Wow. And I mean WOW. A great little book. It’s actually two short stories, but they’re such a good read it’s kind of like getting a freebie story thrown in with your novel.

The stories are first person, and told by a bloke drafted into a branch of the British secret service. Go is, it’s the occultic secret service, and is an absolute hoot.

Charles Stross seems to write easily and well, and has a way of cutting right to the heart of two subject matters. The unbelievable stupidity of bureaucracy, and science fiction as an art, not just a medium.

The problem with too much science fiction is that it’s actually “space opera”, or some invented bullshit posing as “science”. You know, you need a thing to make a thing advance the plot of a second-rate story, so you put in place a device like a hyper-warp-trans-field thingo. It is apparently wonderful, and if the reader suspends disbelief the story can tick over. Mostly though it stinks of convenience

What Stross does that’s so great is to write “science/fiction”. He reads like he actually understands the maths that informs the occultic underworld he purports to exist beneath the fabric of our current reality. And, writes it well. You find yourself believing the weird crap about zombies, evil frost giants and old-school nazis because the premises of the fictional universe just works so well. It’s a marked constrast to someone like PK Dick, who writes pulp sci-fi that is iconic, but entirely based on sci-fi formula rather than hard science.

Combine that science with the genuinely funny and lovable characters and you have stories that roll along at a fair clip, are easy to get into (or back into if you’re interrupted reading), and are mostly plausible.

I’d recommend this author to anyone, and am looking forward to reading another one of his books recently found in the local library!