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YMMV / The Laundry Files

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: An In-Universe version is the afterword for The Jennifer Morgue, where the author conducts a mock interview with Ernest Stavro Blofeld who presents himself as simply being a venture capitalist ahead of his time, targeted by a socialist British government that didn't want a threat to their state monopolies.
  • Author Tract:
    • Readers could be excused coming out of Codex thinking that Stross is out to get religion, especially after the portion where Johnny reasons out to himself why Christianity is self-contradictory. However, the book both has a somewhat Unreliable Narrator in the form of Bob, and Bob has a friend who's a vicar and good man, contrasted with the religious fanatic villains.
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    • Also, it is an Author Tract — Bob's. It's a cross between his memoirs and a guide to hunting down cults hiding under other faiths. He lives in a universe where Christianity (and every other religion but one) is objectively untrue. That's kind of a required element of cosmic horror, for if there's a prophet-shaped escape hatch then the setting is no longer cosmic horror and becomes a different kind of Author Tract. Bob is busy disabusing potential readers In-Universe of this particular hope that things aren't all that bad. (Also, Johnny doesn't reason that Christianity itself is self-contradictory, so much as that the faith in general is highly schismatic, which has been true since the earliest days of the faith.)
    • Which doesn't quite justify how the story treats Americans. That is, until The Labyrinth Index, which does feature more reasonable Americans.
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    • The Annihilation Score has a lot to say about superhero fandom too.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Mo's violin is capable of putting out some disturbingly erotic dreams as a form of manipulation.
  • Fridge Brilliance: The choice of codewords for various operations and assets seems incredibly stupid at times - when you put a code name on something, you want it to be completely non-indicative of the subject to avoid hinting what it's about. CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is a bit dumb because "nightmare" suggests something very bad indeed - as does SCORPION STARE for a basilisk weapon, or MAGINOT BLUE STARS for an occult defense network made of same. It becomes brilliant again with the realization that these are Bob's memoirs, and like his own name, we're not getting the actual codewords - we're getting fake ones that are indicative of what they're talking about for reader convenience, so he can talk about them in the context of his memoirs without giving away the actual operational codewords of any asset or event.
    • Of course, the lampshades came out when the Laundry actually did this in The Rhesus Chart, using code words such as OPERA CAPE involving vampires (albeit using more properly obtuse codewords for other operations surrounding these) and noting that they were not supposed to do this... but that they were because everyone was pointedly refusing to take things seriously.
    • Mo specifically calls Bob out for this in Annihilation Score. "... I'll call a spade a bloody shovel, not EARTHMOVER CRIMSON VORTEX."
  • Funny Moments: Everything Bob says about his Smart Car in Jennifer Morgue.
    I stare at it and it stares back, mockingly.
    • The scene in Rhesus Chart in which the Scrum tries out their new powers as well as any time any of them drink blood in company. "Two Vampires with clipboards walk into a bar..."
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  • Genius Bonus: Naming the American occult intelligence agency the "Black Chamber". The real Black Chamber was an early 20th century American intelligence service focusing on cryptanalysis, a forerunner in role to the modern-day National Security Agency (whose initials are frequently backronymed to "No Such Agency").
  • Idiot Ball: By the end of Annihilation Score, Mo is making sweet sweet love to it. Possibly justified by her approaching stress-related breakdown, but still, let's review the facts. She knows that Professor Freudstein has stolen a copy of the musical "The King in Yellow" that her violin is tremendously interested in and tries to force her to play it multiple times. The magic in this manuscript is placed in a violin solo. Also, she has already been tipped off that Professor Freudstein may or may not be a front for a rogue government agency and that ACPO got dangerously close to going rogue once before. She also knows that some organization within the police is plotting against her. And by this point she already knows that "Freudstein" wants her violin. And yet she still takes her violin with her when Jim invites her to a musical event AND she doesn't run away the moment she hears that they have a "last minute program change". This is all rather embarrassing for a character who is usually the smartest person in the room.
  • Paranoia Fuel: "The Concrete Jungle" runs on this for a good chunk. Any security camera on a WiFi network can be turned into an instant death ray if you walk into its line of sight. Have fun.
    • Perhaps even worse is the wide-field amnesia geas in "Equoid." Why does this part of Sussex seem relatively quiet and depopulated? Because the unicorns have been allowed to roam free, have eaten whoever they run into, and no one even notices the dead are missing.
  • Shallow Parody: The Jennifer Morgue didn't win many fans over with its attempt at Bond meets Lovecraft.
    • The Annihilation Score doesn't quite work very well given superheroes require a slightly less cynical universe than a Cosmic Horror Story to be parodied properly.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Mo becomes this in The Annihilation Score as we see her treat Bob in a very uncharitable manner from her perspective. Likewise, she ignores his personal terrors and comes perilously close to cheating on him without an official separation. Given the adoration Bob showers her with in his text and faithfulness, it is remarkably off-putting.
    • Apparently Jim Grey seems to attract these kinds of women: Mhari's way of talking about him is remarkably off-putting as well. From consistently referring to him as "Fuckboy" to her basically using him as a living sex toy to dump her stress on. And of course there's Mhari's habit of constantly explaining why the things she does are awful and then still doing them after some transparent blame-shifting. Oh of course she would rather kill herself than become a monster if the government stops taking care of the PHANG's but she can't speak for all the PHANG's, so needs must, oh well.
  • Values Dissonance: A real-life case of it. Mo's reaction to being in the execution room of the Iranian government is to treat it as horrifying nightmare fuel. Readers who support the death penalty are likely to find her reaction Narm even if they think the Iranian government's punishments are too severe.
    • Although the problem in that case is less the mass executions and more the fact that, in the Laundryverse, scheduled, regular mass executions are a very very good way to screw with reality. So even if one supports the death penalty in real life, in-universe what Mo witnessed is a very bad thing indeed. Doesn't help that what the corpses are chanting is the same thing as the Golden Promise Ministry's glossolalia: "He is coming."
    • This seems to be mostly thrown out by the time of The Labyrinth Index, however, with the reinstitution of death penalty by the British government as a way to feed their vampire population (like what the US did to feed Black Chamber's vampires).
  • The Woobie: Iris Carpenter. Her involvement with the events of Fuller Memorandum was an inside job and she will get recognition for everything but that doesn't change the fact that she was put in prison for six years and hasn't seen her daughter (whom she was forced to turn into a crazy cannibal and who is currently a wanted criminal) since then. And she did all of this for the good of the Laundry, on orders from the Senior Auditor so clearly it had to be done, but that doesn't make it any better for her.
    • At least until Labyrinth Index, where she seems to have taken to her new role with quite some enthusiasm, to the point of not just finding her daughter again, but instating her as her personal snitch.
    • Derek, the GM. He used to be just a kid in school with slight Asperger's who ran D&D campaigns with his friends. Unfortunately, he ran those campaigns during that big tabletop Satanism scare, so he and his mates were rounded up by the Laundry and locked in a high security prison. By the time they realized Derek was just a nerdy kid with slight mental issues, he had already been in there for years. Then he ran more D&D campaigns for the cultists kept at the prison until his dice became high-class probability-manipulating artefacts, so now he was a valuable resource to the Laundry. A valuable resource with no personal life, no friends, no family and no childhood. And by the end of Labyrinth Index he's also become a vampire, so any sort of family-starting is out of the question for him anyway, not to mention that Mhari is forced to abandon him in the US unlike the other infected team members.