(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 Cassilda's Song, by The Lindbergh Baby (Spotify, YouTube).
I get easily tired with long series of books (and sometimes even trilogies are long for me) and I usually don't like, with a few exceptions, urban fantasy novels. Thus, you can easily deduce that my eagerly awaiting a new installment of The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross, says a lot about how good the saga is.
One of the things I like the most about these novels is that Stross adds new elements with each story. Each book has introduced something different, starting with the most obvious tropes from the occult, supernatural and Lovecraft-inspired stories but also expanding the universe in some unexpected ways. For instance, in the superb The Rhesus Chart we saw vampires for the first time in the series. And in The Annihilation Score it is the time for superpowers and superheroes.
Though I must say that I'm not convinced that the author has fully exploited the opportunities of having at his disposal a team of superhumans (some of whom are really lateral to the plot and appear in just a few, minor scenes), he's done a great job of integrating the possibility of superpowers with the previously existing paranormal elements. Stross focuses more on the consequences of the emerging of superpowered humans to the established status quo (especially the implications for management and social policing) than in the action and fight scenes, but I think that long-time readers of the series will appreciate that everything fits quite nicely with what we know from preceding novels.
Another interesting change is, of course, that the main protagonist of The Annihilation Score is not Bob Howard but his wife, Dr. Dominique O'Brien, hands down one of the most compelling characters of the saga. I was very curious to see how Stross was going to change the voice of his first person narrator for this new novel, and I must say that he's nailed it. Mo is as, a character, completely different from Bob, while retaining some of the witticism and intelligence that we've come to expect from The Laundry Files (I, being an irredeemable geeky nerd myself, have missed Bob quite a bit, though):
My name is Mo; that's short for Dominique O'Brien. I'm 43 years old, married to a man who calls himself Bob Howard, aged 38 and a quarter. We are currently separated while we try to sort things out - things including, but not limited to: my relationship with my violin, his relationship with the Vampire Bitch from Human Resources, and the End Of The World As We Know It (which is an on-going work-related headache).
The surprising elements in The Annihilation Score do not stop, however, with the superheroes and the brand new main protagonist. In fact, what I did enjoy the most in the novel were the references to Robert W. Chambers's stories and, very especially, the relevance of Lecter, Mo's mysterious white violin. Also, in the final chapters Stross manages to bring them together in an unexpected but very satisfying conclusion that leaves, once again, the stakes really high for the next volume in the series, which I am already looking forward to.
I'd lie if I said that The Annihilation Score is my favorite installment of The Laundry Files and, in my opinion, it pales a little when compared to the excellent novel that was The Rhesus Chart. But, all in all, it is a solid addition to the series and adds some new, fresh and very interesting elements. If you've followed the saga, you'll be wanting to read it. But, of course, that's hardly news to you.