Book log 2014 – 1) Charles Stross — Overtime

I have not abandoned the book log for last year, but I’m going to get caught up with this month’s while I can still remember them.

Cthulhu Christmas-themed novelette set in the Laundryverse, a couple of books into the series timeline. There’s just about enough backstory that I think someone completely new to the Laundryverse could enjoy this, but you’ll get a lot more fun out of it if you already know at least a little about the world it’s set in.

Bob Howard works for a branch of the British secret service which is devoted to putting off for as long as possible the forthcoming invasion of our universe by the eldritch horrors from beyond time and space. Except it’s still the civil service, with all that implies about audit trails and HR…

Being confined to a hospital bed by your last field assignment is no excuse for not putting in your annual leave request on time, so Bob’s left minding the office phone over Christmas as Duty Officer. The upside is triple pay. The downside — sometimes you have to earn that triple pay. It’s Christmas Eve, and the Bringer of Gifts will be visiting all the boys and girls, even the ones at work. And especially the ones who work in the Laundry.

Lovely satire of the office Christmas party and life in the civil service under austerity measures, with a large helping of geeky jokes, and good fun to read. It was a Hugo nominee for good reason.

Originally published and still available as a free read at Tor.com, but also now available formatted as a cheap DRM-free ebook.

Amazon UK, Amazon US, Kobo, Tor.com

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Book log: Edgar Allan Poe — The Fall of the House of Usher

And onto the books from March. I’m back on the Cybook after a long spell of treeware, so there are several ebooks so far this month, starting with:

19) Edgar Allan Poe — The Fall of the House of Usher

Short story downloaded from FeedBooks. I can see why it’s considered a classic of the genre, but it does little for me personally. Partly a case of not really my taste in genre anyway, and partly that it suffers most unfairly from so many other writers having trodden the same path in the decades since. The FeedBooks edition has a nice Aubrey Beardsley cover llustration.

LibraryThing entry

Book review: Chaz Brenchley — Dead of Light

Benedict Macallan doesn’t share his family’s talent — nor their taste for power and violence. He turned his back on them; walked out of the family, if not out of the town that they control. But when a cousin is murdered in a manner that promises danger to the whole family, he’s pulled back in against his will. Only for the funeral, only for long enough to say goodbye to a cousin he loved in spite of everything — but then the body count starts to mount, and whatever Ben may feel about his family, they’re his *family*.

The publisher calls it a horror novel, but it’s more of a story about a Mafia-like family, seen through the eyes of a dropout member who understands how they look from both the inside and the outside. The horror element comes in the weapon used by the family to maintain control of their territory, one that’s only hinted at initially, and gradually revealed during the first half of the book. Power corrupts, and the Macallan clan has held power for a very long time. Now someone is reflecting that power and threat back at them, killing Macallans as casually as they’ve killed others. Ben’s left trying to protect a family he despises and that mostly despises him; and the outside friends who are afraid of him now they’ve been reminded exactly who he is; and himself. But Ben has no power of his own…

Brenchley deftly interweaves a coming of age story with a murder mystery, gradually building a picture of a strange but only too human family, and Ben’s love-hate relationship with them. There’s some fine world-building and character development to back up the rising tension as Ben tries to solve the lethal riddle. And the use of language is superb, making the book a joy to read for the pure pleasure of the prose. It’s not exactly your traditional whodunnit, but the magic elements are never used to cheat the reader, and the clues are there for those who want to play the game. Dead of Light is both lyrical and a gripping, fast-paced read.

Dead of Light — hardback at amazon uk
Dead of Light (New English Library (Hodder and Stoughton).) — paperback at amazon uk
Dead of Light (New English Library (Hodder and Stoughton).) — paperback at amazon us
Hardback and paperback direct from the author