Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Ace Books (3 Jan 2006)
Apparently Stross's first published novel, this introduces us to Bob Howard. Bob works for The Laundry, one of those Len Deighton style organisations that no government would admit to running, but most do actually have. He's a computer administrator, but it's getting a bit tedious dealing with Fred from Accounting (especially after he's been killed), and the office politics is a real pain, what with a stuck up jobsworth of a line manager. So Bob gets into the field. It's not much to start with, just breaking into an office in Watford (anyone with sense would be breaking out where Watford is concerned), but things develop from there.
The problem is, in this world, there are secrets that no human should ever have to know. And one is that Hell, and demonic possession, and necromancy, do actually work. And of course, that makes them fair game for weapons of terrorism, or of mass destruction. (There are some rather chilling consequences that come from this, and part of the horror here comes from taking things that happened in our real world, and finding other motives behind them.) In the end, it's up to Bob to save the universe.
This is an odd idea, distinctly odd, being a crossover of horror and cold-war thriller. But, all in all, it's pretty amazing. Recommended.