The Nightmare Stacks by Charlie Stross [Book Review]
The Nightmare Stacks is another turn in the Laundry series, which has moved firmly away from following Bob Howard to being about the world that Bob inhabits. The main point of view in the Nightmare Stacks is Alex, one of the vampires from The Rhesus Chart. We also see some from Cassie’s point of view (a new character) and Pinky & Brains return and play a strong supporting part in the story. We also see Pete the Vicar as Alex’s mentor.
The Nightmare Stacks
Alex is not a cynical snarky commentator. Instead we have a primary character that is focussed on work and lacking some of the social skills, especially in dealing with the opposite sex, that are more commonplace. Alex is getting used to the changes of being a vampire, and how this affects his life. He’s still in contact with the other surviving PHANGs, but they’ve obviously been separated for safety reasons. Like a lot of people in their 20s he’s still under pressure from his parents to settle down, and this forms a bit of sub-plot to the book. There is a hugely entertaining scene where he takes Cassie to dinner with his parents at the same time as his younger sister introduces her partner too. This manages to build some interesting character development as well as help the general plot along too.
Exploring the Laundryverse
What I enjoyed most about the book though was the exploration of the Laundryverse that Charlie Stross has done by switching characters. He has also played with some interesting tropes in doing so as well. Cassie as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl being the most obvious. The whole nature of magic (by computation) is developed in the Nightmare Stacks. We are presented with another civilisation based on the same magic that the Laundry tries to keep in check. This civilisation is completely internally consistent and follows a logical progression from what we’ve seen already. It’s also quite alien, but understandable. However when it comes into contact with our humanity it finds us more alien.
CASE NIGHTMARE RED
The contact (CASE NIGHTMARE RED) is a nightmare indeed. If the The Annihilation Score gave us some overt effects of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, then The Nightmare Stacks is 9/11 style coverage of the nightmare. We have a full mobilisation of the UK armed forces, COBR meeting and also thousands of deaths. There’s dragons vs typhoon jet fighters, and an interesting take on a modern armoured cavalry brigade. We also see full on magical warfare.
Overall this is one of the more visual and interesting Laundry books, and if I was to pick one for a movie this would be spectacular. It would need to be a cert 18 apocalyptic horror, but then it is a Laundry story…