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The Delirium Brief: the magical deep state is here to save you

·429 words·3 mins
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Daniel Andrlik
Daniel Andrlik
Daniel Andrlik lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia. By day he manages product teams. The rest of the time he is a podcast host and producer, writer of speculative fiction, a rabid reader, and a programmer.
Delirium Brief
The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross
⭐️️️️️⭐️⭐️⭐️️️️⭐️ / ⭐️️️️⭐️⭐️⭐️️️️⭐️

It’s hard not to love Charles Stross’ Laundry Files series as a concept. A clandestine government agency of computational demonologists defend the world from horrors beyond space and time, all while trying to keep up with their expense reports. Magic is just applied mathematics and the computer age has drawn the attention of unsavory intelligences.

In a lesser writer’s hands, it would have been a fun bit of satire that would have made for a fun novella and that’s it. But Stross elevates it with each subsequent story, and it has become a consistently satisfying series. The Delirium Brief, the latest novel in the Laundry Files is no exception. It’s the culmination of a number of prior plot lines, and it becomes clear that all the characters’ prior decisions have had major consequences for which the Laundry must respond.

The book reconnects us with our earliest protagonist, sysadmin and demonologist Bob Howard, who has been mostly absent for the last two books while he came to terms with his new role as the Laundry’s resident Eater of Souls. [Together the team must face old enemies who have learned a new and deadly strategy with which to battle the agency: privatization of government services. With a total government takeover by eldritch horrors being the cost for failure, the agency is forced to go rogue in order to protect the U.K. from its own compromised leadership.

** Does any of this sound familiar? **

The Delirium Brief is a well executed espionage adventure featuring a true deep state, where each and every employee of the agency is bound by a mystical geas to their oath of office, and the punishment for disobedience is immediate spontaneous combustion. While the monstrous threats to humanity make the moral choice of resistance obvious, Stross doesn’t shy away from the ethical dilemma of an arm of the government acting against the orders of their own lawfully elected masters. The leadership of the Laundry is forced to make difficult choices, as well as uncomfortable alliances, and as a reader, I was consumed with the same unease and dread as our heroes while they wrestled with these issues.

Uncomfortable reflections to reality aside, it’s a rollicking good read and Stross’ prose propels you along. It’s darker, and there is less humor than the other books, but that feels right for this story. I finished the book desperately craving the next in the series. I need to know what happens next, and what the future holds for Capital Laundry Services.


Star.Ships: Your ancestors were smarter than you think
··553 words·3 mins
Articles reviews books
Star.Ships by Gordon White ⭐️️️️⭐️⭐️⭐️️️️ / ⭐️️️️⭐️⭐️⭐️️️️⭐️ Gordon White’s exercise in using data analysis to speculatively reconstruct ancient belief systems is a mind-bending journey through our most ancient history. In this book, he tracks our species’ first departure from what we now call Africa, and the beginnings of both the Laurasian mythological “novel”, as well as the Gondwana “grandmother myths” that came with us.
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·487 words·3 mins
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The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge ⭐️️️️⭐️⭐️ / ⭐️️️️⭐️⭐️⭐️️️️⭐️ This is a book where my opinion of it has changed the longer I’ve been away from it. It’s a strange book, and honestly its structure was nearly its undoing for me.
River of Teeth, or why the hippo is my new spirit animal
·283 words·2 mins
Articles books reviews
River of Teeth In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source.