What an interesting change in direction for the series.
The Laundry series is clearly heading into the first stirrings of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, the codename for the apocalypse via incursions of Lovecraftian horrors from beyond this dimensional brane, as a result of exponential increases in computational density.
Where the previous books have dealt in all manner of Lovecraftian threats, spacetime horrors, ocean-dwelling aliens and possessed cultists, The Rhesus Chart deals in something closer to the standard fantasy-horror trope: vampires.
Stross does a great job of reconciling vampiric lore within the greater framework of his Lovecraftian-inspired mythos. Vampires are humans who, having been infected with a certain species of extradimensional demon parasites, are given your usual vampiric powers in return for acting as a vector for said parasites to consume the minds of other people through spooky action-at-a-distance blood transmission.
Stross also abandons the whole tradition of writing his novels as spy thriller pastiches. Of course, it is perhaps a bit of a tall order to find an author to ape for this book: a story about investment bankers turned vampires (in what must be a snarky reference to Goldman Sachs as vampire squid) who use agile scrum methodology to discover the extent of their new powers. The kind of humorous quashing together of modern geek tropes and classical horror icons is a uniquely Strossian niche. In a way, therefore, The Rhesus Chart does feel like a portentous next step for the series, a kind of authorial declaration of independence from a self-imposed series of stylistic subservience.
And things do really get moving in The Rhesus Chart, entering a period of rising action after a series of tumultuous events that presage a new, more uncertain world in which our expanded coterie of protagonists must operate.
I did find some plot points difficult to accept, like how our newly-minted vampire bankers didn’t realise for a very long time that the people they were feeding on (all cleaners who worked for the one cleaning agency) were all dying, and also the machinations of the Big Bad are a series of complex moving parts with multiple points of failure that require the kind of precision machining – classic supervillainous overthinking, but fun to read about.
But overall, The Rhesus Chart is Stross at his best – fast-paced, imaginative, humorous, geeky, horrifying, and an absolute blast.
I give this book: 4.5/5 syringes