A Christmas Cthulhu (review: “Overtime” by Charles Stross)

2 Jul

There’s nothing like Christmas in July, especially when it’s a Charles Stross Christmas—filled with “gibbering horrors” from the frozen abyss of the multiverse sliding down the chimney on flaccid tentacles hungering for reindeer urine and human flesh.  This is the Santa Claus the Night Duty Officer Bob needs to keep out of the house on Christmas Eve in Stross’s short story.

Talk about holiday spirit.

Charles Stross, author of the Merchant Princess series as well as the high-tech Singularity Sky and Accelerando, wrote “Overtime” as a Tor.com original for December 2009; as of June 8, it’s now available on Amazon, and can be delivered wirelessly to your Kindle, iPad, Mac, PC, Android [continue advertisement here] for free.

For science fiction readers unfamiliar with Stross’s Laundry Files novels (The Atrocity Archives, The Jennifer Morgue, and the to-be-released-July-6 The Fuller Memorandum), “Overtime” provides a short, clever, and geekishly funny intro to the Laundry—Britain’s bureaucratic office for university graduated majoring in Applied Computational Demonology.

It’s a bit like what Bob, our wry and irreverent narrator, calls “bureaucratic Pokémon”—you know, red tape mixed with Lovecraftian monsters.

The inherent contradiction of the mind-numbing and brain-eating is what makes “Overtime” (and the whole Laundry set) entertaining.  And, of course, some nerd humor for the fan base—take the most-highlighted passage of the story for example:

Like the famous mad philosopher said, when you stare into the void, the void stares at you also; but if you cast into the void, you get a type conversion error.  (Which just goes to show Nietzsche wasn’t a C++ programmer.)

Ha ha ha.  (Ho ho ho?)

“Overtime” is an hour or two read, with a handful of laugh out loud scenes (or just sentences—Stross’s first person bureaucratic personal Bob is narrative gold) and a tight story that makes as much sense for first-time readers as dedicated Stross fans.

Verdict?  Read it:

“Overtime” at Tor.com

“Overtime” at Amazon Kindle

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One Response to “A Christmas Cthulhu (review: “Overtime” by Charles Stross)”

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  1. T’was the night before Christmas | One More Page - January 1, 2011

    […] Other reviews: The Scattering […]

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