The Atrocity Archives

What is going on in Scotland?  There are too many creative SF writers there.  I demand that they be forced to churn out fantasy books until they have lost their edge.

I recently read The Atrocity Archives, by Charles Stross.  Following my general theme of SF ignorance, I hadn’t heard of him until I read about him on a blog last week.  This book is a high-speed collision between hacker culture, the Cthulhu mythos, and the spy genre.  Awesome stuff!  Be warned, the “atrocity” bits are pretty atrocious.  That sort of thing takes a toll while reading — and based on an experience in a writing group, while writing as well (we all wrote short stories about offensive things… it turns out that I have a deep, dark streak in my imagination).

The hackers in this book are absurdly archetypal.  This makes for great reading, but I think I’d hate them in real life.  ESR single-handedly turned hackerdom from a genuine culture into something that can only be an affectation: when your culture and attitudes and slang are codified a reference manual, and actually referenced, it is time to mutate and move on.

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  • I recommend _Halting State_ by Stross as well. I tried _Accelerando_, which is supposed to be one of his better stories; I found the main character intriguing, but was turned off by some of his more interesting pursuits.

  • Cthulhu? Hackers? Interesting. I recently read his Iron Sunrise (which was a very pleasant sci-fi), and two of Family Trade books. The Family Trade books I didn’t like, probably because I was reading Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle in parallel, and the description of Stross’s society (scheming family members and such) seemed shallow and, you wrote it, archetypal in comparison. I’m afraid Atrocity Archives will end up being like Family Trade because of that, but will read it anyway. Cthulhu and hackers make irresistible combination.

  • The Atrocity Archive has a sequel now, of course, The Jennifer Morgue.

    Stross used to be a tech writer at SCO, the computer company. I think his SF in general is worth reading. The Family Trade books are certainly much lighter, and are obviously inspired by Zelazny’s Amber novels.

    Another interesting mix of spies plus Cthulhu is Tim Powers’s novel Declare, which I really enjoyed.

  • Yeah — at the end of The Atrocity Archives was a post-script where he talks about Declare. I guess it came out while he was writing, and his publisher told him to avoid reading it at any cost 🙂

  • Charlie Stross wasn’t just a tech writer, he was a programmer.

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