The Nightmare Stacks. Book Review

strossThe Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross

Orbit Books, h/b, 400pp, £18.99

Reviewed by Helen Armfield

The book opens in some style, and with Whitby as its location. It doesn’t stay there, returning instead to other dimensions and to Leeds, but we do get an explanation as to how its main characters got to be how they are. Its scrappy, bitty, held together with string, and works brilliantly as a one-off read. As someone unfamiliar with Stross, other than on social media, my tech-y little soul found a huge comfort in its utter geekiness, and its kernel-like construction… I kind of want to see this book as code…

There are cameos galore, mind. I was matching the govt. ministers talk in one scene and became convinced one of them was just about not-Blair enough to avoid the gaze of his legal beagles. (and indeed, @cstross has, today (28/06/16), been talking about getting warnings from Little Brown to just this effect! The same twitter thread has me thinking that the witch character now looks mightily familiar – although that ones a civil servant, not a minister.) I’m also acquainted with more than one young man who’d pass for Alex, salt and all. Yup. this goth would.

Beyond that, the narrative refers back and forth in time, flipping the pages of the stack, but with a lack of the library I was expecting from the title – instead its a lovely look at how our national museums are probably alternative storage for those things resulting from, as the late Mick Ashton was heard to say on TimeTeam, “rites and rituals”. Magic is mathematics, the fae folk are aliens, GCHQ is not the scariest section, and… as for Bletchley park*…

Ultimately all is right with the world, as long as the world is love between the undead and the tolkein, with a hefty side of bye bye Leeds city centre.


*doesn’t contain Bletchley Park. but I wish it did. Perhaps that’s for the next one?