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April Books 3) The Jennifer Morgue

3) The Jennifer Morgue, by autopope

I got this book from the author himself; he very kindly beamed a copy from his PDA to mine across the table at an Indian restaurant in Dublin last month. Just as well, as it won't be out in hardback until the end of this year and the paperback comes out next February. (At work we have an average turnaround between final text and publication of perhaps 48 hours, with little amendments still possible up to the last minute; the longest I've had to wait was for the paper we decided to launch in three languages simultaneously, so had to wait two weeks for the translation; I am aware that for commercial publishers conditions are rather different.) I had actually had a look at some of the earlier chapters in draft, and am gratified to see some of my suggested tweaks were accepted. (And indeed acknowledged in the introduction.)

It's a sequel to The Atrocity Archives, and thus to the Hugo-winning novella "The Concrete Jungle"; Bob Howard works for the little-known British government agency combining cutting-edge information technology with combat against the forces of darkness of the type first described by H.P. Lovecraft. As usual, Charlie writes breath-takingly fast and smart prose, in a story that takes the standard James Bond plot and warps it through disturbing dimensions. The settings, memorably evoked, include the Caribbean island of St Martin, shared between France and the Netherlands, in and around which most of the action takes place; I hadn't previously heard of it but it turns out to be quite real.

There are a few mind-numbing in-jokes - the villain's head of security is named after a well-known figure in British sf fandom, and Bob's middle initials are a neat subtle touch. The reader who doesn't get these will I think be entertained anyway, and there may well be others I didn't spot.

Added to the end of the book is a brief meditation by autopope on "The Golden Age of Spying", mostly entirely factual but including an amusing little interview with Blofeld set in Transdniestria. That doubles the number of sf stories I have read referencing that peculiar place (the other being Walter Jon Williams' "The Green Leopard Plague").

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