Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Charles Stross's The Rhesus Chart: "Pounce!"

The Rhesus ChartToday -- July 1 -- is the publication date for The Rhesus Chart, the fifth in the Laundry Files series by Charles Stross.

How the first two Laundry Files books came to be published by Golden Gryphon Press I have written about at length in my blog post of December 10, 2009. But suffice to say that when Charlie and I first met, albeit briefly, at the ConJosé WorldCon in 2002, I asked for an original novella, and Charlie offered me a novel that crossed so many genres that his agent, he said, didn't know what to do with it. Fortunately, I did, and the rest, as they say, is Laundry Files history. The Atrocity Archives turned out to be an ideal book for a small press publisher. The first print run of 3,000 hardcovers sold out in about three months, so the book had a second hardcover printing. Not too shabby for a small press that was then publishing six hardcovers per year.

I've been fortunate to have worked on all five Laundry Files novels, even when book 3, The Fuller Memorandum, was acquired and published by Ace Books. I've written about all three Ace Laundry Files novels within this blog, but you may find of special interest (especially if you are a writer) my blog post of exactly two years ago, on The Apocalypse Codex, entitled "Doing Charles Stross's Laundry with Style."

But back to The Rhesus Chart... How can you go wrong with a novel that opens with the following line:
"Don't be silly, Bob," said Mo, "everybody knows vampires don't exist."

The Rhesus Chart was recently graced with a starred Kirkus review. Let me repeat that: a starred Kirkus review. A review by Kirkus is difficult enough to come by, but a starred review? Now that's a treat. The review was posted online on June 5 and appeared in the June 15 issue of Kirkus Reivews. Here's a taste:
Fast-tracked into management after recent successes, Bob grows suspicious when a whiz-kid team of investment bankers which calls itself the Scrum discovers an algorithm that promises to make its members billions in profits but whose unfortunate side effect...is to turn them into vampires. (The supreme irony of this will be lost on few readers.) An added complication for Bob is that the Scrum's ringleader, Mhari Murphy, is an ex-girlfriend. More peculiar yet, why is everybody in the Laundry convinced that vampires don't exist? Bob's superiors take prompt action—and form a committee. Laundry regulars by now will be familiar with Stross' trademark sardonic, provocative, disturbing, allusion-filled narrative. And, here, with a structure strongly reminiscent of Len Deighton's early spy novels, the tone grows markedly grimmer, with several significant casualties and tragedies, perhaps in preparation for Angleton's [Bob's superior] feared CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

Stross at the top of his game—which is to say, few do it better. Pounce!

Courtesy of the author Charles Stross and Ace Books, the entire first chapter of The Rhesus Chart has been posted online for your reading pleasure. If you are unfamiliar with the Laundry Files tales, The Rhesus Chart is actually a good place to start.

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