viernes, 18 de julio de 2014

The Rhesus Chart, by Charles Stross


(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)

Review soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to the Guns N' Roses cover of  Sympathy for the Devil (Spotify, Youtube).

If you are anything like me, you will have spent countless sleepless nights wondering whether vampirism and agile software-development methodologies can be successfully combined in order to get new insights on the algorithmic properties of mathematical economics. Suffer no more! If you read The Rhesus Chart, by Charles Stross, you will find an answer to your nibbling questions and you will be finally able to rest in peace (especially, and literally, if you lack the required security clearance, in which case your brain will turn into green mush) while having tons of fun in the process. In fact, I'd suggest Mr Stross add the subtitle Smashing the Stakes for Fun and Profit to the second edition of the novel. It certainly suits the contents of this wonderful book.

I have read each and every novel and short story that Charles Stross has written about The Laundry and one of things I love the most about the series is that there is always something surprising and unexpected. The Rhesus Chart is no exception to this rule and, in fact, the author introduces not one but two new elements. On the one hand, vampires, that had been suspiciously missing from this fictional universe so far (and you will learn why when reading the book). But, as you can expect, these are not your run-of-the-mill type of bloodsuckers and getting to know their quirks is one of the many pleasures of reading the novel. On the other, Stross also touches upon one of his most beloved topics: economics. They feature nowhere as prominently as in Accelerando, for instance, and everything is more tongue-in-cheek, but it is nonetheless a refreshing and most welcome addition to the series.

In fact, The Rhesus Chart is probably the most funny of the Laundry books so far. I read the better part of the novel in a public reading room and I really had a difficult time because I couldn't help laughing out loud at some moments. For instance, with paragraphs like this one:    
Karma's a bitch. No, let me rephrase that. Karma is your vengeful bunny-boiler ex, lurking in your darkened front hallway wearing an ice-hockey mask and carrying a baseball bat inscribed with BET YOU DIDN'T SEE THIS COMING.
Or this one:
We use committees for all the ulterior purposes for which they might have designed: diffusion of responsibility, plausible deniability, misdirection, providing the appearance of activity without the substance, and protecting the guilty.   
As in the previous installment (The Apocalypse Codex), Stross introduces a handful of new characters that are an excellent counterpoint to our old friend Bob Howard. In fact, they usually steal the scene and their chapters are even more interesting that those featuring the main protagonist. I was a bit disappointed, though, that  BASHFUL INCENDIARY didn't appear this time.  

The book, despite all its many virtues, has some minor flaws too. For instance, some of the explanations (or core dumps) about the "magic as applied mathematics" thing seem to be a bit repetitive to me, especially this late in the game. Also, the final third of the novel is, in my opinion, slightly weaker than the rest, mainly because the big conclusion that the book was building up to is substituted for a huge cliffhanger. Anyway, if The Rhesus Chart is not the best novel novel of The Laundry Files so farit is really close to it and I am sure that long-time fans of the series are going to love it.

All in all, I highly recommend The Rhesus Chart. It is one of the best (and funnier) novels I've read this year and I can hardly wait to read the next Laundry book. CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is coming and I'm sure it is going to be legendary.

(You can also read this review in Spanish/También puedes leer esta reseña en español)

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