I think The Jennifer Morgue is the most successful of Charles Stross’s novels that I’ve read so far. It’s a mutant melange of genres including xenophobic Lovecraftian horror/fantasy; Dilbert-esque, geek-celebrating cubicle rat satire; modern techno espionage thriller; and old-school shaken-not-stirred James Bondage — all served up with a hefty post-modern literary twist and dark comic panache. Making fun of your own plot is tricky business, but Stross pulls it off better here than in Singularity Sky, say, mostly because Stross’s affection for the conventions he’s lampooning shines through, but also partly because Stross lets some of his characters inside the joke.
The Jennifer Morgue isn’t perfect. The plot explicitly requires protagonist Bob Howard to be in the dark for most of the novel, but the alert reader will piece things together well before he does, and his whinging about being kept in the dark gets a little tiresome. Stross puts so much effort into making The Jennifer Morgue work on a humorous level that it’s seldom genuinely suspenseful — it’s interesting, cool, and more surprising than it could be given the set up, but not an edge-of-the-seat read.
Like its predecessor, The Atrocity Archive, The Jennifer Morgue is rounded out by a short story that pumps up the jokiness factor to a level that doesn’t work for me. It also features an essay, “The Golden Age of Spying,” with some intriguing ruminations of Ian Fleming’s famous super spy.
needs more demons? one or two more might not have hurt