wombat_socho (wombat_socho) wrote,

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I destroy Nyarlathotep with my Tactical Nuclear Device!

Some years ago after the divorce when our branch of the family all still lived at the house on 16th Avenue, my kids and I were in the habit of attending Games Night over at Richard Tatge's place. One of the games we became fond of (and eventually invested far too much money in) was Chaosium's Mythos, a collectible card game that required you to complete a story in order to win. You also had to maintain a minimum of sanity by beating off other players' attacks - not an easy task, because the story you had to complete was almost always based on the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. The base game was quite popular, and spawned a pair of expansion sets: Dreamlands and New Aeon, which incorporated works by other authors as well as more modern conspiracy theories into the game. Thus it was that players could serve as U-boat commanders in the Miskatonic U. ROTC program, fly 747s for the FBI, or annihilate elder gods with tac nukes found in a Moscow psychiatric hospital.

Coincidentally, there was this fellow named Charles Stross...

...who had evidently read more Lovecraft and Deighton than was good for him and got to thinking about the intersection of higher-order mathematics, the darker recesses of magic, and some of the more disturbing corners of Nazi history. The thoroughly entertaining result is The Atrocity Archives, which unfortunately will probably not be made into a movie by Stephen Spielberg starring Harrison Ford any time soon, though there's still hope that Jerry Bruckheimer or the Brothers Wachowski could do it with Bruce Willis, Keanu Reeves and/or Hugo Weaving. The genetic markers from Deighton and Lovecraft are strongly dominant in this chilling yet entertaining novel, whose prose style owes much to Neal Stephenson and acknowledges the debt quite openly and cheerfully. The story begins with a British bureaucrat doing a black-bag job for a covert agency, The Laundry, and ends (as it should) with a restorative cup of tea after a Narrow Escape From Apocalyptic Doom. Like pretty much everything I've read from Stross so far, this is a Must Read. But wait, there's more! Not only do we get this fabulous hybrid of horror and spy story, we get a black comedy of bureaucratic infighting at its infernal worst in "The Concrete Jungle". Sick, yet funny. I think part of my enjoyment of this great, great pair of stories derives from my time as a Secret Man, as digex and Mr. B so amusingly put it, but if you haven't made your own "holy journey", don't let it put you off.

Spent too much time staring at the internets this morning; as a consequence, wound up taking the train into work and courting death by bagel. The leg is a lot better now that I've started the amoxicillin (bastard pharmacists and their God-cursed childproof caps) and the Rocephin has finished rampaging through my system; I should be able to go back to using the pressure cuffs tonight without more than an occasional whimper, if that. Work? Pretty minimal, even considering the leftovers from yesterday, and my boss left early so the month-end stuff I owe her can wait. Yay.
Tags: books, wargames
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