Finished The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross, the latest of the Laundry Files.
Unlike previous books in the series, the title character of this one is
Mo, Bob's wife and bearer of a certain violin made by a certain Erich
Zann for less then wholesome purposes. Bob appears occasionally in the
novel, but is mostly off-screen. As the book opens, CASE NIGHTMARE
GREEN is starting to accelerate, as the combined mental activity of
billions of humans and zillions of computers strains the fabric of
spacetime, causing all sorts of unfortunate incidents. The latest is
an appearance of people with superpowers: about one in a million humans
is spontaneously developing occult powers, which - thanks to Marvel and
DC - most of them are interpreting as superpowers, at least in the West.
Mo is tasked with setting up an official "superpower police" to act
as a stalking horse for the Laundry, to try to get a handle on the
situation. In this task she is assisted by Ramona Random, a Deep One
and ex-Laundry operative currently transitioning between species; Mhari
Murphy, a vampire with an MBA and recent Laundry re-recruit; and Officer
Friendly, a British police superintendent who has recently acquired
FISS-package superpowers (flight, invulnerability, superstrength).
Now, I'm going to say right out that I'm still giving this book 4/5
stars, because it's fun and well-written, but this is definitely the
weakest installment of the Laundry to date. The problem isn't Mo, who
works quite well as a character. The problem is that, well, realistic
superheroes and Lovecraftian horror are two great tastes that don't
really taste great together. It just doesn't work, especially since,
main characters aside, most of the superpowers are not particularly
Lovecraftian; the only horrific part of them is that they gradually eat your brain from K syndrome, giving you early-onset senility over a few months or years. And, I'm sorry, but who the villain turns out to be is just dumb.
That said, it is well-written and fun, and the climax is a complete
exception to the above: a real virtuoso performance (no pun intended),
brilliantly written and drippingly atmospheric. So Annihilation Score still gets 4/5, if nothing else because - complaints aside - it's still better then most Mythos fiction out there today. But I think this series really peaked around the time of The Apocalypse Codex, and has been trending downward since then.