REVEIW: The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross


I haven’t actually finished the book (generic link text 4tw), but I finished the titular story, which clocked in at just over 230 pages. It’s kinda cool to get to the “end” of such an enjoyable book and realize that there’s actually another 100 pages of hopefully equally good material still waiting for you. I’m always impressed when I read a relatively short novel that impacts me like something 3 times it’s size. I noted this when I first read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and The Etched City. I kinda wish I’d kinda wish I’d commented on more than just it’s literary density, as I remember enjoying The Etched City, but that’s about all I remember.

But this post is titled, “The Atrocity Archives.” I knew when I first read ABOUT this book that I’d enjoy the equating of math and magic, particularly the Lovecraftian themes, but I hadn’t expected to be reading this while taking a project management class. I totally wish I’d finished reading this before our first exam, as I could have easily woven this review to answer 2 of the 3 essay questions. Matrix organizational structures aside, Stross managed to reference an insane amount of sci-fi and cultural geekdom in this small package. Off the top of my head I remember shout outs to Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch, Douglas Adams, Animaniacs, the British, etc. The climax involved a glorious homage to MacGyver, duct tape and all. I’m sure I missed just as many cultural references as I got, but the meat of the world he created was what really made me love the book.

Math == Magic, is about the simplest way to describe the rules of the Universe Stross created. More specificaly, he took a few very specific examples of magic like summoning rituals and intricately mapped them not just to math, but to all of my favorite physics concepts, from quantum mechanics to thermodynamics, and lots of good stuff in between. We have only the barest glimpses of the lively supporting cast, but I’m left with an all too vivid image of a world that could provide fertile soil for many stories to come. I’m slightly amused that even this complex story ends with our protagonist “getting the girl.” I can’t seem to escape that tidy method of tying off a story. Now to read concrete jungle (the other story included in this book) and then see what’s next on my reading list.


In case I wasn’t clear, I loved this book, and I’d recomend it to anyone that’s not TOTALLY averse to horror, either Lovecraft or managerial.

originally published on journalscape here

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~ by mentatjack on April 6, 2008.

3 Responses to “REVEIW: The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross”

  1. This is a good place to point out 2 neat stories by G. W. Thomas that I heard on pseudopod. They do the magic/PI mashup that’s the hallmark of much urban fantasy, but set in a environment that’s a mix of H.P. Lovecraft and Mario Puzo. “Book Collector” is a more bad ass title than it sounds. Goon Job and Merlin’s Bane

  2. […] decided to take one of my most recent reads, Wonder Boys (WB) and compare it to Atrocity Archives (AA). To play with 3 variables (one more than the 2 I’ll end up plotting) and still end up […]

  3. […] of the first formal reviews I ever published online was for the first book in this series, The Atrocity Archive. I’ve striven since to capture the same tone as that review (which I like), while fleshing […]

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