The Jennifer Morgue
By Charles Stross
First Published: 2006
US Hardback Cover Painting by: Steve Montiglio
Review © 2009 by Stephen Roof
Genre: Spy Thriller, Science Fiction, Fantasy
The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross doesn’t fit neatly into a single genre as it is a wild mixture of spy thriller, supernatural fantasy, and science fiction. When I read the description of this novel, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it or not since I’m generally not a big fan of fantasy and the occult. However, I like the occasional spy thriller so I decided to give it a go. I’m happy to say I’m glad I did. This was a high energy, can’t put it down page turner of a novel that was a whole lot of fun.
The plot comes right out of a James Bond movie, even to the extent that the hero is a British secret agent who has nothing less than the fate of the world on his shoulders. In addition, he is teamed up with a beautiful secret agent partner on a mission to stop an ultra rich megalomaniac. However, the hero in this novel is a computer nerd named Bob Howard, and Stross has thrown in a bit of the occult along with some ancient aliens into the mix. Who knew that an alien presence controls the depths of the oceans and all the major surface powers have signed a treaty with this entity. The treaty was tested in 1975 when an attempt was made to recover a sunken Soviet sub from beyond the depths allowed in the treaty. The recovery was thwarted in impressive fashion and, of course, the whole event was well covered up.
Now, in the present time, a billionaire software CEO plans to recover something even more valuable from the ocean depths, an alien horror older than mankind. It’s not clear whether the world will be in more danger if the recovery succeeds or if it fails due to discovery by the aliens of the deep. Stopping this bold enterprise will not be easy as it is protected by both high tech and occult defenses. The only hope is to team up tech savvy Bob with the deadly but occult savvy Ramona. When they are connected with a telepathic bond, this team provides the best chance to save the world.
Stross uses a great mixture of high tension action, mystery, and both parody and homage to James Bond. There were a few points where the techno-babble and acronyms threatened to overwhelm the text but, for the most part, the breakneck pace of the story kept me on the edge of my seat. There is plenty of humor throughout. I can personally attest to the mind numbing “evil” effects that PowerPoint presentations can have on the average person.
In addition to The Jennifer Morgue, the hardback contains a bonus 20 page short story titled Pimpf which has the same main character Bob battling his way through bureaucracy and a video game quest. This story may be appreciated by “gamers” but didn’t do much for me.If you like James Bond movies, enjoy “hard” science fiction with lots of humor, and don’t mind lots of acronyms; you won’t want to miss The Jennifer Morgue. Also, it may be worth it to get the hardback version just for the nice cover art.