The Jennifer Morgue

Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 21, 2009

The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross

This meeting at the Milwood library drew ten attendees. Our topic was The Jennifer Morgue, a spy/horror/high tech novel featuring Stross’s recurring character Bob Howard. All of us had read Stross before. We all started the book, and seven finished it.

We enjoyed returning to the world Bob Howard inhabits, which has a Lovecraftian element. It’s not as fresh as when it was introduced in The Atrocity Archives, but still fun. We found the story to be fast-paced entertainment, full of fun and silliness. Many of us enjoyed Stross’s use of language.

Most of us enjoyed the spy story. A few people commented on the Ian Fleming metafiction in the book. Every gadget given to Bob was eventually used, as in James Bond’s stories.

We enjoyed that technology humor was a major element of the book. One reader appreciated the author’s obvious hatred of PowerPoint.  Another liked reading about Bob driving a Smart Car.

One member said that after reading one particularly disturbing and intene scene, she had to take a shower.

Several of us were disappointed by this book’s ending.  It seemed that the plot broke down and the author didn’t know how to finish the story. A few people felt the villain was simply too obvious and not nearly dangerous enough.

One member generally likes Stross and found a few things to like here, but ultimately found this book not up to par with the author’s recent award-nominated books. He didn’t like the Bob acting so clueless.  He got tired of reading scenes of people watching PowerPoint presentations. He felt the buddy cop relationship with the female demon did not work, and it reminded him of the much better novel The Snake Agent.

A few in our group simply had trouble getting engaged in The Jennifer Morgue. One person is not a fan of spy novels, and just didn’t find anything for him here.  Another liked Howard in his previous adventures, but didn’t like this story where he was “out of his element.” And another simply has never found Stross’s work to her taste.

Most of us enjoyed and would recommend Stross’s essay on spy fiction at the end of the book.

Since Stross usually gets near-universal acclaim for our group, at the end we discussed why this book had such mixed responses. We decided that the author is simply writing too fast, and it may be bringing down the quality.

All in all, we had a fun discussion. After the meeting, several of us had a nice dinner at Casa Chapala.

—A. T. Campbell, III