The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross

The-Annihilation-Score-final-no-we-really-mean-it-this-time-654x1024The Annihilation Score
Charles Stross
Orbit, 416 pages
Review by Noel Chidwick

Bob Howard, the newly anointed Eater of Souls, leaves stage right to pursue bears. Meanwhile, his wife Mo, steps up to the footlights. Under her chin  she tucks her  possessed killer violin made of human bone, and is ready to take on the latest problem to  hit humanity—an exponential increase of the population developing super powers. How will Mo and the Laundry save us?

If what I’ve written so far makes little sense, then do yourself a massive favour and read Charles Stross’ series The Laundry Files. You’ll be thoroughly entertained as Bob takes on the demons released on the world using only his wits and his occult skills nurtured as IT support for an off-line anti-supernatural government body.

Back here, at book 7, we at last get to hear Mo’s story, working with her to save humanity and explore her anxieties. This is also Stross balancing the gender books:

“The invisible man is a Wellsian supervillain, but the invisible women are all around us, anxious and unseen.”

How do you find out what the ultimate Supervillain, Dr Freudstein, is up to? How do you stop him? The Laundry decides to set Mo—Dr Dominique O’Brien—the task of heading up a small department with a management team with their own variations of superpowers. This team includes Mhari the  vampire who was once Bob’s girlfriend, Ramone, transitioning to a mermaid who once shared Bob’s mind, and Officer Friendly, the superhero cop whose stone jaw juts out further than the jetty at Lyme Regis. What could go wrong?

They gather field workers with superpowers, including Lollipop Bill, Captain Mahvelous and Busy Bee. After deciding half-heartedly what they should wear—no corsets nor fishnet stockings and eschewing the capes—off they go.

But Mo has plenty of her own inner demons to contend with, including her self-doubts, worrying about her relationship with her husband, and the responsibility of setting up this team. And to complicate things further Lecter, her demon killing violin, seeps into her dreams and her mind, threatening to take control.

Annihilation Score is trademark Stross, mingling  the mundane intricacies of modern office life with the ever present fear of damnation and the end of the world. The book would make for an entertaining a  “management team for dummies” instruction manual, and perhaps some imaginative management lecturers will offer this as a set text. Stross delights in playing with the absurdities of life acted out in millions of workplaces around the planet: the world will not end with a bang, but an e-mail.

The climax of the story is suitably grandiose to satisfy all fans of the Laundry files, where Stross’ tight plotting and fast-pace action knit together while we cheer and laugh from the safety of behind the sofa.

Annihilation Score is a thrilling journey on our way towards CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, and now we look forward to following up on Bob ‘Eater of Souls’ Howard’s exploits in the next book.

This review was first published in Shoreline of Infinity 1.