Friday, August 15, 2008

"Down on the Farm", by Charles Stross

I finally got around to reading “Down on the Farm” from Charles Stross. The story was published on as one of the first two rollout stories for the new website / community that is being built there.

“Down on the Farm” is a Bob Howard / Laundry story (The Atrocity Archives, The Jennifer Morgue, “Pimpf”, “The Concrete Jungle”) and follows Howard from his office at the Laundry down to a mental institution. The Laundry is the Bristish version of MI-6 focused on the supernatural, complete with absurd bureaucracy.

Have you ever wondered what happens to normal people who end up dealing with the supernatural and just can’t handle the mental strain of something so out of the norm? What happens to those who are actually possessed or damaged by the “other”? Well, if it happened to you or I then most likely we’d be put away in a public asylum or end up living under a bridge somewhere. However, if you happened to become so impaired while working for the Laundry, you will be put away at St. Hilda of Grantham’s Home for Disgrunteld Waifs and Strays, which is a long winded and obfuscating way of saying “government funded asylum”.

Something has happened at the asylum and Bob Howard is sent to find out exactly what happened and also to do some stuff that is never made explicit.

While I may have issues with the short fiction I’ve read from Stross and much of his longer fiction, for some reason the Bob Howard stories work for me. Stross can get overly technical in his other science fiction, but outside of his repetition of code words for covert projects, the Laundry novels are reasonably straight forward and comprehensbile, even if the reader doesn’t know exactly what is going on.

As such, I liked “Down on the Farm”.

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