The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

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Warning: may contain spoilers.

Looking back, The Atrocity Archives was nothing special when it came to plot and characters – damsel in distress, smart sarcastic hacker that saves the day, hint for a horrifying evil, alternate dimensions. However, what made this book unique to me was the style, so much that I ended up not noticing the plot’s faults until after I was done reading it.

That’s really its strongest point, and the reason why I enjoyed thoroughly every page! The style is exciting, smart, witty, quick, the timing of almost every joke is just right, enough so you don’t feel like you’ve been left out of the loop all that much when it came to the characters or narrative – and I’ll be honest, even with its faults in how cliché a lot of the characters were, they were dynamic and contrasting enough to become a true guilty pleasure (even if I had some beef with the way people on autistic spectrum were portrayed). You know, like those really bad crime investigation shows that you don’t want to admit you liked? That’s kind of how the characters of The Archives felt to me. Another thing I can definitely give a positive nod to was the fact that the evil mastermind of the first novel (story? Short novel?) did not turn out to be a secret evil organization. There was a slight eyeroll moment in my Jewish soul over the fact that the author chose nazis as a convenient villain (who hasn’t), but the fact that such an organization was actually wiped out by a more horrifying monster was certainly a newer twist that did send a shiver down one’s spine. The narrative definitely didn’t fail to convey the absolutely terrible feeling of emptiness and pure fear in the last few parts.

The true faults of the book lay in the treatment of female characters and the execution of the narrative when it came to the technicalities. Too many things in the world have been said on the former so I will only address the latter: on theory, the idea of magic being used through technology and based on laws that are related to physics is great, the only issue was that I ended up skimming through many a description simply because I couldn’t understand what the author was talking about. Maybe someone with a physics degree might be able to get more enjoyment out of those segments (and I feel a lot of jokes simply flew past me in those specific cases), but I do feel like a book should be accessible to just about anyone. Despite that, though, those parts did not end up turning me away from the book as a whole – I just skimmed a little bit sometimes…

And that’s why this review is fairly short: there’s nothing more to say. But I do not regret having read it.

Conclusion: it was very, very enjoyable stylistically and I was intrigued enough by the concept to want to keep reading more books of the series.

Would I recommend: yes, but brush up on your physics first. And maybe get ready to write some words on female treatment in it; I am too tired to do so myself.

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