I don’t think I really liked where this was going from the get-go, not because of the protagonist, which this time was Mo and not her husband Bob, but the superhero angle. I disliked that for two reasons, first I’ve never liked that Stross is enamored by the idea to find a unique angle for each of his entries of the Laundry series, making each entry a meta-level pop-culture reference.
These books are at their best when they showcase Stross’ unique twist of Lovecraftian horror, and especially each and every time Stross actually ventures deep into really scary scenes and shows otherworldly dimensions and monstrosities. Often, sadly he prefers to write a clever twist on James Bond, vampires or in this case superheroes, that makes it hard to ignore and get to the good parts.
Secondly, I usually don’t enjoy superheroes written by someone who tries to frame them in real-world terms, as superhero comics operate by a rule-set that makes no sense in real-world terms, and trying to frame them as such is neither new nor interesting and in this case comes off as merely annoying (“haha, look at how clever my commentary on superheroes is“, sadly it is not).
That said, the whole superhero angle is really a cover for a story that is about something completely different. And the book hits all the usual buttons that makes this series a joy to read: office power plays, work meetings and powerpoint slides contrasted with demonic possession and ancient horrors. I wonder how younger people or people with different live experiences enjoy the series, because I have to assume they do enjoy them, but only for parts of it. But for me, some of the elements about the Laundry (endless pointless meetings, just for one, or the insights into mid-level management), and also in this case the infighting between various government organizations rings true in so many ways.
So, while I didn’t liked the starting point of the book, it really grew on me. It advances the overall arc of the series, showcases a different but welcome viewpoint (it’s really neat to see things from Mo’s viewpoint and as a plus Stross makes her an interesting, complex character that at times is more compelling than plain old Bob), has a really scary threat that gets out of control and things get sideways in a terrible way and it sports one of these few, truly scary Lovecraftian scenes for whom I just love the Laundry series.