I love The Laundry novels. I’ve been hooked since I read the first one, and The Jennifer Morgue remains one of my favourite novels of all time. While I liked The Rhesus Chart I was a bit disappointed with it, only in comparison with the high tide mark of TJM. I was concerned that Stross had run out of steam with this series.
My fears were unfounded. The Annihilation Score is a wonderful return to form for The Laundry, despite the fact that this time it is Bob’s wife Mo who is the POV protagonist. Many long time readers of the series are upset at this change, but I find it refreshing to have a different perspective on the world of The Laundry. The plot of TAS begins on the same night as the apocalyptic events at the end of TRC and launches Mo into a world of despair, marital separation, out of body experiences, superheroes, super villains and some particularly chilling musical scores.
I am a huge fan of Lovecraft, and here, Stross brings in one of my most loved aspects of the Lovecraft Mythos. To say more would be to add spoilers about the plot, so I won’t. Rest assured that the Lovecraft connection (and connections to other authors’ works subsumed into the Mythos) is solid and well handled.
At times the superhero motif is worn a bit thin or induces the occasional eye-roll. I would have liked for Stross to subvert the superhero genre a bit more than he does, but his satire is spot on. My biggest complaint is the ending. The novel just stops; no denouement, no epilogue, to real resolution is to be had. The crisis is solved and tied up neatly, however, Stross leaves many questions completely unanswered and a short few pages would have made the novel a more satisfying read. You’ll know exactly what I mean when you are finished.
All in all, The Annihilation Score breathes new life into a franchise that was in danger of becoming stale and overworked. The combination of genre subversion, satire, Lovecraft and bureaucracy is renewed with a new POV protagonist and an entirely different light is cast on The Laundry and it’s war. A must read for fans of The Laundry and a much needed return to form by Stross.