Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Atrocity Archive

Reading a book by Charles Stross is like having my brain gently massaged by a socially well-adjusted hybrid of Neal Stephenson and Cory Doctorow. It is smart, and respectful, and snarky. It is wonderfully fun, and relaxing in the way that creates a buzzing energy and the desire to go do something [smart and snarky, in all likelihood].

The Atrocity Archive is a novella that cheers.

It uses the trappings of serious academic geekery (Turing is mentioned all over the place, plus the names of specific problems and techniques of my subfield!) without abusing it like an incantation or some sort of flavortext dropped in to add appropriate nerd-spice to your novel (à la John C. Wright's The Hermetic Millenia, etc.).

It blends in a dash of Lovecraft for horror, but most of the horror comes --- ironically and in terrifying earnest --- from having too many bosses, filling out paperwork, scheduling meetings, staring at org charts, and discussing internal politics on time-delayed memoranda. It is gut-clenchingly fear-inducing horror for adults, who have seen the world and know that zombies and eldrich horrors are survivable, while an audit may end you.

This post's theme word is brisance, "the shattering effect of a high-energy explosion." Page 171 quoth: "... the gunk is a high-brisance explosive and it cuts through the reinforced steel door like a blowtorch through butter."

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