos.
The style of “The Fuller Memorandum” is different not only for its inspiration but also because the previous stories were told in first person form Bob Howard’s point of view while this one contains some parts told in third person following what happens to other characters.
In some parts of “The Fuller Memorandum” Charles Stross tends to repeat some concepts unnecessarily slowing down the pace, which is still higher compared to the beginning of the series. In fact, in this novel Bob Howard is an expert field agent and even if he still have to deal with the bureaucracy inside the Laundry it’s been years since he was working on the field for the first time and was spending more time thinking about his misfortunes than acting.
“The Fuller Memorandum” has its own conclusion but lays the foundation for the next novel in the series, scheduled to be published in 2012, which is appropriate considering its apocalyptic theme. Charles Stross introduces CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, which through Bob Howard’s thoughts explains as the demonological equivalent of an atomic chain reaction. There are too many human brains on Earth because they have passed the critical mass beyond which the ancient gods wake up, smell the buffet and prepare to tuck in. Bob Howard is ready.
With “The Fuller Memorandum”, Charles Stross has given us another great novel in the Laundry series and people who already read the previous stories should grab this one as well without hesitation. Instead if you appreciate the themes of these stories and pastiche of genres even very diverse I suggest you read this series from the beginning.