The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross is the second book of his Laundry Files series. It was not quite as good as the first story The Atrocity Archive. This book was much more in the mold of a classic spy thriller. To the point of almost being cliche. Which was mostly intentional, there is actually magic going on in the plot to make the characters act more like spy archetypes, but I felt it diminished the uniqueness of the setting and characters a bit.
One of the key points of the plot is that the main character was not allowed to know what was going on. As in, the bad guy had magic defenses that could only be infiltrated by someone who didn’t know anything about them. Which is a interesting concept, but it got very annoying that the main character was constantly confused and struggling to figure things out. This book also had sections that were from other people’s points of view and that was a bit jarring as well. So it felt more diluted then the first book.
Another sign of things sliding down in likability was the short stories in the back. Each of the books has a short story after the main story. Unrelated to each other. In The Atrocity Archives it was about weaponizing CCTV camera with synthetic Medusa gaze attack, and hints at a major alien/dimensional invasion in the near future. It was another really good look into the world and characters. It had tension, world building, how the Laundry interacts with the outside world, and how it keeps secrets in a very draconian fashion using geas magic. In The Jennifer Morgue, the story is about how a intern gets trapped in a computer game. It felt much more rushed and slapped together at the last moment. Showed us nothing about the world, or the characters, and seemed like just an excuse to fill space.
Letting my brain ponder the story for a bit longer, I think my key problem with the book is that the main characters are fighting against another human instead of otherworldly forces. The main villain is a human trying to unearth some alien machine, which only pops up in the very last bit of the book and their only interaction with the machine is to run away from it, then cut to credits basically. I would have liked to have our hero actually disable or disarm or destroy it as the book’s climax instead of just simply killing the human villain and then cutting to epilogue.
It was still better than a lot of books I’ve read and it hasn’t chased me away from the series. I just hope that the later books in the series are closer to the first book than the second is all.
The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross