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Overtime: A Tor.Com Original

January 19th, 2011

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Book Overview:

Introduced to readers in the novels The Atrocity Archive and The Jennifer Morgue, the Laundry is a secret British government agency charged with preventing dark interdimensional entities from destroying the human race.  Now, in "Overtime," the Laundry is on a skeleton staff for Christmas — leaving one bureaucrat to be all that stands between the world and annihilation by the Thing That Comes Down Chimneys. Written especially for Tor.com’s holiday season, Charles Stross’s novelette is a finalist for the 2010 Hugo Award.   Charles Stross is the Hugo-winning author of some of the most acclaimed novels and stories of the last ten years, including Singularity Sky, Accelerando, Halting State, the "Merchant Princes" series beginning with The Family Trade, and the story collections Toast and Wireless.


Book Review

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out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12796 user reviews
Science Fiction Introduced to readers in the novels The Atrocity Archive and The Jennifer Morgue, the Laundry is a secret British government agency charged with preventing dark interdimensional entities from destroying the human race.  Now, in "Overtime," the Laundry is on a skeleton staff for Christmas — leaving one bureaucrat to be all that stands between the world and annihilation by the Thing That Comes Down Chimneys. Written especially for Tor.com’s holiday season, Charles Stross’s novelette is a finalist for the 2010 Hugo Award.   Charles Stross is the Hugo-winning author of some of the most acclaimed novels and stories of the last ten years, including Singularity Sky, Accelerando, Halting State, the "Merchant Princes" series beginning with The Family Trade, and the story collections Toast and Wireless.
http://www.bookpool.org/715-overtime-a-tor-com-original/

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  1. booksforabuck
    January 21st, 2011 at 12:37 | #1

    Rating

    With not a lot going on at home, Bob is happy enough to be assigned as ‘duty officer’ during the Christmas holidays. Someone has to stay on the job because the extra-dimensional monsters and ex-gods the Laundry exists to protect our world against don’t respect the clock. Things start to go wacky when an egg-head from the forecast department announces that this will be the last office holiday party…and is, in fact, the last thing anyone has been able to forecast at all. When Bob comes across a series of body-part photocopies, the last being the hindquarters of what appears to be a giant cockroach, he realizes that his overtime has just gotten a whole lot more complicated.

    All around the world, children are calling out for Santa Claus to slide down their chimneys, to take the goodies. One thing the ancient and hungry gods are good at is listening carefully and taking advantage of every opportunity they can find. Unfortunately, it’s up to Bob to respond to the threat.

    Author Charles Stross creates a fun situation, using the Christmas holiday as a setting and myths of Santa Claus as his mythical danger. It’s a clever concept, as is the top-secret ‘Laundry,’ the government agency charged with dealing with extra-dimensional threats. It took Stross a while to get into the story. While clever and accurate about the way offices sometimes work, I found the opening pages to be a bit slow-moving. It wasn’t until we arrive at the photocopies that the story accelerates.

    Overall, OVERTIME is a clever and interesting tale. With a bit of pruning at the beginning, it could have been even better.

  2. T. Simons
    January 23rd, 2011 at 21:45 | #2

    Rating

    This is a short little Christmas-themed story set in the same milieu as Charles Stross’ _Laundry_ books, which concern the British Civil Service arm designated to protect against threats mystical and magical. It’s short, at slightly over 400 Kindle “locations,” and well-written and well-conceived; Stross is one of the more imaginative young SF writers these days, and a free snippet of his work is always welcome.

    The structure is a little convoluted for such a short story, which might throw some readers for a bit of a loop, but it isn’t a major flaw, and overall I found this entertaining enough, and well worth the download and time to read it despite having not read the other _Laundry_ books.

    If you like this, you might want to try the other _Laundry_ books, starting with _Atrocity Archives_; you might also want to read his novel _Accellerando_, which (while very different in tone and structure from this short) can be downloaded as a free ebook from the author’s website.

  3. Kevin B. Richins
    January 26th, 2011 at 12:29 | #3

    Rating

    I really enjoyed this story and the idea of The Laundry. It is a “Men in Black” mixed with MacGyver and no crappy one-liners. I liked the matter-of-fact approach and the unexplained bits about The Laundry. I liked letting my mind fill in the gaps. I also liked the disjointed time-stream. It kept me interested, revealing more and more of what had already happened in a very “Catch-22″ sort of way.

  4. Joanne Marinelli
    January 28th, 2011 at 02:38 | #4

    Rating

    If the Torr com editions are too much on the softer side of speculative fiction, thus far Stross appears to be the strongest satirical voice among them, grounded in the reality of a certain material void surrounding our biggest Western holiday, Christmas. Told in first person by a world weary but not too cynical narrator, Bob, a security officer in a British MI6-like agency called The Laundry, the story details his adventures on the holiday shift with gentle and derisive glee surrounding doomsday amid the well known and cherished tropes of Christmas tales and carols. The satirical elements work because Stross respects the alternate reality that is no more than a shade off from the reality of the civil service in the modern world we all know; it is a delightful bit of whimsy.

  5. Joel Griffith
    January 29th, 2011 at 12:17 | #5

    Rating

    Apparently the character and storyline is a reprisal of a couple of earlier books. Although there are some vaguely interesting ideas here, most of this short story consists of bureaucratic office humor (which only Dilbert gets right). It was a nice try, but thankfully free, and I don’t think I’ll bother with the books.

  6. Bambi C. Watson
    January 31st, 2011 at 01:24 | #6

    Rating

    Cute short story, a bit fluffy for Sci-Fi, but better than a lot of the free shorts I’ve read.

  7. L. Miller
    January 31st, 2011 at 11:55 | #7

    Rating

    This is one of a series of Kindle downloads I never received. I wonder who did?

  8. Matthew Darragh
    January 31st, 2011 at 17:38 | #8

    Rating

    I enjoyed the ideas and the setting but for such a short story the pacing was too slow for me. It may have been more rewarding had I read some of the other books in this universe. The cultural references might have made it harder for me to get attached to the early story as well.

    For the price though I think its worth the time. Better than most other stories you’d get here for free.

  9. David Berkowitz
    February 3rd, 2011 at 11:09 | #9

    Rating

    This is a clever short story. The premise is not very different than “Men in Black” – there are people whose every day, mundane job is to protect the rest of us from things we’re not prepared to know.

    Apparently this story is part of a series. I’ll definitely look for other work by the author.

  10. T. Hunt
    February 3rd, 2011 at 13:06 | #10

    Rating

    The Hugo nod enticed me, but in the end, thankful that I paid nothing for the download, I could only acknowledge this effort with the proverbial shoulder-shrug. I didn’t particularly enjoy the story, and in fact, found it to be cluttered and choppy, (which may just be a personal problem; I most often gravitate towards a flowing narrative.)

    That being said, and to be fair, I did find the subject matter interesting enough to follow for its entirety, but not intriguing enough to really care. I simply bobbed along.

    In summation, to quote our protagonist while day-dreaming through a company speech, “Kringle is clearly talking about something of considerable importance, but my mind skitters off the surface of his words like a wasp on a plate glass window.”

    A sentiment to which I could most certainly relate.

    - t -

    15 June, 2010

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