Publishers: Orbit / 400pp / £7.99 / 1st July 2010

Rating: * * * *

Calling Charles Stross a ‘versatile’ author would be rather underplaying it. He’s spent his writing career leaping between genres, successfully pulling off everything from far-future sci-fi and cross-worlds fantasy to near-future thrillers… but things get really peculiar when we get to the Laundry novels. These deeply eccentric, genre-mashing stories combine the gritty, world-weary espionage of Len Deighton with the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft (along with a big helping of twisted black comedy), and The Fuller Memorandum continues the story in the same head-spinning style.

Once again we’re following Bob Howard, secret service agent and IT specialist for the Laundry, a branch of the Intelligence services that deals with occult threats. And as this is a world where magic and maths go hand-in-hand and multi-dimensional Elder Gods are waiting to feast on humanity, his job isn’t exactly easy – but it gets even harder when his wife is targeted by undead assassins, and he finds himself going up against a group of death cultists. It’s all to do with the mysterious Fuller Memorandum, and a secret lurking at the heart of the Laundry…

The resulting mayhem-strewn saga is an absurd amount of fun, deftly mixing historical and political detail with off-the-wall horror, while also throwing in plenty of unpredictable plot twists. It’s smart, fast-moving and inventive to an almost demented level – the only downside being that sometimes it’s a little //too// smart, packing in so many concepts, tonal shifts and plot u-turns that it can get a little exhausting trying to keep up. Nevertheless, The Fuller Memorandum is still a ferociously entertaining novel, and once again proves that Charles Stross is one of the most reliable and creative genre authors at work today.

Reviewer: Saxon Bullock

FACTBOX:
Stross is already playing with ideas for a fourth Laundry novel, but is currently heavily occupied by writing 419, the long-awaited sequel to his near-future thriller Halting State.