Book 51: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
Ya gotta hand to Daniel O’Malley. What he lacks in skill as an author he makes up for in the size of his cojones.
The very idea of a secret government agency that protects England from the pillages of various things that go bump into the night, brandish an outlandish array of tentacles or are merely garden variety nasties is simply brazen.
Brazen because what O’Malley has attempted in his debut novel, The Rook, is the very thing Charlie Stross has been doing for almost a decade in his Laundry novels featuring the indomitable Bob Howard.
In that series, which began in 2004 with The Atrocity Archives, Stross crosses the classic British spy thriller with an assortment of Lovecraftian horrors. It’s delicious.
The same can’t be said of O’Malley efforts. It’s decidedly derivative of Stross’s work -- the Checquy is the Laundry and his heroine Myfanwy Thomas is Bob Howard -- and dull in the bargain.
Because his principal character has lost her memory much of the narrative context is supplied through a series of letters. That epistolary approach brings the novel’s action – which comes far to late for my satisfaction – to an abrupt halt.
At one point, O’Malley even interrupts an interesting bit of action with another letter and another story. It’s not necessary – that particular segue could have been interjected later without harming the narrative.
The Rook’s not all bad, but it ain’t the Laundry novels. And O’Malley, he’s no Charlie Stross.