|The Atrocity Archives|
|Published by||Golden Gryphon|
The Jennifer Morgue
The Atrocity Archives contains two stories consisting of the short novel The Atrocity Archive (originally serialized 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. Horror elements such as the Nazis using higher mathematics to open "gates" to other dimensions are combined with humorous elements satirizing bureaucracy. The protagonist of both stories is a computer expert calling himself "Bob Oliver Francis Howard" (a pseudonym, as a person's real name can be used against him -- a common feature of fictional systems of magic) who has been conscripted into a secret British occult intelligence organization, "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.)
The Atrocity Archive
In The Atrocity Archive, Bob Howard is given work as a field agent in finding and protecting a Scottish logic professor located in the USA, Dominique "Mo" O'Brien, as her work – dangerously close to the point of bending reality – has triggered the Laundry's person-of-interest checks.
While in the USA, Howard comes into contact with the Black Chamber and Middle Eastern terrorists, both of whom wish to use Mo's work for their own ends. Howard and Mo escape back to the UK, and then go to research the Atrocity Archive in Amsterdam, which is a classified record of German efforts in WW2. They discover that:
- The Thule Society was a German pagan occult organisation formed after WW1
- The SS incorporated the Thule Society as their occult branch
- The SS then use David Hilbert's research (unwillingly) to attempt to gain an occult edge
- This then provides an occult rationale for the Holocaust, in that mass human sacrifice would channel occult energy
- The Allies prevent Nazi victory before they achieve occult success
However, in an alternative reality close to ours, the Nazis did succeed in channeling occult energy, but this led to them summoning an elder being (resembling a frost giant) who fed on heat and proceeded to destroy Earth.
Mo is captured and taken to this alternative reality. The Laundry summons OCCULUS who go into the alternative reality with Bob to rescue Mo and then destroy the reality via nuclear explosion. They rescue Mo, and Bob realises that the nuclear bomb would give the frost giant enough power to transfer to our Earth, and so the explosion is (at cost) cancelled.
The Concrete Jungle
The Concrete Jungle introduces us to the SCORPION STARE network.
Inspiration and similar works
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.
"Bob Howard"'s boss in the Laundry is given the pseudonym "James Jesus Angleton", possibly out of a desire to irritate American intelligence agents.
Cubicle 7 published a role-playing game based on the Laundry stories in July 2010.