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The Annihilation Score: A Laundry Files Novel

Publisher: Ace Books

The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross is part of a series called The Laundry Files, and this is my first foray into said series. This book revolves primarily around Dr. Dominique "Mo" O'Brien, an expert violinist and university music teacher who also masquerades as a typical civil servant, while she is actually a part of a covert British government division called The Laundry that handles unusual situations, often of the occult variety. Mo is special, as she wields a powerful weapon in the form of a bone-white (yes, made of bones) violin she has named Lecter and this violin eats demons. Literally. Her husband, Bob Howard, also works for The Laundry, although in a different capacity. When The Annihilation Score opens, Bob and Mo are having some marital problems, since they both often find themselves on opposite ends of the earth. Mo has just finished a very difficult job and has recently been sent off to a fairly mild assignment on the North Sea. What begins as a run-of-the-mill cocktail party, where she thought she'd be able to relax, quickly evolves into a "get back home as soon as you can because all hell is breaking loose" kind of a day.

For starters, a bunch of high-ranking officials with The Laundry have been slaughtered, and Bob has received a promotion, albeit not one he wants, as it means more traveling and a weird job description, but this story isn't really about Bob. Mo is called into to her superiors' office because there has been a recent rash of normal people gaining super powers and using them for Very Bad Things. One such recent incident caused Mo to be outed as she breaks out Lecter to control the situation and is caught by a TV film crew. The upper echelon sees her new visibility as an opportunity to have her step out of the shadows and previous role as AGENT CANDID and head a task force called the TRANSHUMAN POLICY COORDINATION UNIT (TCPU) to get these supers in hand. Now to staff it…

It seems some integral staff members have already been chosen for her by HR, including a handful of analysts, a tech guru and her deputy director, who also happens to be a suspected old flame of Bob's named Mhari. And she's a vampire that Lecter wants to kill. And Mo came home from the North Sea to find Mhari crashing at her house with Bob there. Talk about a hostile work environment! Before long, she discovers that another old "acquaintance" of Bob's, whom she recently bumped into at the North Sea soiree, has also been made an integral part of her staff. Ramona is a mermaid with a serious glamour going on who travels around in a wheelchair and comes armed with some pretty impressive tech goodies, courtesy of BLUE HADES; something, again, connected to the fishy happenings at the North Sea (and by fishy, I mean fish people, not suspicious, although… anyway). Lastly, charming Officer Jim Grey AKA superhero Officer Friendly, also joins the team. Meanwhile, a mad scientist going by the moniker Professor Freudstein is wreaking havoc all over Britain and the team must scramble to form themselves and put a stop to him. Unfortunately for Mo and company, things are going to get much worse before they get better.

Coming into The Annihilation Score felt like walking up to a really intense conversation well in progress and sort of being clueless for a while. Stross liberally uses acronyms and capitalized code names and it was hard to keep them all straight. I also felt I did myself a bit of injustice coming in late to the series since people die right off the bat, and I get the feeling they were pretty important. I say all of this to say that, while you may thoroughly enjoy The Annihilation Score, you'd probably get a lot more pleasure out of reading it as part of the series as a whole. Stross is a clever writer and the story is interesting, although the really intense action doesn't happen until the last third or so of the book. Having no prior experience with the series, I can't be certain, but I believe this book is different, since it focuses mostly on Mo (rather than Bob or the pair of them) and spins her off in a completely new direction by the book's end. The Annihilation Score is very British in its style and, as I said, heavily uses acronyms and capitalization, but if you enjoy books that keep you on your toes and make you think, you'll probably enjoy The Annihilation Score. I just suggest you start earlier (or better yet, at the beginning) with The Laundry Files series.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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