Charles Stross and the Laundry Files

Charles Stross and his SJW credential.

Charles Stross and his SJW credential.

By Carl Slaughter: What’s worse for a secret paranormal protection agency, being publically exposed or being targeted for privatization? What’s the solution? That’s right, stage a coup against Her Majesty’s government. Thus is the plot of The Delirium Brief, the 8th novel in the Laundry Files series by Hugo winning author Charles Stross. Described as a “fast-paced blend of espionage hijinks, mundane office comedy, and Lovecraftian horror.” Novel #6, The Nightmare Stacks, came out in June. The Delirium Brief is set for 2017, to be followed by The Labyrinth Index. Short fiction in the Laundry File universe includes “Down on the Farm,” “Overtime,” and “Equoid.”



Bob Howard is a low-level techie working for The Laundry, a super-secret government agency. While his colleagues are out saving the world, Bob’s under a desk restoring lost data. None of them receive any thanks for the jobs they do, but at least a techie doesn’t risk getting shot or eaten in the line of duty. Bob’s world is dull but safe, and that’s the way it should have stayed; but then he went and got Noticed.

Now, Bob Howard is up to his neck in spycraft, alternative universes, dimension-hopping nazis, Middle Eastern terrorists, damsels in distress, ancient Lovecraftian horror and the end of the world.

Only one thing is certain: it will take more than control-alt-delete to sort this mess out…




Bob Howard, geekish demonology hacker for The Laundry, must stop a ruthless billionaire from unleashing an eldritch horror, codenamed “Jennifer Morgue” from the ocean’s depths for the purpose of ruling the world…



Computational demonologist Bob Howard is catching up on his filing in the Laundry archives when a top secret dossier known as the Fuller Memorandum vanishes-along with his boss, who is suspected of stealing the file. And while dealing with Russian agents, ancient demons, and a maniacal death cult, Bob must find the missing memorandum before the world ends up disappearing next. It’s Bob Howard versus Evil — and Evil cheats.



For outstanding heroism in the field (despite himself), computational demonologist Bob Howard is on the fast track for promotion to management within the Laundry, the supersecret British government agency tasked with defending the realm from occult threats. Assigned to External Assets, Bob discovers the company (unofficially) employs freelance agents to deal with sensitive situations that may embarrass Queen and Country.

So when Ray Schiller—an American televangelist with the uncanny ability to miraculously heal the ill—becomes uncomfortably close to the Prime Minister, External Assets dispatches the brilliant, beautiful, and entirely unpredictable Persephone Hazard to infiltrate the Golden Promise Ministries and discover why the preacher is so interested in British politics. And it’s Bob’s job to make sure Persephone doesn’t cause an international incident.

But it’s a supernatural incident that Bob needs to worry about—a global threat even the Laundry may be unable to clean up…



As a newly appointed junior manager within the Laundry—the clandestine organization responsible for protecting Britain against supernatural threats—Bob Howard is expected to show some initiative to help the agency battle the forces of darkness. But shining a light on what’s best left in the shadows is the last thing Bob wants to do—especially when those shadows hide an occult parasite spreading a deadly virus.

Traders employed by a merchant bank in London are showing signs of infection—an array of unusual symptoms such as super-strength and -speed, an uncanny talent for mind control, an extreme allergic reaction to sunlight, and an unquenchable thirst for blood. While his department is tangled up in bureaucratic red tape (and Buffy reruns) debating how to stop the rash of vampirism, Bob digs deeper into the bank’s history—only to uncover a blood-curdling conspiracy between men and monsters…



Dominique O’Brien—her friends call her Mo—lives a curious double life with her husband, Bob Howard. To the average civilian, they’re boring middle-aged civil servants. But within the labyrinthine secret circles of Her Majesty’s Government, they’re operatives working for the nation’s occult security service known as the Laundry, charged with defending Britain against dark supernatural forces threatening humanity.

Unfortunately, one of those supernatural threats has come between Mo and Bob. An antique violin, an Erich Zahn original, made of white human bone, was designed to produce music capable of slaughtering demons. Mo is the custodian of this unholy instrument. It invades her dreams and yearns for the blood of her colleagues—and her husband. And despite Mo’s proficiency as a world-class violinist, it cannot be controlled…



After stumbling upon the algorithm that turned him and his fellow merchant bankers into vampires, Alex Schwartz was drafted by the Laundry, Britain’s secret counter-occult agency that’s humanity’s first line of defense against the forces of darkness. Dependent on his new employers for his continued existence—as Alex has no stomach for predatory blood-sucking—he has little choice but to accept his new role as an operative-in-training.

For his first assignment, Alex is dispatched to Leeds to help assess the costs of renovating a 1950s Cold War bunker for use as the Laundry’s new headquarters. Unfortunately, Leeds is Alex’s hometown, and the thought of breaking the news to his parents that he’s left banking for the Civil Service, while hiding his undead condition, is causing him more anxiety than learning how to live as a vampire secret agent preparing to confront multiple apocalypses.

Alex’s only saving grace is Cassie Brewer, a drama student appearing in the local goth festival who is inexplicably attracted to him despite his awkward personality and massive amounts of sunblock.

But Cassie has secrets of her own—secrets that make Alex’s nightlife behaviors seem positively normal…



Bob Howard’s career in the Laundry, the secret British government agency dedicated to protecting the world from unspeakable horrors from beyond spacetime, has entailed high combat, brilliant hacking, ancient magic, and combat with indescribably repellent creatures of pure evil. It has also involved a wearying amount of paperwork and office politics, and his expense reports are still a mess.

Now, following the invasion of Yorkshire by the Host of Air and Darkness, the Laundry’s existence has become public, and Bob is being trotted out on TV to answer pointed questions about elven asylum seekers. What neither Bob nor his managers have foreseen is that their organization has earned the attention of a horror far more terrifying than any demon: a British government looking for public services to privatize. There’s a lot of potential shareholder value in the Laundry’s “knowledge assets.”

Inch by inch, Bob Howard and his managers are forced to consider the truly unthinkable: a coup against the British government itself.

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17 thoughts on “Charles Stross and the Laundry Files

  1. One of my favorites, and I particularly like to “reread” by means of audiobooks. Listened to the Fuller Memorandum, for example, on my recent East Coast trip.

  2. Stross announced several months back that the entire series was getting British narrators soon. He didn’t like the American narrators, so he was overjoyed by this happening.

    Of course this was a man who in one of The Merchant Princes novels has someone crossing to NH border into New York State, and in one of the same books declared there was a New England accent…

  3. Stross growing old with a cat is exactly how I picture him when I read his blog. Good writer, but yeah single for a reason.

  4. Guess: Stross growing old with a cat is exactly how I picture him when I read his blog. Good writer, but yeah single for a reason.

    Yeah, you know that Stross has a wife and they’ve been married for many years, right?

    Guess not.

  5. Wrong guess. (So to speak – have you actually read his blog?)

    The “Stare into the face of death” expressions in the photograph are rather splendid, and Menhit is not known as “Murdercat” for nothing.

    I always look forward to the next laundry file, they very rarely disappoint.

    (Bah! Ninja’d by JJ.)

  6. I think the phrase (quoting from a British fan) is “After over a decade of unceasing effort, Charles Stross burst onto the scene.”

  7. I think I found Stross late, sometime around 2010. As I read various of his works (many of which he’d made available for free online) I found that he pretty consistently was blowing my mind with either his innovative ideas or novel treatments of common ideas. While I enjoy The Laundry Files novels, I find his more hard SF stories to be my favorites.

    I’m sure that other SF authors have postulated some sort of intergalactic digital currency, but I thought that the timing of Saturn’s Children was rather prescient, when the introduction of Bitcoin followed closely on its heels.

    ETA: And here’s an interesting Metafilter thread on the topic.

  8. “Of course this was a man who in one of The Merchant Princes novels has someone crossing to NH border into New York State…”

    I’ve owned the first printing of Niven’s Ringworld (Ballantine mass-market paperback) since it came out, and I vastly prefer the sounds of the city names in the first few pages (“In the nighttime heart of Munich,” etc.) to what I’ve read in the succeeding “corrected” editions. I simply assume that the story takes place in a universe in which Earth rotates in the opposite direction from ours.

  9. Pingback: The turning is progressing as expected. | Dark Brightness

  10. I should have been noted that The Delirium Brief will be published in the US via (which recently started adding full length novels to their line). His series was one of many that Ace/Roc/Penguin dropped in their recent scale back.

  11. I really like how Stross and his SJW credential have matching expressions here. We come to look like our pets. Despite his skill at describing Lovecraftian horrors, I am more scared of the cat. Charlie and Mrs. Stross ought to take opposite shifts being awake to watch that beast.

  12. lurkertype: I am more scared of the cat

    Cora: That SJW credential can certainly outglare every Lovecraftian horror

    Oh, I figured that the cat was where he got the inspiration for the eldritch horrors described in the Laundry novels.

    I mean, the photo stops at the cat’s chest. How do we know that it doesn’t have tentacles instead of paws???

  13. In the first or second book, there is a passage I need to find again.

    I was reading along about Bob doing Unix admin. I read through a paragraph and was two below when I stopped and went back. I read the paragraph several times. It was brilliant.

    If you have never been a Unix (or Linux) admin, it sounds like perfect (but made up) technobabble. However, if you do have the right background, it makes *perfect* sense – spot on. The kind of thing you have done many times.

    I do like Stross is writing books about other characters while keeping the general Laundry Files storyline going. I would like to see one with Pinky and the Brain! My favorite gay goth monster fighting couple.

  14. I figured that the cat was where he got the inspiration for the eldritch horrors described in the Laundry novels.

    You may recall that the cat in Jennifer Morgue . . . I will say no more

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