Charles Stross

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Charles Stross in 2009

Charles David George "Charlie" Stross (born 18 October 1964 in Leeds) is a writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. His works range from science fiction and Lovecraftian horror to fantasy.


Singularity Sky (2003)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books ISBN 978-0-441-01179-7
Nominated for the 2004 Hugo Award.
  • The sheer waste of human potential that was the New Republic’s raison d’être offended her sensibilities as badly as a public book-burning, or a massacre of innocents.
    • Chapter 2, “Preparations for Departure” (p. 33)
  • “Hello, Martin. What can I do for you?”
    “Got a problem.”
    “A big one?”
    “Female human-sized.”
    • Chapter 3, “The Spacelike Horizon” (p. 60)
  • The first rule of space that mistakes are fatal. Space isn’t friendly; it kills you. And there are no second chances.”
    • Chapter 4, “The Admiral’s Man” (p. 72; ellipsis represents a minor elision of description)
  • Any job I do—if it doesn’t work, somebody pays. Possibly hundreds or thousands of somebodies. That’s the price of good engineering; nobody notices you did your job right.
    • Chapter 5, “Wolf Depository Incident” (p. 127)
  • Before the singularity, human beings living on Earth had looked at the stars and consoled themselves in their isolation with the comforting belief that the universe didn’t care.
    Unfortunately, they were mistaken.
    • Chapter 6, “Telegram from the Dead” (p. 131)
  • I am the Eschaton. I am not your God.
    I am descended from you, and exist in your future.
    Thou shalt not violate causality within my historic light cone. Or else.
    • Chapter 6, “Telegram from the Dead” (p. 132)
  • As every secret policeman knows, there is no such thing as a coincidence; the state has too many enemies.
    • Chapter 6, “Telegram from the Dead” (p. 139)
  • “Didn’t I have you executed last week?”
    “I very much doubt. It.”
    • Chapter 6, “Telegram from the Dead” (p. 142)
  • “I Critic am. Critics follow Festival for many lifetimes. We come to Criticize. First want I to know, am I Criticizing sapients? Or is just puppet show on cave wall of reality? Zombies or zimboes? Shadows of mind? Amusements for Eschaton?
    A shiver ran up and down Burya’s spine. “I think I’m sapient,” he said cautiously. “Of course, I’d say that even if I wasn’t, wouldn’t I? Your question is unanswerable. So why ask it?”
    Sister Seventh leaned forward. “None of your people ask anything,” she hissed. “Food, yes. Guns, yes. Wisdom? No. Am beginning think you not aware of selves, ask nothing.”
    • Chapter 6, “Telegram from the Dead” (p. 143)
  • Quote, the viability of a postsingularity economy of scarcity is indicated by the transition from an indirection-layer-based economy using markers of exchange of goods and services to a tree-structured economy characterized by optimal allocation of productivity systems in accordance with iterated tit-for-tat prisoner’s dilemma. Money is a symptom of poverty and inefficiency. Unquote.
    • Chapter 6, “Telegram from the Dead” (p. 143)
  • “Talk you of tradition in middle of singularity.” Sister Seventh twisted her head around to look out the windows at the foggy evening drizzle beyond. “Perplexity maximizes. Not understand singularity is discontinuity with all tradition? Revolution is necessary; deconstruct the old, ring in the new. Before, I questioned your sapience. Now, your sanity questionable; sapience not. Only sapient organism could exhibit superlative irrationality!”
    • Chapter 6, “Telegram from the Dead” (p. 144)
  • “Do you believe in angels, Robard?” he asked faintly.
    “No, sir.”
    “Well, that’s alright then, she must be a devil. Can deal with those, y’know.”
    • Chapter 7, “A Semiotic War” (p. 159)
  • “We have a problem, sir.”
    “What do you mean, a problem?” demanded the Admiral. “We’re not supposed to have problems—that’s the enemy’s job!”
    • Chapter 7, “A Semiotic War” (p. 159)
  • Time travel destabilizes history.
    History is a child of contingency; so many events depend on critical misunderstandings or transient encounters that even the apocryphal butterfly’s wing is apt to stir up a storm in short order.
    • Chapter 8, “Confessions” (p. 177)
  • “I don’t like their system, and they know it. That’s why I’m sitting in this cell instead of in my cabin, or on the engineering deck. But—” He shrugged. “Their social system is one thing, but people are people everywhere you go, just trying to get along in this crazy universe. I don’t like them as individuals, but that’s not the same as wanting them dead. They’re not monsters, and they don’t deserve what’s coming to them, and life isn’t fair, is it?”
    • Chapter 8, “Confessions” (p. 183)
  • Unfortunately, it appeared that she was going to be around when they learned the hard way that interstellar wars of aggression were much easier to lose than to win.
    • Chapter 8, “Confessions” (p. 188)
  • Intelligence and infinite knowledge were not, it seemed, compatible with stable human existence.
    • Chapter 9, “Diplomatic Behavior” (p. 198)
  • True revolutionary doctrine teaches that the only law is rationalism and dynamic optimism.
    • Chapter 11, “Circus of Death” (p. 234)
  • “They’re too literal-minded,” he said quietly. “All doing, no innovative thinking. They don’t understand metaphors well; half of them think you’re Baba Yaga returned, you know? We’ve been a, ah, stable culture too long. Patterns of belief, attitudes, get ingrained. When change comes, they are incapable of responding. Try to fit everything into their preconceived dogmas.”
    • Chapter 12, “Bouncers” (p. 253)
  • A curious horror overtook him, then. His skin crawled; the back of his neck turned damp and cold. I can’t go yet, he thought. It’s not fair! He shuddered. The void seemed to speak to him. Fairness has nothing to do with it. This will happen, and your wishes are meaningless.
    • Chapter 12, “Bouncers” (p. 257)
  • It was a lousy plan, the only thing to commend it being the fact that all the alternatives were worse.
    • Chapter 13, “Jokers” (p. 274)
  • Ultimately, it was easier to change the subject than think the unthinkable.
    • Chapter 13, “Jokers” (p. 280)
  • “But then—you’re telling me they brought unrestricted communications with them?” he asked.
    “Yup.” Rachel looked up from her console. “We’ve been trying for years to tell your leaders, in the nicest possible way: information wants to be free. But they wouldn’t listen. For forty years we tried. Then along comes the Festival, which treats censorship as a malfunction and routes communications around it. The Festival won’t take no for an answer because it doesn’t have an opinion on anything; it just is.”
    “But information isn’t free. It can’t be. I mean, some things — if anyone could read anything they wanted, they might read things that would tend to deprave and corrupt them, wouldn’t they? People might give exactly the same consideration to blasphemous pornography that they pay to the Bible! They could plot against the state, or each other, without the police being able to listen in and stop them!”
    Martin sighed. “You’re still hooked on the state thing, aren’t you?” he said. “Can you take it from me, there are other ways of organizing your civilization?”
    “Well—” Vassily blinked at him in mild confusion. “Are you telling me you let information circulate freely where you come from?”
    “It’s not a matter of permitting it,” Rachel pointed out. “We had to admit that we couldn’t prevent it. Trying to prevent it was worse than the disease itself.”
    “But, but lunatics could brew up biological weapons in their kitchens, destroy cities! Anarchists would acquire the power to overthrow the state, and nobody would be able to tell who they were or where they belonged anymore. The most foul nonsense would be spread, and nobody could stop it—” Vassily paused. “You don’t believe me,” he said plaintively.
    “Oh, we believe you alright,” Martin said grimly. “It’s just—look, change isn’t always bad. Sometimes freedom of speech provides a release valve for social tensions that would lead to revolution. And at other times, well—what you’re protesting about boils down to a dislike for anything that disturbs the status quo. You see your government as a security blanket, a warm fluffy cover that’ll protect everybody from anything bad all the time. There’s a lot of that kind of thinking in the New Republic; the idea that people who aren’t kept firmly in their place will automatically behave badly. But where I come from, most people have enough common sense to avoid things that’d harm them; and those that don’t, need to be taught. Censorship just drives problems underground.”
    “But, terrorists!”
    “Yes,” Rachel interrupted, “terrorists. There are always people who think they’re doing the right thing by inflicting misery on their enemies, kid. And you’re perfectly right about brewing up biological weapons and spreading rumors. But—” She shrugged. “We can live with a low background rate of that sort of thing more easily than we can live with total surveillance and total censorship of everyone, all the time.” She looked grim. “If you think a lunatic planting a nuclear weapon in a city is bad, you’ve never seen what happens when a planet pushed the idea of ubiquitous surveillance and censorship to the limit. There are places where—” She shuddered.
    • Chapter 14, “The Telephone Repairman” (pp. 296-297)
  • The Cold War was all about who could build the biggest refrigerator, wasn’t it?
    • Chapter 14, “The Telephone Repairman” (p. 298)
  • “Will you stop calling me a child!”
    Rachel hunched around in her chair and stared at him. “But you are, you know. Even if you were sixty years old, you’d still be a child to me. As long as you expect someone or something else to take responsibility for you, you’re a child. You could fuck your way through every brothel in New Prague, and you’d still be an overgrown schoolboy.” She looked at him sadly. “What would you call a parent who never let their children grow up? That’s what we think of your government.”
    • Chapter 14, “The Telephone Repairman” (p. 299)
  • “A cure for old age is a very common wish,” Kurtz observed. “Dashed slug-a-beds want to be shot by a jealous husband, not a nurse bored with emptying the bedpan.”
    • Chapter 15, “Delivery Service” (p. 317)
  • Never underestimate the intrinsic, as opposed to ideological, conservatism of an idea like revolution once it’s got some momentum behind it.
    • Chapter 15, “Delivery Service” (p. 323)
  • You got overdraft at the mythology bank.
    • Chapter 15, “Delivery Service” (p. 329)

Iron Sunrise (2004)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books ISBN 978-0-441-01296-1
Nominated for the 2005 Hugo Award.
The chapters in the novel are not numbered. They are numbered here for ease of reference
  • And that’s when it turned intae the full-dress faeco-ventilatory intersection scene.
    • Chapter 2, “Out of the Frying Pan” (p. 45)
  • “He’s an artist,” she said calmly. “I’ve dealt with the type before, and recently. Like the bad guy said, never give an artist a Browning; they’re some of the most dangerous folks you can meet. The Festival fringe—shit! Artists almost always want an audience, the spectacle of destruction.”
    • Chapter 2, “Out of the Frying Pan” (p. 47)
  • Er, I can’t confirm or deny, but that’s a good guess.
    • Chapter 4, “Magical Mystery Tour” (p. 67)
  • Well, now is the time to peel back the foreskin of misconception and apply the wire brush of enlightenment to this mass of sticky half-truths and lies. The truth hurts, but not as much as the consequences of willful ignorance.
    • Chapter 5, “Another Day, Another Editorial” (p. 71)
  • Worlds with a single planetary government aren’t meant to be peaceful and open and into civil rights! When I see a planet with just one government, I look for the mass graves. It’s some kind of natural law or something—world governments grow out of the barrel of a gun.
    • Chapter 10, “Murder by Numbers” (pp. 160-161)
  • New Dresden is not a McWorld: it’s a shitty little flea hole populated by pathologically suspicious Serbs, bumptiously snobbish Saxons, three different flavors of Balkan refugee, and an entire bestiary of psychopathic nationalist loons. The planetary national sport is the grudge match, at which they are undisputed past masters. I say “past masters” for a reason—they’re not as bad as they used to be. The planet has been unified for the past ninety years, since the survivors finished merrily slaughtering everyone else, formed a federation, had a nifty little planetary-scale nuclear war, formed another federation, and buried the hatchet (in one another’s backs).
    • Chapter 13, “Hold the Front Page” (pp. 200-201)
  • I wasn’t exaggerating the national suspicion toward strangers. It’s a survival trait on New Dresden; they’ve been breeding for paranoia for centuries.
    • Chapter 13, “Hold the Front Page” (p. 202)
  • It was an okay vintage, if you could get past the fact that it was wine, and—stripped of the ability to get drunk on it—wine was just sour grape juice.
    • Chapter 14, “Sybarite Class” (p. 228)
  • People didn’t always follow their best interests. Human beings were distressingly bad at risk analysis, lousy with hidden motivations and neuroses, anything but the clean rational actors that economists or diplomats wanted so desperately to believe in, and diplomats had to go by capabilities, not intentions.
    • Chapter 15, “Preparing for Ghosts and Dogs” (pp. 245-246)
  • I just don’t like it, for extremely large values of don’t and like.
    • Chapter 15, “Preparing for Ghosts and Dogs” (p. 251)
  • The first time Wednesday saw a flag she had to look away, unsure whether to laugh or cry. Patriotism had never been a huge Muscovite virtue, and to see the way the fat woman in the red pants held on to her flag as if it were a life preserver made Wednesday want to slap her and yell Grow up! It’s all over! Except it also felt watching Jerm, aged three, playing with the pewter pot containing Grandpa’s ashes. Abuse of the dead, an infection of history.
    • Chapter 17, “Set Us Up the Bomb” (pp. 277-278)
  • Along the way she’d acquired a powerful conviction that history was a series of accidents—God was either absent or playing a very elaborate practical joke (the Eschaton didn’t count, having explicitly denied that it was a deity)—and that the seeds of evil usually germinated in the footprints of people who knew how everybody else ought to behave and felt the need to tell them so.
    • Chapter 18, “Grateful Dead” (p. 294)
  • “Everybody thinks they’re doing the right thing, kid. All the time. It’s about the only rule that explains how fucked-up this universe is.” A wan smile crept across her face. “Nobody is a villain in their own head, are they? We all know we’re doing the right thing, which is why we’re in this mess.”
    • Chapter 23, “Messengers” (pp. 383-384)

Accelerando (2005)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books
  • The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim.
    • Chapter 1 (“Lobsters”), p. 1 (quoting Edsger W. Dijkstra)
  • “Sounds kind of long-term to me. Just how far ahead do you think?”
    “Very long-term—at least twenty, thirty years. And you can forget governments for this market, Bob; if they can’t tax it, they won’t understand it.”
    • Chapter 1 (“Lobsters”), pp. 14-15
  • Welcome to the early twenty-first century, human.
    It’s night in Milton Keynes, sunrise in Hong Kong. Moore’s Law rolls inexorably on, dragging humanity toward the uncertain future. The planets of the solar system have a combined mass of approximately 2 x 1027 kilograms. Around the world, laboring women produce forty-five thousand babies a day, representing 1023 MIPS of processing power. Also around the world, fab lines casually churn out thirty million microprocessors a day, representing 1023 MIPS. In another ten months, most of the MIPS being added to the solar system will be machine-hosted for the first time. About ten years after that, the solar system’s installed processing power will nudge the critical 1 MIPS per gram threshold—one million instructions per second per gram of matter. After that, singularity—a vanishing point beyond which extrapolating progress becomes meaningless. The time remaining before the intelligence spike is down to single-digit years ...
    • Chapter 2 (“Troubadour”), pp. 38-39
  • Manfred decides that he’s going to do something unusual for a change: He’s going to make himself temporarily rich. This is a change because Manfred’s normal profession is making other people rich. Manfred doesn’t believe in scarcity or zero-sum games or competition—his world is too fast and information-dense to accommodate primate hierarchy games.
    • Chapter 2 (“Troubadour”), p. 41
  • He’s been off-line for the best part of six hours and is getting a panicky butterfly stomach at the idea of not being in touch with everything that’s happened in the last twenty kiloseconds.
    • Chapter 2 (“Troubadour”), p. 54
  • Annette’s communiqué is anodyne; a giggling confession off camera (shower-curtain rain in the background) that the famous Manfred Macx is in Paris for a weekend of clubbing, drugging, and general hell-raising. Oh, and he’s promised to invent three new paradigm shifts before breakfast every day, starting with a way to bring about the creation of Really Existing Communism by building a state central planning apparatus that interfaces perfectly with external market systems and somehow manages to algorithmically outperform the Monte Carlo free-for-all of market economics, solving the calculation problem. Just because he can, because hacking economics is fun, and he wants to hear the screams from the Chicago School.
    • Chapter 2 (“Troubadour”), pp. 57-58
  • “I don’t need a manager; my whole thing is about being fast and out of control!”
    • Chapter 2 (“Troubadour”), p. 58
  • His ideas are informed by a painfully honest humanism, and everyone—even his enemies—agrees that he is one of the greatest theoreticians of the post-EU era. But his intellectual integrity prevents him from rising to the very top, and his fellow travelers are much ruder about him than his ideological enemies, accusing him of the ultimate political crime—valuing truth over power.
    • Chapter 2 (“Troubadour”), p. 60
  • She still believes in classical economics, the allocation of resources under conditions of scarcity. Information doesn’t work that way.
    • Chapter 2 (“Troubadour”), p. 72
  • Experiments in digitizing and running neural wetware under emulation are well established; some radical libertarians claim that, as the technology matures, death—with its draconian curtailment of property and voting rights—will become the biggest civil rights issue of all.
    • Chapter 3 (“Tourist”), p. 88
  • Things have gone downhill since Mom decided a modal average dose of old-time religion was an essential part of her upbringing, to the point that absolutely the best thing in the world Tante Annette could send her is some scam programmed by Daddy to take her away. If it doesn’t work, Mom will take her to Church tonight, and she’s certain she’ll end up making a scene again. Amber’s tolerance of willful idiocy is diminishing rapidly, and while building up her memetic immunity might be the real reason Mom’s forcing this shit on her—it’s always hard to tell with Mom—things have been tense ever since she got expelled from Sunday school for mounting a spirited defense of the theory of evolution.
    • Chapter 4 (“Halo”), p. 130
  • A religious college in Cairo is considering issues of nanotechnology: If replicators are used to prepare a copy of a strip of bacon, right down to the molecular level, but without it ever being part of a pig, how is it to be treated? (If the mind of one of the faithful is copied into a computing machine’s memory by mapping and simulating all its synapses, is the computer now a Moslem? If not, why not? If so, what are its rights and duties?)
    • Chapter 4 (“Halo”), pp. 146-147
  • Here we are, sixty something human minds. We’ve been migrated—while still awake—right out of our own heads using an amazing combination of nanotechnology and electron spin resonance mapping, and we’re now running as software in an operating system designed to virtualize multiple physics models and provide a simulation of reality that doesn’t let us go mad from sensory deprivation! And this whole package is about the size of a fingertip, crammed into a starship the size of your grandmother’s old Walkman, in orbit around a brown dwarf just over three light-years from home, on its way to plug into a network router created by incredibly ancient alien intelligences, and you can tell me that the idea of a fundamental change in the human condition is nonsense?
    • Chapter 5 (“Router”), p. 184
  • “Friendly fascism,” says Sadeq. “It matters not, whosoever is in charge. I could tell you tales from my parents, of growing up with a revolution. To never harbor self-doubt is poison for the soul, and these aliens want to inflict their certainties upon us.”
    • Chapter 5 (“Router”), p. 201
  • Well then. Will the naysayers please leave the universe?
    • Chapter 5 (“Router”), p. 215
  • Humans are just barely intelligent tool users; Darwinian evolutionary selection stopped when language and tool use converged, leaving the average hairy meme carrier sadly deficient in smarts.
    • Chapter 7 (“Curator”), p. 266
  • “You grew up during the second oil crunch, didn’t you?” Sirhan prods. “What was it like then?”
    “What was it ...? Oh, gas hit fifty bucks a gallon, but we still had plenty for bombers,” she says dismissively. “We knew it would be okay.”
    • Chapter 7 (“Curator”), p. 269
  • Growing old is natural,” growls the old woman. “When you’ve lived long enough for all your ambitions to be in ruins, friendships broken, lovers forgotten or divorced acrimoniously, what’s left to go on for? If you feel tired and old in spirit, you might as well be tired and old in body. Anyway, wanting to live forever is immoral. Think of all the resources you’re taking up that younger people need! Even uploads face a finite data storage limit after a time. It’s a monstrously egotistical statement, to say you intend to live forever.”
    • Chapter 7 (“Curator”), p. 279
  • She may be mad, he realizes abruptly. Not clinically insane, just at odds with the entire universe. Locked into a pathological view of her own role in reality.
    • Chapter 7 (“Curator”), p. 289
  • “Not everyone is concerned with the deep future,” Manfred interrupts. “It’s important! If we live or die, that doesn’t matter—that’s not the big picture. The big question is whether information originating in our light cone is preserved, or whether we’re stuck in a lossy medium where our very existence counts for nothing. It’s downright embarrassing to be a member of a species with such a profound lack of curiosity about its own future, especially when it affects us all personally! I mean, if there’s going to come a time when there’s nobody or nothing to remember us then what does –”
    He stops in midsentence, his mouth open, staring dumbly.
    • Chapter 8 (“Elector”), pp. 347-348
  • Democracy 2.0.” He shudders briefly. “I’m not sure about the validity of voting projects at all, these days. The assumption that all people are of equal importance seems frighteningly obsolescent.”
    • Chapter 8 (“Elector”), p. 353
  • But if we run away, we are still going to be there. Sooner or later, we’ll have the same problem all over again; runaway intelligence augmentation, self-expression, engineered intelligences, whatever. Possibly that’s what happened out past the Böotes void—not a galactic-scale civilization, but a race of pathological cowards fleeing their own exponential transcendence. We carry the seeds of a singularity with us wherever we go, and if we try to excise those seeds, we cease to be human, don’t we?
    • Chapter 8 (“Elector”), p. 356
  • Humans are not as unsophisticated as mulch wrigglers, they can see the writing on the wall. Is it any surprise, that among the ones who look outward, the real debate is not over whether to run, but over how far and how fast?
    • Chapter 8 (“Elector”), p. 363
  • The turbulent lives of their entrepreneurial ancestors led to grief and angst and adventures, and as Sirhan is fond of observing, an adventure is something horrible that happens to someone else.
    • Chapter 9 (“Survivor”), p. 387
  • “Simple old-fashioned death, the kind that predated the singularity, used to be the inevitable halting state for all life-forms. Fairy tales about afterlives notwithstanding.” A dry chuckle: “I used to try to believe a different one before breakfast every day, you know, just in case Pascal’s wager was right—exploring the phase-space of all possible resurrections, you know? But I think at this point we can agree that Dawkins was right. Human consciousness is vulnerable to certain types of transmissible memetic virus, and religions that promise life beyond death are a particularly pernicious example because they exploit our natural aversion to halting states.”
    • Chapter 9 (“Survivor”), pp. 396-397
  • “Now, consciousness. That’s a fun thing, isn’t it? Product of an arms race between predators and prey. If you watch a cat creeping up on a mouse, you’ll be able to impute to the cat intentions that are most easily explained by the cat having a theory of mind concerning the mouse—an internal simulation of the mouse’s likely behavior when it notices the predator. Which way to run, for example. And the cat will use its theory of mind to optimize its attack strategy. Meanwhile, prey species that are complex enough to have a theory of mind are at a defensive advantage if they can anticipate a predator’s actions. Eventually this very mammalian arms race gave us a species of social ape that used its theory of mind to facilitate signaling—so the tribe could work collectively—and then reflexively, to simulate the individual’s own inner states. Put the two things together, signaling and introspective simulation, and you’ve got human-level consciousness, with language thrown in as a bonus—signaling that transmits information about internal states, not just crude signals such as ‘predator here’ or ‘food there.’”
    • Chapter 9 (“Survivor”), p. 397

Glasshouse (2006)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books
  • A dark-skinned human with four arms walks toward me across the floor of the club, clad only in a belt strung with human skulls.
    • Chapter 1, “Duel” (p. 1; opening line)
  • Time is a corrosive fluid, dissolving motivation, destroying novelty, and leaching the joy from life. But forgetting is a fraught process, one that is prone to transcription errors and personality flaws. Delete the wrong pattern, and you can end up becoming someone else. Memories exhibit dependencies, and their management is one of the highest medical art forms.
    • Chapter 2, “Experiment” (p. 22)
  • I’m wearing black leggings and a loose top festooned with a Menger sponge of empty pockets stitched out of smaller pockets and smaller still, almost down to the limits of visibility—woven in freefall by hordes of tiny otaku spiders, I’m told, their genes programmed by an obsessive-compulsive sartorial topologist.
    • Chapter 2, “Experiment” (p. 22)
  • In my experience, the best way to deal with such people is to politely agree with everything they say, then ignore them.
    • Chapter 2, “Experiment” (p. 30)
  • I’m trapped in a fun-house mirror reflection of a historical society where everyone was crazy by default, driven mad by irrational laws and meaningless customs.
    • Chapter 7, “Bottom” (p. 107)
  • The idea of Curious Yellow, of surrender to a higher cause, seems to appeal to a certain small subset of humanity. These people manipulate the worm, customizing its payload to establish quisling dictatorships in its shadow, and the horrors these gauleiters invent in its service are far worse than the crude but direct tactics the original worm used.
    • Chapter 12, “Bag” (p. 210)
  • If I forget, then it might as well never have happened. Memory is liberty.
    • Chapter 13, “Climb” (p. 224)
  • I killed you! And you didn’t even notice!
    • Chapter 14, “Hospital” (p. 235)
  • Can I remember— “I remember lots,” I say. How much of what I remember is true is another matter.
    • Chapter 15, “Recovery” (p. 250)
  • You know, if I tried to change the minds of everyone who I thought needed changing, I’d never have time to do anything else.
    • Chapter 15, “Recovery” (p. 255)
  • Where would dictators be without our compliant amnesia? Make the collective lose its memory, you can conceal anything.
    • Chapter 17, “Mission” (p. 288)
  • “Bad day at the office?”
    “It’s always a bad day at the office, insofar as the office exists in the first place.”
    • Chapter 18, “Connections” (p. 302)

Halting State (2007)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books ISBN 978-0-441-01607-5
Nominated for the 2008 Hugo Award.
The chapters in the novel are not numbered. They are numbered here for ease of reference
  • Adams fancies himself as a big swinging dick in risk analytics: Leave out the “big” and “swinging” and he’s right.
    • Chapter 6, “Elaine: Death or Coffee” (p. 42)
  • You know there’s no advantage to be gained by murdering idiots—it doesn’t teach the idiot anything and it might give onlookers the idea that you take them seriously.
    • Chapter 6, “Elaine: Death or Coffee” (p. 42)
  • It’s a thing of beauty, the ability to spin the cloth of reality, and you’re a sucker for it: Isn’t story-telling what being human is all about?
    • Chapter 13, “Jack: In Hell” (p. 96)
  • “You have an evil mind!”
    “And this is a bad thing how, exactly?”
    • Chapter 28, “Jack: Sex Offender” (p. 235)
  • Liz isn’t simply not going by the book, she’s just about throwing it in the shredder.
    • Chapter 32, “Sue: Civil Contingencies” (p. 263)
  • There used to be an old joke in role-playing circles—it isn’t funny these days—that there were only a thousand real people in the UK—everybody else was a non-player character. Now it’s pretty much the reverse.
    • Chapter 33, “Elaine: Gentlemen and Players” (p. 272)
  • I’m not going to make the mistake of appealing to your patriotism: It’s a deflating currency these days, and an ambiguous one. But I would like to put a word in for ethics, fair play, and enlightened self-interest.
    • Chapter 33, “Elaine: Gentlemen and Players” (p. 274)
  • Never trust a man who thinks his religion gives him all the answers.
    • Chapter 33, “Elaine: Gentlemen and Players” (p. 275)

Saturn's Children (2008)[edit]

All page numbers from the hardcover first American edition published by Ace Books ISBN 978-0-441-01594-8
Nominated for the 2009 Hugo Award.
The chapters in the novel are not numbered. They are numbered here for ease of reference
  • Politics is shit; it corrupts everything it touches, and getting involved in it only leads to misery and dissatisfaction.
    • Chapter 9, “Coin-Operated Boy” (p. 157)
  • Our Creators reverted to this state—they slid sideways into the cultural stasis—at a point where their population was shrinking and aging. The late twenty-first and early twenty-second centuries were not good times for them: Economic deflation, ecosystem failure, wars, resource depletion, and the end of the western Enlightenment program of the natural sciences coincided poisonously with the availability of cheap slaves to serve their every need, and the near perfection of entertainment media to distract them from the wreckage of their once-beautiful world.
    • Chapter 12, “Sex and Destiny” (p. 204; the Creators refer to humans; the cheap slaves to robots)
  • Freedom?” The word tastes bitter. “What’s freedom ever done for me? Seems to me I’ve been free almost all my life, but what has it gotten me? Really?”
    She’s silent for only a moment. “Ask not what it’s gotten you, kid. Ask what it’s saved you from.”
    • Chapter 15, “”Revising My Opinions” (pp. 253-254)
  • The number one crime in any age: offending the money.
    • Chapter 16, “Long-Lost Sibs” (p. 268)
  • Let me give you a handle on that. Say the distance between the Earth and the sun is, oh, one centimeter. Mercury orbits the sun at a range of a toasty two millimeters. Jupiter is six centimeters out; the span of your outstretched arms, fingertip to fingertip, will just about encompass the orbit of Eris, which it’s taken me so many years to reach. Got that?
    Well, on this scale, Proxima Centauri, our nearest star, is two and a half kilometers down the road. And we’re going to Tau Ceti, three times as far away as that.
    • Chapter 17, “Interview with the Domina” (pp. 303-304)
  • See? Interstellar colonization is easy! You just need to devote a visible percentage of the resource of an entire interplanetary civilization to it for several hundred years, placing it in the tireless and efficient hands of robots ordered to strive for the goal for as long as it takes.
    • Chapter 17, “Interview with the Domina” (p. 304)

Rule 34 (2011)[edit]

All page numbers from the hardcover first edition published by Ace Books ISBN 978-0-441-02034-8
Nominated for the 2012 Arthur C. Clarke Award.
The chapters in the novel are not numbered. They are numbered here for ease of reference
All spelling, punctuation, hyphenation, and italics as in the text
  • No plan of battle survives contact with the enemy, and time is the ultimate opponent.
    • Chapter 1, “Liz: Red Pill, Blue Pill” (p. 16)
  • It turns out you left something rather important off your career plan: for example, there’s no ticky-box on the diagram for HAVING A LIFE—TASK COMPLETED. And so you kept putting it off, and de-prioritized it, and put it off again until the law of conservation of shit-stirring dragged it front and centre and lamped you upside yer heid, as your clients might put it.
    • Chapter 1, “Liz: Red Pill, Blue Pill” (p. 16)
  • The unspoken ideology of capitalism didn’t admit, back then, of any corporate duty beyond making a return on investment for the shareholders while obeying the law.
    Then the terrible teens hit, with a global recession followed by a stuttering shock wave of corporate scandals as rock-ribbed enterprises were exposed as hollow husks run by conscience-free predators who were even less community-minded and altruistic than gangsters. The ravenous supermarket chains had gutted the entire logistic and retail sector, replacing high-street banks and post offices as well as food stores and gas stations, recklessly destroying community infrastructure; manufacturers had outsourced production to the cheapest overseas bidders, hollowing out the middle-class incomes on which consumer capitalism depended: The prison-industrial complex, higher education, and private medical sectors were intent on milking a public purse that no longer had a solid tax base with which to pay. Maximizing short-term profit worked brilliantly for sociopathic executives looking to climb the promotion ladder—but as a long-term strategy for stability, a spiraling Gini coefficient left a lot to be desired.
    • Chapter 7, “Liz: Black Swans” (pp. 82-83)
  • Privacy is a luxury; to buy it you need to be able to buy space and fit locks, to switch off the phone and live without fear of dependency on others. Privacy is a peculiarly twentieth-century concept, an artefact of the Western urban middle classes: Before then, only the super rich could afford it, and since the invention of e-mail and the mobile phone, it has largely slipped away.
    • Chapter 8, “Anwar: Diplomat” (p. 93)
  • Policing is one of those jobs that will always revolve around a meatspace hub, if only because you can’t build a cellblock in cyberspace.
    • Chapter 10, “Liz: Snowballing Hell” (p. 116)
  • Little white lies shining like baby teeth in a shallow grave.
    • Chapter 12, “Toymaker: Reality Excursion” (p. 143)
  • You say paranoia, I say surveillance state. Worried about being tracked by hidden cameras stealthy air-borne remotely piloted vehicles, and chips implanted in your skull? You’re merely a realist.
    • Chapter 12, “Toymaker: Reality Excursion” (p. 143)
  • Some say the Internet is for porn; but you know that in truth the Internet is for spam. As communication technologies got cheaper, the cost of grabbing a megaphone and jamming it up against the aching ear-drums of an advertising-jaded public collapsed: Meanwhile, the content-is-king mantra of the monetization mavens gridlocked the new media in an advertising-supported business model. The great and the good of the Academy have been fighting a losing battle against the Anglo-Saxon hucksterization model for the past thirty years: But the sad truth is that the battle’s lost. The tide of war was turned in Beijing and New Delhi, when the rapidly industrializing new superpowers climbed on the MAKE MONEY FAST band-wagon and gave free rein to the free market, red in tooth and claw—just as long as the sharp bits were directed outwards. And today the entire world is still drowning in a sea of attention-grabbing unregulated unethical untruthful spamvertising.
    • Chapter 13, “Kemal: Spamcop” (pp. 154-155)
  • Ninety-five percent of all human-readable traffic over the net is spam, a figure virtually unchanged since the late noughties.
    • Chapter 13, “Kemal: Spamcop” (p. 155)
  • Truly the jaws of irony are agape!
    • Chapter 13, “Kemal: Spamcop” (p. 157)
  • “The programmers have a saying, you know? ‘If we understand how we do it, it isn’t artificial intelligence anymore.’”
    • Chapter 16, “Liz: Mote, Eye, Redux” (p. 177)
  • Anwar is as bent as a three-euro note: just bright enough to think he’s smarter than everyone around him, just stupid enough not to realize that they’ve got his number. He’s a walking poster-boy for the Dunning-Kruger Effect: If he says he’s going straight, it probably means one of his idiot friends told him shoplifting is legal.
    • Chapter 20, “Liz: Bereavement Counselling” (p. 215)
  • You’re like a priest who awakens one day and realizes that his god has been replaced by a cardboard cut-out, and he’s no longer able to ignore his own disbelief. And, like the priest, you’ve sacrificed all hope of a normal life on the altar of something you no longer believe in.
    • Chapter 20, “Liz: Bereavement Counselling” (p. 229)
  • But policing, crime prevention and detection, is a Red Queen’s race: You have to run as fast as you possibly can just to stand still. You can collar criminals until the cows come home, and there’ll still be a never-ending supply of greedy fuckwits and chancers. It’s like there’s a law of nature: Not only is the job never done, the job can never be done.
    • Chapter 20, “Liz: Bereavement Counselling” (p. 229)
  • You take after your dad, a high-functioning sociopath with an incurable organic personality disorder. It’s one of the special-sauce variety, the kind with a known genetic cause.
    Your uncle Albert was something different, and worse: He was a man of faith.
    • Chapter 22, “Toymaker: Happy Families” (p. 248)
  • Perforce, the family that preys together stays together.
    • Chapter 22, “Toymaker: Happy Families” (p. 251)
  • I think we may be mistaking the elephant’s tail for a bell-pull.
    • Chapter 26, “Liz: It’s Complicated” (p. 279)
  • “Well, moving swiftly sideways into cognitive neuroscience...In the past twenty years we’ve made huge strides, using imaging tools, direct brain interfaces, and software simulations. We’ve pretty much disproved the existence of free will, at least as philosophers thought they understood it. A lot of our decision-making mechanics are subconscious; we only become aware of our choices once we’ve begun to act on them. And a whole lot of other things that were once thought to correlate with free will turn out also to be mechanical. If we use transcranial magnetic stimulation to disrupt the right temporoparietal junction, we can suppress subjects’ ability to make moral judgements; we can induce mystical religious experiences: We can suppress voluntary movements, and the patients will report that they didn’t move because they didn’t want to move. The TMPJ finding is deeply significant in the philosophy of law, by the way: It strongly supports the theory that we are not actually free moral agents who make decisions—such as whether or not to break the law—of our own free will.
    “In a nutshell, then, what I’m getting at is that the project of law, ever since the Code of Hammurabi—the entire idea that we can maintain social order by obtaining voluntary adherence to a code of permissible behaviour, under threat of retribution—is fundamentally misguided.” His eyes are alight; you can see him in the Cartesian lecture-theatre of your mind, pacing door-to-door as he addresses his audience. “If people don’t have free will or criminal intent in any meaningful sense, then how can they be held responsible for their actions? And if the requirements of managing a complex society mean the number of laws have exploded until nobody can keep track of them without an expert system, how can people be expected to comply with them?”
    • Chapter 26, “Liz: It’s Complicated” (pp. 286-287)
  • “Prosthetic Morality Enforcement. The idea is that by analogy, if a part of your body is deficient or missing, you can use a prosthetic limb or artificial organ. Well, our ability to make moral judgements is hard-wired, but it’s been so far outrun by the demands of complex civilization that it can’t keep up. For example...have you ever wondered why discussions in chat rooms or instant messaging turn nasty so easily? Or wander off topic? It’s because the behavioural cues we use to trigger socially acceptable responses aren’t there in a non-face-to-face environment. If you can’t see the other primate, your ethical reasoning is impaired because you can’t build a complete mental image of them—a cognitive frame. It’s why identity theft and online fraud are such a problem: There’s no inhibition against robbery if the victim is faceless. So we need some kind of prosthetic framework to restore our ability to interact with people on the net as if they’re human beings we’re dealing with in person.
    • Chapter 26, “Liz: It’s Complicated” (pp. 287-288)
  • Human consciousness isn’t optimized for anything, except maybe helping feral hominids survive in the wild.
    • Chapter 29, “Liz: Project ATHENA” (p. 305)
  • Most police work boils down to minimizing the impact on society of stupidity; of the remainder, the overwhelming majority is about malice and deliberate evil, but it’s still almost all stupid.
    • Chapter 31, “Dominoes Fall” (p. 322)

The Laundry Files[edit]

  • I am sick and tired of reality refusing to conform to the requirements of my meticulously-researched near-future or proximate-present fictions.

Short fiction[edit]

  • ’Twas the night before Christmas, the office was closed,
The transom was shut, the staff home in repose;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
But St. Nicholas won’t be coming because this is a Designated National Security Site within the meaning of Para 4.12 of Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act (Amended) and unauthorised intrusion on such a site is an arrestable offense ...
  • Had enough of my poetry yet? That’s why they pay me to fight demons instead.
    • Overtime (2009)
  • Like the famous mad philosopher said, when you stare into the void, the void stares also; but if you cast into the void, you get a type conversion error. (Which just goes to show Nietzsche wasn't a C++ programmer.)
    • Overtime (2009)
  • This is rural England, after all; please set your watches back thirty years…
  • I may not be a hero, but I'm not the fourteen-year-old H. P. Lovecraft either. Dealing with eldritch horrors is part of my day job. It’s not even as bad as the paperwork, for the most part.

The Atrocity Archives (2004)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books ISBN 978-0-441-01668-6 (January 2009) 7th printing
Omnibus of the novel The Atrocity Archive and the novella The Concrete Jungle
  • Imagine a world where speaking or writing words can literally and directly make things happen, where getting one of those words wrong can wreak unbelievable havoc, but where with the right spell you can summon immensely powerful agencies to work your will. Imagine further that this world is administered: there is an extensive division of labour, among the magicians themselves and between the magicians and those who coordinate their activity. It’s bureaucratic, and also (therefore) chaotic, and it’s full of people at desks muttering curses and writing invocations, all beavering away at a small part of the big picture. The coordinators, because they don’t understand what’s going on, are easy prey for smooth-talking preachers of bizarre cults that demand arbitrary sacrifices and vanish with large amounts of money. Welcome to the IT department.
    • Ken MacLeod in Introduction: Charlie’s Demons (p. xvi)
  • “Am I making myself clear?”
    I sit down again. “Yes, for very bureaucratic values of clear.”
    • Chapter 1, “Active Service” (p. 14)
  • “Fred was a waste of airspace and one of the most powerful bogon emitters in the Laundry.”
    “Hypothetical particles of cluelessness. Idiots emit bogons, causing machinery to malfunction in their presence. System administrators absorb bogons, letting machinery work again. Hacker folklore—”
    • Chapter 2, “Enquiry” (p. 45)
  • I don’t hate him—he’s just a bore but that isn’t a capital offense. Usually.
    • Chapter 2, “Enquiry” (p. 46)
  • My impressions are of a huge stainless steel kitchen and Australian expat waiters on rollerblades beaming infrared orders and wide-eyed smiles at each other from handheld computers as they skate around the refectory tables, where earnest young things in tiny rectangular spectacles discuss Derrida’s influence on alcopop marketing via the next big dot-sad IPO, or whatever it is the “in” herd is obsessing about these days over their gyoza and organic buckwheat ramen.
    • Chapter 4, “The Truth Is In Here” (p. 97)
  • I hate it when people let their professionalism get in the way of real life.
    • Chapter 6, “The Atrocity Archives” (p. 151)
  • Do you want me to strangle him now, or wait till he’s finished annoying you?
    • Chapter 7, “Bad Moon Rising” (p. 163)
  • “Thank you for that reminder, Jimmy,” says Alan. “Any more compelling insights into why the laws of physics are not our friends?”
    • Chapter 7, “Bad Moon Rising” (p. 173)
  • Didn’t they know that the only unhackable computer is one that’s running a secure operating system, welded inside a steel safe, buried under a ton of concrete at the bottom of a coal mine guarded by the SAS and a couple of armoured divisions, and switched off?
    • The Concrete Jungle (p. 275)
  • I’m beyond introspective self-loathing by now—you lose it fast in this line of work.
    • The Concrete Jungle (p. 284)
  • Bet you he’s a smart sociopath, the kind that does well in midlevel management, all fur coat and no knickers—and willing to shed blood without a second thought if it’s to defend his position.
    • The Concrete Jungle (p. 305)

The Jennifer Morgue (2006)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books ISBN 978-0-441-01814-7 (January 2010) 1st printing
Omnibus of the novel The Jennifer Morgue, the novelette Pimpf, and the essay The Golden Age of Spying
All ellipses and italics as in the book, unless otherwise noted
  • Some of the worst crimes against humanity are committed by architecture students.
    • Chapter 1, “Random Ramona” (p. 18)
  • I’m only twenty-eight: I’m too young to die and too old to drive fast.
    • Chapter 1, “Random Ramona” (p. 19)
  • PowerPoint is symptomatic of a certain type of bureaucratic environment: one typified by interminable presentations with lots of fussy little bullet-points and flashy dissolves and soundtracks masked into the background, to try to convince the audience that the goon behind the computer has something significant to say. It’s the tool of choice for pointy-headed idiots with expensive suits and skinny laptops who desperately want to look as if they’re in command of the job, with all the facts at their fiddling fingertips, even if Rome is burning in the background. Nothing stands for content-free corporate bullshit quite like PowerPoint. And that’s just scratching the surface...
    • Chapter 2, “Going Down to Dunwich” (pp. 42-43)
  • I have a feeling that a bored Ramona would be a very bad girl indeed, in a your-life-insurance-policy-just-expired kind of way.
    • Chapter 3, “Tangled Up in Grue” (p. 53)
  • “They’ve sicced a demon on me.”
    “Jesus, Bob.”
    “Yeah, well, He isn’t answering the phone.”
    • Chapter 3, “Tangled Up in Grue” (p. 56)
  • Not only is the past another country, it’s one that doesn’t issue visas.
    • Chapter 4, “You’re in the Jet Set Now” (p. 75)
  • I’m still wearing my shoes, I realize. And I’m still wearing this fucking suit. I didn’t even take it off for the flight—I must be turning into a manager or something. I have a sudden urge to wash compulsively. At least the tie’s snaked off to wherever the horrid things live when they’re not throttling their victims.
    • Chapter 5, “High Society” (pp. 100-101)
  • In this line of work, too much paranoia can be worse than too little.
    • Chapter 5, “High Society” (p. 101)
  • They’re nuts. Completely insane! I don’t get this gambling thing. Didn’t these people study statistics at university? Evidently not...
    • Chapter 5, “High Society” (p. 109)
  • My stomach flip-flops. No electronics? That’s heavy. In fact it’s more than heavy: to compute is to be, and all that. I don’t mind going without clothes, but being without a microprocessor is truly stripping down. It’s like asking a sorcerer to surrender his magic wand, or a politician to forswear his lies.
    • Chapter 7, “Nightmare Beach” (p. 143)
  • Nobody taught me how to say no when a beautiful naked woman begs me to take my clothes off.
    • Chapter 7, “Nightmare Beach” (p. 144)
  • Yup, that pretty much confirms the diagnosis. This is the desk of a diseased mind, hugely ambitious, prone to taking insanely dangerous risks. He’s not ashamed of boasting about it—he clearly believes in better alpha-primate dominance displays through carpentry.
    • Chapter 11, “Destiny Entangled” (p. 218)
  • He gestures at a skeletal contraption of chromed steel and thin, black leather that only Le Corbusier could have mistaken for a chair: “Have a seat.”
    • Chapter 11, “Destiny Entangled” (p. 218)
  • He stabs at the mouse mat with one finger and I wince. But instead of fat purple sparks and a hideous soul-sucking manifestation, it simply wakes up his Windows box. (Not that there’s much difference.)
    • Chapter 11, “Destiny Entangled” (p. 222)
  • I stare longingly at the bare chunk of space on the desktop. There may be a keyboard stitched into the lining of my cummerbund, but without a machine to plug it into it’s about as much use as a chocolate hacksaw.
    • Chapter 12, “Power Breakfast” (p. 234)
  • “It’s top of the range.” She pats the other side of the rack, as if to make sure it’s still there: “This baby’s got sixteen embedded blade servers from HP running the latest from Microsoft Federal Systems division and supporting a TLA Enterprise Non-Stop Transactional Intelligence™ middle-ware cluster‡ connected to the corporate extranet via a leased Intelsat pipe.”
‡Translation: “a bunch of computers.”
  • Chapter 12, “Power Breakfast” (p. 252)
  • Most of what we get up to in the Laundry is symbolic computation intended to evoke decidedly nonsymbolic consequences. But that’s not all there is to...well, any sufficiently alien technology is indistinguishable from magic, so let’s call it that, all right? You can do magic by computation, but you can also do computation by magic. The law of similarity attracts unwelcome attention from other proximate universes, other domains where the laws of nature worked out differently. Meanwhile, the law of contagion spreads stuff around. Just as it’s possible to write a TCP/IP protocol stack in some utterly inappropriate programming language like ML or Visual Basic, so, too, it’s possible to implement TCP/IP over carrier pigeons, or paper tape, or daemons summoned from the vasty deep.
    • Chapter 12, “Power Breakfast” (p. 254)
  • The dirty little secret of the intelligence-gathering job is that information doesn’t just want to be free—it wants to hang out on street corners wearing gang colors and terrorizing the neighbors.
    • Chapter 12, “Power Breakfast” (p. 254)
  • “Watch out for any signs—anything, however small—that suggests Billington isn’t in the driving seat, if you follow my drift. Got that?”
    Mo stares at him. “You think he’s possessed?”
    “I didn’t say that.” Alan shakes his head. “Once you start asking which captains of industry are being controlled by alien soul-sucking monsters from another dimension, why, anything might happen.”
    • Chapter 14, “Jennifer Morgue” (pp. 294-295)
  • It’s a classic case of misplaced accounting priorities, valuing depreciable capital assets a thousand times more highly than the fruits of actual labor—but that’s the nature of the government organization.
    • Chapter 15, “Scuttle to Cover” (p. 300)
  • “Why are you trying to shoot that cat?”
    ”Because—” I squeeze off another shot “—it’s possessed!”...
    Mo turns and looks at me harshly. “That looked just like a perfectly ordinary cat to me. If you’ve—”
    “It was possessed by the animation nexus behind JENNIFER MORGUE Two!” I gabble. “The clue—he saw a laser dot and dodged—”
    • Chapter 16, “Reflex Decision” (p. 329; ellipsis represents a half-page elision)
  • I head off to the conference room for the Ways and Means Committee meeting—to investigate new ways of being mean, as Bridget (may Nyarlathotep rest her soul) once it explained it to me.
    • Pimpf (p. 365)
  • The literary James Bond is a creation of prewar London club-land: upper-crust, snobbish, manipulative and cruel in his relationships with women, with a thinly veiled sadomasochistic streak and a coldly ruthless attitude to his opponents that verges on the psychopathic.
    • Afterword, “The Golden Age of Spying” (p. 385)
  • Criminology, the study of crime and its causes, has a fundamental weak spot: it studies that proportion of the criminal population who are stupid or unlucky enough to get caught. The perfect criminal, should he or she exist, would be the one who is never apprehended—indeed, the one whose crimes may be huge but unnoticed, or indeed miscategorized as not crimes at all because they are so powerful they sway the law in their favor, or so clever they discover an immoral opportunity for criminal enterprise before the legislators notice it. Such forms of criminality may be indistinguishable, at a distance, from lawful business; the criminal a paragon of upper-class virtue, a face-man for Forbes.
    • Afterword, “The Golden Age of Spying” (pp. 388-389)

The Fuller Memorandum (2010)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books ISBN 978-0-441-02050-8 (July 2011) 3rd printing
All ellipses and italics as in the book
  • There can be only one true religion. Are you feeling lucky, believer?
    Like the majority of ordinary British citizens, I used to be a good old-fashioned atheist, secure in my conviction that folks who believed—in angels and demons, supernatural manifestations and demiurges, snake-fondling and babbling in tongues and the world being only a few thousand years old—were all superstitious idiots. It was a conviction encouraged by every crazy news item from the Middle East, every ludicrous White House prayer breakfast on the TV. But then I was recruited by the Laundry, and learned better.
    I wish I could go back to the comforting certainties of atheism; it’s so much less unpleasant than the One True Religion.
    The truth won’t make your Baby Jesus cry because, sad to say, there ain’t no such Son of God. Moses may have taken two tablets before breakfast, but there was nobody home to listen to the prayers of the victims of the Shoah. The guardians of the Kaaba have got the world’s best tourism racket running, the Dalai Lama isn’t anybody’s reincarnation, Zeus is out to lunch, and you really don’t want me to start on the neo-pagans.
    However, there is a God out there—vast and ancient and infinitely powerful—and I know the name of this God. I know the path you have to walk down to be one with this God. I know his secret rituals and the correct form of prayer and his portents and signs. I have studied the ancient writings of his prophets and followers in person, not simply relying on the classified digests in the CODICIL BLACK SKULL files and the background briefings for CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.
    I’m a believer. And like I said, I wish I was still an atheist. Believing I was born into a harsh, uncaring cosmos—in which my existence was a random roll of the dice and I was destined to die and rot and then be gone forever—was infinitely more comforting than the truth.
    Because the truth is that my God is coming back.
    When he arrives I’ll be waiting for him with a shotgun.
    And I’m keeping the last shell for myself.
    • Prologue, “Losing My Religion” (pp. 1-2; opening section)
  • The Laundry is the British Government’s secret agency for dealing with “magic.” The use of scare-quotes is deliberate; as Sir Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” so “magic” is what we deal with. Note that this does not involve potions, pentacles, prayers, eldritch chanting, dressing up in robes and pointy hats, or most (but not all) of the stuff associated with the term in the public mind. No, our magic is computational. The realm of pure mathematics is very real indeed, and the...things...that cast shadows on the walls of Plato’s cave can sometimes be made to listen and pay attention if you point a loaded theorem at them. This is, however, a very dangerous process, because most of the shadow-casters are unclear on the distinction between pay attention and free buffet lunch here. My job—applied computational demonologist—comes with a very generous pension scheme, because most of us don’t survive to claim it.
    • Chapter 1, “Going to See the Elephant” (p. 10)
  • Beauty may be skin-deep, but horror goes all the way down to the desiccated bone beneath.
    • Chapter 1, “Going to See the Elephant” (p. 19)
  • It is a truth universally acknowledged that a sane employee in possession of his wits must be in want of a good manager.
    • Chapter 2, “Pointing the Finger” (p. 32)
  • Unfortunately it’s also true to say that good management is a bit like oxygen—it’s invisible and you don’t notice its presence until it’s gone, and then you’re sorry.
    • Chapter 2, “Pointing the Finger” (p. 32)
  • People tend to underestimate him on first acquaintance. It’s a mistake they only make once. Whether or not they survive.
    • Chapter 2, “Pointing the Finger” (p. 35)
  • “Here, take this. How about a toast? Confusion to the enemy!”
    I raise my glass. “What enemy?”
    He shrugs: “IT, Human Resources, the grim march of time—whoever you want, really.”
    • Chapter 3, “Things That Go Bump in the Daylight” (p. 44)
  • She’s half-past overdrawn at the bank of life.
    • Chapter 3, “Things That Go Bump in the Daylight” (p. 52)
  • Our trains are not ambushed by dragons, suicide bombers, or chthonian tentacle monsters. Frankly, given the quality of the postprandial conversation, this is not a net positive.
    • Chapter 5, “Lost in Committee” (p. 77)
  • The trouble is, you can ignore history—but history won’t necessarily ignore you.
    • Chapter 5, “Lost in Committee” (p. 87)
  • But who cares?
    That is, indeed, the big-ticket question.
    • Chapter 5, “Lost in Committee” (p. 87)
  • You can do magic by hand, without computers, but magic performed by ritual without finite state automata in the loop—calculating machines, in other words—tends to be haphazard, unreliable, uncontrollable, prone to undesirable side effects, and difficult to repeat. It also tends to fuck with causality, the logical sequence of events, in a most alarming way.
    We’ve unintentionally rewritten our history over the centuries, would-be sorcerers unwinding chaos and pinning down events with the dead hand of consistency—always tending towards a more stable ground state because chaos is unstable; entropy is magic’s great enemy. When the ancients wrote of gods and demons, they might well have been recording their real-life experiences--or they may have drunk too much mushroom tea: we have no way of knowing.
    • Chapter 5, “Lost in Committee” (pp. 87-88)
  • Let’s just say that you can’t always trust the historical record and move swiftly on.
    • Chapter 5, “Lost in Committee” (p. 88)
  • On the other hand, unreliability never stopped anyone from using a given technology—just look at Microsoft if you don’t believe me.
    • Chapter 5, “Lost in Committee” (p. 88)
  • It’s like a steam locomotive or a stone axe: just because it’s obsolete doesn’t make it any less of an achievement, or any less fit for purpose.
    • Chapter 7, “Beer and Tea” (p. 111)
  • Cultists. They’re like cockroaches. We humans are incredibly fine-tuned by evolution for the task of spotting coincidences and causal connections. It’s a very useful talent that dates back to the bad old days on the savannah (when noticing that there were lion prints by the watering hole and then cousin Ugg went missing, and today there are more lion prints and nobody had gone missing yet, was the kind of thing that could save your skin). But once we developed advanced lion countermeasures like stone axes and language, it turned into our secret curse. Because, you see, when we spot coincidences we assume there’s an intentional actor behind them—and that’s how we create religions. Nature does weird stuff, so it must be governed by supernature. There’s lightning in the clouds: Zeus must be throwing his thunderbolts again. Everyone’s dying of plague except those weird folks with the strange god who wash every day: it must be evil sorcery. And so on.
    • Chapter 8, “Club Zero” (p. 128)
  • I generally try to avoid funerals: they make me angry. I know the purpose of a funeral is to provide comfort and a sense of closure for the bereaved; and I agree, in principle, that this is generally a good thing. But the default package usually comes with a priest, and when they start driveling on about how Uncle Fred (who died aged sixty-two of a hideous brain tumor) is safe in the ever-loving arms of Jesus, the effect it has on me is not to make me love my creator: it’s to wish I could punch him in the face repeatedly.
    • Chapter 8, “Club Zero” (pp. 133-134)
  • I’m a child of the enlightenment; I was raised thinking that moral and ethical standards are universals that apply equally to everyone. And these values aren’t easily compatible with the kind of religion that posits a Creator. To my way of thinking, an omnipotent being who sets up a universe in which thinking beings proliferate, grow old, and die (usually in agony, alone, and in fear) is a cosmic sadist. Consequently, I’d much rather dismiss theology and religious belief as superstitious rubbish. My idea of a comforting belief system is your default English atheism...except that I know too much.
    See, we did evolve more or less randomly. And the little corner of the universe we live in is 13.73 billion years old, not 5,000 years old. And there’s no omnipotent, omniscient, invisible sky daddy in the frame for the problem of pain. So far so good: I live free in an uncaring cosmos, rather than trapped in a clockwork orrery constructed by a cosmic sadist.
    Unfortunately, the truth doesn’t end there. The things we sometimes refer to as elder gods are alien intelligences, which evolved on their own terms, unimaginably far away and long ago, in zones of spacetime which aren’t normally connected to our own, where the rules are different. But that doesn’t mean they can’t reach out and touch us. As the man put it: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Any sufficiently advanced alien intelligence is indistinguishable from God—the angry monotheistic sadist subtype. And the elder ones...aren’t friendly.
    (See? I told you I’d rather be an atheist!)
    • Chapter 8, “Club Zero” (p. 134)
  • If there’s one thing extreme god-botherers of every stripe have in common, it’s that they don’t have any sense of humor at all where their beliefs are concerned.
    • Chapter 12, “Countermeasures” (p. 211)
  • There is a philosophy by which many people live their lives, and it is this: life is a shit sandwich, but the more bread you've got, the less shit you have to eat.
    These people are often selfish brats as kids, and they don't get better with age: think of the shifty-eyed smarmy asshole from the sixth form who grew up to be a merchant banker, or an estate agent, or one of the Conservative Party funny-handshake mine's-a-Rolex brigade.
    (This isn't to say that all estate agents, or merchant bankers, or conservatives, are selfish, but these are ways of life that provide opportunities of a certain disposition to enrich themselves at the expense of others. Bear with me).
    There is another philosophy by which people live their lives, and it goes thus: you will do as I say or I will hurt you.
    It's petty authoritarianism, and it frequently runs in families. Dad's a dictator, Mum's henpecked, and the kids keep quiet if they know what's good for them—all the while soaking up the lesson that mindless obedience is the one safe course of action. These kids often rescue themselves, but some of them don't. They grow up to be thugs, insecure and terrified of uncertainty, intolerant and unable to handle back-chat, willing to use violence to get what they want.
    Let me draw you a Venn diagram with the two circles on it, denoting set of individuals. They overlap: the greedy ones and the authoritarian ones. Let's shade the intersecting area in a different color, and label it: dangerous. Greed isn't automatically dangerous on its own, and petty authoritarians aren't usually dangerous outside their immediate vicinity—but when you combine the two, you get gangsters and dictators and hate-spewing preachers.
    There is a third philosophy by which—thankfully—only a tiny minority of people live their lives. It's a bit harder to sum up, but it begins like this: in the beginning was the endless void, and the void spawned the Elder things, and we were created to be their slaves, and they're going to return to Earth in the near future, and it is only by willingly subordinating ourselves to their merest whim that we can hope to survive—
    Now let me drop another circle on the diagram, and scribble in the tiny patch where it intersects with the other two circles, and label it in the deepest fuliginous black: here be monsters.
    • Chapter 12, “Countermeasures” (p. 211)
  • Once is happenstance but twice is enemy action, and thrice is a fuck-up.
    • Chapter 16, “Eater of Souls” (p. 286)
  • Finally, as if all of that isn’t bad enough, the dead are rising.
    This latter item, Alexei thinks, is deeply unfair. He’s a sergeant in Spetsgruppa “V”—a professional, in other words—and when he kills someone professionally he expects them to stay dead. These walking abominations are an insult to his competence.
    • Chapter 16, “Eater of Souls” (p. 286)
  • I’m not one hundred percent clear on the clinical definition of death, but I’m pretty sure that lying trapped in my own unbreathing body meets some of the requirements.
    • Chapter 16, “Eater of Souls” (p. 294)
  • Like I said: the only god I believe in is coming back. And when he arrives, I’ll be waiting with a shotgun.
    • Epilogue, “On the Beach” (p. 301)

The Apocalypse Codex (2012)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books ISBN 978-0-425-25643-5 (July 2013) 1st printing
All ellipses and italics as in the book
  • Time is the one thing money can’t buy.
    • Chapter 3, “Big Tent” (p. 44)
  • What price an immortal soul, when booty beckons?
    • Chapter 3, “Big Tent” (p. 49)
  • Ninety-eight percent of management work in this organization is routine. The other two percent is a tightrope walk over an erupting volcano without a safety net. Congratulations: here’s your balance pole.
    • Chapter 5, “Bashful Incendiary” (p. 75)
  • Any sufficiently advanced lingerie is indistinguishable from a lethal weapon.
    • Chapter 6, “Jet Lag” (p. 103)
  • “There are two types of people in this world,” Pete volunteers helpfully, “those who think there are only two types of people in the world, and everybody else.” He sips his wine thoughtfully. “But the first kind don’t put it that way. They usually think in terms of the saved and the damned, with themselves sitting pretty in the lifeboat.” He manages to simultaneously look pained and resigned. “Sometimes they find their way out of the maze. But not very often.”
    • Chapter 6, “Jet Lag” (pp. 107-108)
  • We’re living through the end times, but not in any Biblical sense—the religions of the book have got their eschatology laughably wrong.
    • Chapter 6, “Jet Lag” (p. 110)
  • “What about religion?”
    “Religion is power, to these people. And power is religion, of course. If you’re a humble believer set on doing your deity’s will, then what are you doing spending the take on Lamborghinis and single malt? The real believers are running soup kitchens and emptying bedpans, trying to do good while the televangelists preaching the prosperity gospel are doing it to keep up the payments on the McMansion and the Roller.”
    • Chapter 7, “Communion” (p. 125)
  • “What if he is a true believer, have you thought about that?”
    “A true believer in what? The prosperity gospel? New Republican Jesus who rewards his faithful flock for their faith with the ability to make money fast? That’s self-serving cant, and you know it. Wish-fulfillment as religion.” A twitch of the cheek: Persephone unamused. “Don’t get me started on the gap between the Vatican and their flock.”
    • Chapter 7, “Communion” (p. 125)
  • Pay no attention to the gill slits and fins, they’re signs of grace. It’s come to a pretty pass when the bastard spawn of the Deep Ones turn into Presbyterian fundamentalists, hasn’t it?
    • Chapter 7, “Communion” (pp. 125-126)
  • “There’s a certain point beyond which any sufficiently extreme Calvinist sect becomes semiotically indistinguishable from the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh. But even though their eschatology is insane, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’re trying to summon up the elder gods.”
    • Chapter 7, “Communion” (p. 126)
  • Suppose rather than passing the plate in church, they get a radio show and pass the plate and half a million listeners donate. Isn’t that going to convince a preacher that it’s all true? Wealth comes to the faithful, that’s the message they’re going to take. An’ I never yet met a con man who wasn’t the better at the job for believing his own spiel.”
    “That’s not…untrue. But money corrupts. Almost invariably, powers that arise around money are corrupted by it. He might have started out as a true believer, but money has a way of taking over. A church is a business, after all, and those employees or executives who are good at raising money are promoted by their fellows.”
    • Chapter 7, “Communion” (p. 126)
  • Never attribute to incompetence that which can be adequately explained by jet lag.
    • Chapter 7, “Communion” (p. 134)
  • I’m stranded in limbo, otherwise known as downtown Denver.
    • Chapter 8, “Omega Course” (p. 141)
  • There is good management and bad management: good management is like air—you don’t know it’s there until it’s gone away.
    • Chapter 8, “Omega Course” (p. 150)
  • Ray is clearly anguished, Persephone realizes; he believes this stuff with all his soul and all his guts. He believes in the viral metaphor of a bronze-age rabble-rouser from the Levant, as interpreted by his syncretist followers scattered throughout the Roman Empire. He believes in heaven and hell as real, literally existing destinations you can book an airline ticket to. He believes salvation is a deterministic, card-punching exercise in holding faith in the right god; believes that there’s a coming End of Time in which his godhead will return to Earth, reading minds and separating the sheep from the goats. No need to ask why his God might prescribe eternal torture for the unbelievers, no need to engage with the problem of free will—Schiller’s eschatology is either brutally truncated or sublimely simple, depending on viewpoint. One thing it isn’t is nuanced.
    • Chapter 9, “Speaking in Tongues” (p. 159)
  • Sometimes people do good things for bad reasons, and sometimes people do bad things for good reasons. He isn’t sure which this is yet, but he’s hoping for the former.
    • Chapter 9, “Speaking in Tongues” (p. 174)
  • I’m thinking on the fly, here. (Although now that I’m in middle management I think I’m supposed to call it “refactoring the strategic value proposition in real time with agile implementation,” or, if I’m being honest, “making it up as I go along.”)
    • Chapter 9, “Speaking in Tongues” (p. 180)
  • We’re up the highway from Colorado Springs. The holy rollers are big in Colorado. Mostly they’re harmless, ’long as you’re not a young woman in search of an abortion.
    • Chapter 10, “Things To Do in Denver When You’re Doomed” (pp. 182-183)
  • “Of course, the trouble with following occult texts blindly is that there is no guarantee that the thing the ritual summons is what it says on the label.”
    “But they’re Christians. If you want to get them to raise something from the dungeon dimensions, of course you tell them it’s Jesus Christ. I mean, who else would they enthusiastically dive into necromantic demonology on behalf of?”
    • Chapter 11, “The Apocalypse Codex” (p. 209)
  • “I was hoping you might be able to help me with a question of character.”
    “Character.” Angleton doesn’t seem at all put out by Lockhart’s refusal; he leans back in his chair, steepling his fingers. “There’s a word I don’t hear often enough these days. Especially coming from you.”
    “Of course not.” Lockhart is dismissive. “It’s a subjective value judgment and those don’t sit comfortably with ticky-boxes and objective performance metrics.”
    • Chapter 11, “The Apocalypse Codex” (p. 220)
  • A man so wrapped in secrecy that his shadow doesn’t have a high enough security clearance to stick to his heels.
    • Chapter 11, “The Apocalypse Codex” (p. 220)
  • They’re believers, Mr. Howard. Pentecostalist dispensationalists—they are saved, but they are surrounded by the unsaved, and they think their master is returning imminently, and anyone who isn’t saved by the time of his arrival is doomed. So they intend to save everyone whether or not they want to be saved, one brain parasite at a time.
    • Chapter 12, “With a Bible and a Gun” (p. 225)
  • I’d call them dangerously loopy heretics who are well down the slippery slope to hell, Bob. A hell of their own creation, even if you don’t believe in the literal sulfur-and-brimstone variety presided over by a big red guy with horns and cloven hooves. Which these people very likely do, but they think they’re on the side of the angels, which makes them doubly bad.
    • Chapter 12, “With a Bible and a Gun” (p. 240)
  • They’re outside the Nicene Creed and they’re not actually Christians, although they think they are—like the Mormons. But while the Book of Mormon is just a nineteenth-century fabrication there’s stuff in here that’s, uh, disturbing. Very disturbing, Bob.
    • Chapter 12, “With a Bible and a Gun” (p. 240)
  • I do something I never do in hotel rooms, which is to pick up the TV remote for a purpose other than hammering the “off” button.
    • Chapter 13, “Fimbulwinter” (p. 249)
  • I tend to believe that the difference between us and them is that we don’t compromise our principles for temporary convenience.
    • Chapter 13, “Fimbulwinter” (p. 258)
  • “Well…thanks. But I don’t like to make assumptions.”
    “Well that’s too bad, because you’re running on false ones.”
    • Chapter 13, “Fimbulwinter” (p. 258)
  • It is a government agency. And government agencies are run as bureaucracies. There is a role for bureaucracy; it’s very useful for certain tasks. In particular, it facilitates standardization and interchangeability. Bureaucracies excel at performing tasks that must be done consistently whether the people assigned to them are brilliant performers or bumbling fools. You can’t always count on having Albert Einstein in the patent office, so you design its procedures to work even if you hire Mr. Bean by mistake.
    • Chapter 13, “Fimbulwinter” (pp. 258-259)
  • The trouble with godheads, in Johnny’s experience, is that they can’t quite understand how anyone could not believe their shit. It seems as obvious as gravity to them, as normal as water flowing downhill and rain following sunshine; everything works the way it says in the book because the book is the inerrant word of God.
    Leaving aside the idolatry implicit in taking a mere book as a more authoritative source of truth than divine revelation, there are damaging consequences when such a belief system collides with reality. If the world was created in six days six-thousand-odd years ago, then a whole bunch of evidence relating to geology, biology, paleontology, genetics, and evolution has to be ignored—or, much harder, refuted. Which is easy enough if you don’t hold with school-book larnin’, but it’s difficult to practice general medicine if your religion says bacteria can’t evolve antibiotic resistance, and hard to be a geologist if your cosmology is incompatible with continental drift.
    And then there’s the picking and choosing. Men who lie with men are an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. But then, so is the eating of shellfish, if you go back to the original text. And the wearing of garments made from different types of fiber. And tattooing. And witchcraft—or is it poisoning? Different translations disagree. (And what on earth does the bit about what to do if your house contracts leprosy mean?) The early Church fathers cut through the Gordian knot by declaring the Old Testament obsolete: version 1.0, superseded by the new, improved version 2.0. But they couldn’t make it stick, hence the thousand-page prologue you have to wade through before you get to read the Gospel of Matthew. And even there, even in the prologue, even after weeding out the obvious Bible fanfic, there’s no rhyme nor reason: some churches can’t be arsed with the Book of Judith, while some of them cancelled the Maccabees after season two because of dwindling Nielsen ratings.
    So you end up with divergent sects reading from subtly different versions of the same book—which in turn is a third-generation translation of something which might have been the original codification of an oral tradition—and all convinced that their interpretation overrides such minor obstacles as observable reality.
    Which still wouldn’t be a problem except that some of the readers think the books are an instruction manual rather than a set of educational parables, a blueprint instead of a metaphor.
    • Chapter 13, “Fimbulwinter” (pp. 268-270)
  • The Other Place, the astral plane, the land of dreams—it’s not a real place like, say, Walsall. But it’s a metaphor for a mathematical abstraction, a manifold containing an n-dimensional space where everything is the product of geometrical transformations, including mass and energy and time. Leakage between dimensions occurs there: it’s how we summon demons from the vasty deep, communicate with aliens, and try to extract our tax codes from the Inland Revenue.
    • Chapter 14, “Appointment in Samarra” (p. 283)
  • Another problem with godheads, Johnny reflects, is that they can’t quite understand how anyone could not believe their shit. (He knows this because he started out as one, although he lost his faith before his balls dropped.) Consequently, they have immense difficulty in grasping, at an intuitive level, that someone who used to be one of them might no longer be completely in tune with their ideology.
    • Chapter 14, “Appointment in Samarra” (p. 291)
  • Me, I’m here because I can’t get out, and while I’m locked in the asylum I might as well take notes on the inmates.
    • Chapter 15, “Black Bag Job” (p. 302)
  • I am at a loss for words to describe my lack of eagerness to go there.
    • Chapter 15, “Black Bag Job” (p. 321)
  • You win some, you lose some. And when you lose, you have to pull yourself together and go back for more. Otherwise, the other side wins by default.
    • Classified Appendix (p. 354)

The Rhesus Chart (2014)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books ISBN 978-0-425-25656-5 (July 2015) 3rd printing
Italics as in the book
  • Vampires can’t exist. There’d be detailed records in the archives; they couldn’t possibly evade detection by the state for any significant period. Besides which...there’d be corpses everywhere. Human blood is a poor nutrient source; it’s about 60 percent plasma by volume and only provides about 900 calories per liter, so your hypothetical blood-sucking fiend is going to have to drink about two and a half liters per day. Those calories don’t come in the form of useful stuff like glucose and fat: it’s mostly protein from circulating red blood cells. Dracula would have to exsanguinate a victim every day just to stay alive, and would suffer from chronic ketoacidosis. The total number of intentional homicides for the whole country is around 700 a year; a single vampire would cause a 50 percent spike in the murder rate. Or they’d have to take transfusion-sized donations about two thousand times a year.
    • Chapter 1, “Prologue: One Month Ago” (p. 2; ellipsis represents elision of one sentence of description)
  • One of the great besetting problems of the modern age is what to do with too much information.
    • Chapter 2, “Meet the Scrum” (p. 35)
  • Pete is clearly mildly perturbed by this, as so he should be: his faith doesn’t have much room for sanguinary magic, unless you count holy communion.
    • Chapter 3, “KGB.2.YA” (p. 54)
  • Almost everything in the pop culture lexicon of vampirism is basically fiction—and fiction is the art of telling entertaining lies for money.
    • Chapter 9, “Committee Processes” (p. 159)
  • The five stages of bureaucratic grieving are: denial, anger, committee meetings, scapegoating, and cover-up.
    • Chapter 9, “Committee Processes” (p. 164)
  • Superficial appearances are misleading precisely because, so much of the time, they’re accurate.
    • Chapter 10, “Death Chambers” (p. 177)
  • I promise not to hammer a stake through your heart or set you on fire, as long as you promise not to rip my throat out. Okay? We in the twenty-first century have this marvelous technical innovation; it’s called civilization, and it means we don’t have to make promises like that to everyone we meet because we can usually take it for granted.
    • Chapter 11, “Boardrooms and Brokers” (p. 203)
  • We use committees for all the ulterior purposes for which they might have been designed: diffusion of executive responsibility, plausible deniability, misdirection, providing the appearance of activity without the substance, and protecting the guilty.
    • Chapter 11, “Boardrooms and Brokers” (p. 204)
  • “But has it occurred to you that there might be a reason for that?”
    “I can think of several.” I cross my legs. “Mostly ranging from the inane to the criminally irresponsible.”
    • Chapter 11, “Boardrooms and Brokers” (p. 210)
  • Having a policy based on works of fiction is worse than having no policy at all.
    • Chapter 12, “Green Lime” (p. 229)
  • Basically it’s a velociraptor with a fur coat and an outsize sense of entitlement. Right now it has convinced Pete that it is harmless, but I know better: just give them thumbs and in no time at all they’ll have us working in the tuna mines, delivering cans from now until eternity.
    • Chapter 12, “Green Lime” (p. 240)
  • (A WOMBAT is a Waste Of Money, Brains, And Time: the non-IT equivalent of a PEBCAK. (A PEBCAK is a Problem that Exists Between Chair And Keyboard. (You get the picture: it’s parenthesized despair all the way down.)))
    • Chapter 12, “Green Lime” (p. 240)

The Annihilation Score (2015)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books ISBN 978-0-425-28118-5 (July 2016) 2nd printing
Unless noted, all ellipses and italics as in the book
  • The home office hates vigilantes in Lycra fancy-dress outfits almost as much as they hate lawbreakers. You see, superheroes don’t follow the rules of evidence. They take procedural shortcuts, assault criminals, mess up crime scenes, and generally make it almost impossible to secure a conviction. Not to mention committing a basketload of offenses in their own right: aggravated trespass, assault, violating controlled airspace and flying without a license, breaking and entering, criminal damage...
    • Chapter 4, “Briefings” (p. 63)
  • Despair, dismay, disorientation, and delusion: the four horsemen of the bureaucratic apocalypse are coming my way.
    • Chapter 5, “The Office” (p. 77)
  • If pauses can be pregnant, this one’s on the run from a fertility clinic.
    • Chapter 5, “The Office” (p. 89)
  • It’s amazing how much work you can get done in three days if you hold a blowtorch to each end of the candle.
    • Chapter 7, “Officer Friendly” (p. 113)
  • Unfortunately his IQ seems to be off the scale, in the wrong direction.
    • Chapter 10, “Great Pay and Benefits! Apply Here!” (p. 182)
  • If life hands your research department lemons and a recipe, you shouldn’t be surprised if they make lemonade for you. Or, better still, anti-lemonade countermeasures.
    • Chapter 10, “Great Pay and Benefits! Apply Here!” (p. 184)
  • And she actually looks—well, I’m not sure how to describe her. Scary is such an inadequate word, don’t you think?
    • Chapter 11, “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” (p. 197)
  • “I imagine looking after a sixteen-year-old must be a bit of a headache.
    ”“Oh, it’s mostly about building trust. She’s still in the ugh, parents, uncool stage, but she’s self-aware enough to know that it’s just something she’s going through. So I’m trying to give her enough space that she doesn’t feel the need to burn bridges she might want to maintain later. The best thing you can do is provide them with a support framework rather than a cage. Don’t try to micromanage and overprotect them, let them know they can come to you when they’ve got problems, and as long as they’ve got a reasonably level head, that’s what they’ll do.” He pauses. “And I try to keep a poker face whenever she introduces me to a boyfriend.”
    • Chapter 13, “Captivation” (p. 259)
  • The American mainstream news media have so far steered well clear of the subject because the phenomenon has been enthusiastically embraced by the talk radio fringe, leading to a death spiral of diminishing credibility.
    • Chapter 14, “Infected” (p. 266)
  • “I’m disappointed in you, Mo: How could you imagine that the militarization of the police might be seen as a huge potential growth market by defense contractors?”
    “How indeed.”
    • Chapter 14, “Infected” (p. 284)
  • There is no point in prioritizing doing your job when your organization faces being defunded in less than three months’ time if you don’t do something else: you do what’s necessary in order to ensure your organization survives, then you get back to work.
    (This is how the iron law of bureaucracy installs itself at the heart of an institution. Most of the activities of any bureaucracy are devoted not to the organization’s ostensible goals, but to ensuring that the organization survives: because if they aren’t, the bureaucracy has a life expectancy measured in days before some idiot decision maker decides that if it’s no use to them they can make political hay by destroying it. It’s no consolation that some time later someone will realize that an organization was needed to carry out the original organization’s task, so a replacement is created: you still lost your job and the task went undone. The only sure way forward is to build an agency that looks to its own survival before it looks to its mission statement. Just another example of evolution in action.)
    • Chapter 16, “Democracy in Action” (pp. 311-312)
  • “The HomeSec’s focus group will take one look at this and tell you to sex it up.”...
    “Why do you think that’ll be a priority?” she asks.
    “You know perfectly well why—...For the same reason they want a balanced team rather than a competent one. It doesn’t fit the cultural agenda they’re trying to impose.”
    • Chapter 18, “Cassilda’s Song” (pp. 354-355; ellipses represent elisions of description)

The Nightmare Stacks (2016)[edit]

All page numbers from the hardcover American first edition published by Ace Books ISBN 978-0-425-28119-2 (June 2016) 1st printing
All ellipses and italics as in the book
  • “Is the weather always like this?”
    “It could be worse. They could be looking at relocating to Manchester, where the locals are evolving webbed fingers and gill slits.”
    • Chapter 1, “Oh I Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside” (p. 19)
  • We, the structures we collectively refer to as “life,” are patterns of information—temporary reversals of the arrow of entropy within our universe—and conscious minds are the most concentrated such patterns we know of.
    • Chapter 3, “The Gathering Storm” (p. 51)
  • There’s always some idiot who thinks that after the revolution they’ll be the one sitting on top of the hill of corpses, dining on caviar served out of a bowl made from a chromed baby’s skull.
    • Chapter 3, “The Gathering Storm” (pp. 53-54)
  • Let’s say they get speech, and they got theory of mind, so they get religion pretty soon, too—an emergent side effect of ascribing intentionality to aspects of their environment. Animism, polytheism, whatever. They probably discover ritual magic pretty fast because their brains are predisposed to modeling complex entities. Abstract thinking.
    • Chapter 5, “The Doom That Came to Harehills” (p. 94)
  • “Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence or overwork?” Alex asks, rising.
    “Something like that. But there’s a point at which sufficient incompetence is malice.”
    • Chapter 7, “Meet Cute” (p. 116)
  • In Agent First’s world, the ineluctable law of power is that you rule or you die.
    To Agent First, the puppet show of democracy that Cassie believes in is obviously a child’s tissue of attractive lies, set before the cattle to enable the secret rulers to dominate them without fear of uprisings.
    • Chapter 7, “Meet Cute” (p. 130)
  • This is the Forecasting Operations Department, where one is supposed to imagine that crystal-ball gazing precognitives may or may not tickle the tummy of Schrödinger’s cat while juggling ampoules full of hydrogen cyanide and giggling madly at the whirling fog bank of the uncertain future.
    • Chapter 8, “Interlude: Invaders Massing” (pp. 145-146)
  • Her heart pounds. Dating, with its conventions of multiple social encounters as a prelude to fucking, seems absurdly complex to her, like cooking your own food rather than having servants and poison-testers prepare it for you.
    • Chapter 9, “Alex in Love” (p. 152)
  • She has only warped second-hand memories of motion pictures, none of them her own. It seems like a fantastically unproductive use of her time with Alex, staring vacantly at an elaborate visual lie.
    • Chapter 9, “Alex in Love” (p. 152)
  • Y2K was a real end-of-civilization problem. And the people who could deal with it treated it as such, working flat-out on disaster management for the last year-long countdown. With the result that the end-of-the-world scenario didn’t happen…causing everyone not directly involved to conclude that it was a false alarm.
    • Chapter 12, “La Cage Aux Folles” (p. 217)
  • We’re from the Ministry of Defense: our sense of humor is surgically excised at birth.
    • Chapter 14, “The Nightmare Stacks” (p. 250)
  • “What happens if we don’t do this?”
    “I don’t know. Probably we don’t die. I mean, maybe probably. Possibly maybe probably.”
    • Chapter 17, “State of Siege” (p. 312)
  • She’s very good at misdirection, he thinks proudly. The Civil Service has a term for this art: being economical with the truth.
    • Chapter 18, “Scorpion Stare” (p. 324)
  • You keep invoking some God but I don’t think he’s listening right now.
    • Chapter 19, “Asylum” (p. 368)
  • It’s all he can do to refrain from prayer. God probably doesn’t want to know what he’s doing here this morning, a borderline accomplice to evil in service to a greater cause.
    • Chapter 19, “Asylum” (p. 370)

The Delirium Brief (2017)[edit]

All page numbers from the hardcover first edition published by Tor ISBN 978-0-7653-9466-8 (July 2017) 1st printing
All italics as in the book
  • When they went looking for someone to represent the agency in public and picked me, they weren’t just scraping the bottom of the barrel, they were fracking for oil in the basement.
    • Chapter 1, “The Prodigal’s Return” (p. 13)
  • Mhari looks at me. I look at her. “No comment,” we chorus in unison. Then I add, “We’re just the performing monkeys; if you want a policy statement you’ll need to send the organ grinder a memo.”
    • Chapter 1, “The Prodigal’s Return” (p. 14)
  • Apparently you’re only allowed to demolish Wolverhampton if you’re a property developer like Donald Trump. Crawling eldritch horrors don’t get planning permission unless they’re Trump’s hairpiece.
    • Chapter 1, “The Prodigal’s Return” (p. 16)
  • Mo used to be a troubleshooter: whenever the organization had a spot of trouble she shot it until it stopped twitching.
    • Chapter 1, “The Prodigal’s Return” (p. 17)
  • But all these mitigating techniques have severe drawbacks, and as a result there are old ritual magicians, and there are bold ritual magicians, but there are no old, bold magicians. They don’t survive, and they tend to have unique skill sets, thereby defeating the first principle of bureaucracy: that nobody is indispensable.
    • Chapter 1, “The Prodigal’s Return” (p. 23)
  • The iron law of bureaucracy doesn’t help: everybody working to ensure that the organization continues to pay them a salary, rather than necessarily achieving its objectives.
    • Chapter 1, “The Prodigal’s Return” (p. 24)
  • Governments are machines for producing and implementing legal frameworks.
    • Chapter 2, “The Comstock Office is Closing” (p. 44)
  • And because this is now a political problem, the usual political syllogism applies:
(a) is a problem: Something Must Be Done,
(b) is Something,
Therefore (b) Must Be Done.
  • Chapter 2, “The Comstock Office is Closing” (p. 44)
  • “No, Bob,” she says tiredly, “mutually assured destruction is not a reasonable basis for a marriage. Sooner or later one of us will get overstressed, there’ll be an argument, and it’ll be the kind of domestic that starts with thrown crockery and levels up to grenade launchers.”
    • Chapter 2, “The Comstock Office is Closing” (p. 51)
  • I don’t understand exactly what she thinks we need to talk about, but maybe that’s half the problem.
    • Chapter 2, “The Comstock Office is Closing” (p. 52)
  • I don’t get enough practice at killing people to not feel bad about it; I hope I never do, although that’s looking like a forlorn wish these days.
    • Chapter 2, “The Comstock Office is Closing” (p. 68)
  • I hate guns. I can use them, but I don’t like being around them; they add this terrible random-act-of-no-god-at-all angle to any fight. Bang, you’re dead, even if you weren’t the person the shooter was aiming for, even if it’s an accidental discharge.
    • Chapter 2, “The Comstock Office is Closing” (p. 73)
  • Listen, there’s nothing corrupt about it. At least there’s nothing provably corrupt about the way outsourcing contracts are handled. That’s because corruption is defined in narrow terms to nail the poor deluded fool who slips a £20 note inside the cover of their passport before handing it to the Border Force officer who is checking travel documents with a CCTV camera looking over her shoulder. There’s nothing corrupt about the government minister who announces new and impossible performance targets for a hitherto just-about-coping agency that manages transport infrastructure, drives it into a smoking hole in the ground, and three years later retires and joins the board of the corporation that subsequently took over responsibility for maintaining all the bridges on behalf of the state—for a tidy annual fee, of course. After all, the minister is a demonstrable expert on the ownership and management of bridges, and there’s no provable link between their having set up the agency for failure and their subsequently being granted a nonexecutive directorship that gets them their share of the rental income from the privatized bridge, is there?
    All of this happens very discreetly. Air gaps, Chinese walls, and plausible deniability are baked into the process. But the general pattern is out in the open for those with eyes to see.
    First, identify a department with an essential function or significant capital assets on the books. Second, define ambitious performance targets they can’t possibly meet with the resources available, hire a bunch of nonexec directors to “provide valuable insights from the private sector” to the board, and in case that’s not enough, cut the budget until they fail to perform. Third, the minister moves on and a new minister parachutes in, with lots of heroic rhetoric about radical change and accountability. Fourth, the nonexec directors leave, returning to their private sector posts with the large outsourcing company they originally came from, taking with them everything they’ve learned about how the agency is run. Fifthly and finally, the work is put out to public tender, and the usual outsourcing contractors, who now know how the agency works in intimate detail, make a – surprise! – winning bid. Finally, the usual suspects show up on the golf course a year or two later and buy trebles all around.
    What greases the wheels is that the capital assets managed by the agency are transferred to the new owners, thus taking them off the government’s books, thereby thinning the property portfolio the Crown can borrow against. It looks good to get all that debt off the balance sheet. Meanwhile, tax revenue continues to roll in and some of it is now siphoned off to rent back the former government assets.
    You might think, “That’s insanely inefficient!” and you would be right. But you’re not seeing it through the wonderful rose-tinted lenses of high finance. Viewed in the right light, a little sprinkle of free market pixie dust can turn the drabbest of public sector services (sewerage, for example) into a rainbow-hued profit unicorn.
    • Chapter 4, “Termination” (pp. 119-120)
  • GP services (and other companies) have been lobbying Congress to privatize the US Postal Service for years now. There are any number of beneficiaries: the private parcel carrier services, the phone and cable networks and internet service providers, and the obvious corporate interests who can do without the nonprofit competition. And there are any number of politicians who can make political hay by being seen to cut government spending on a basic infrastructure service that doesn’t turn a profit and that isn’t able to defend itself politically. Nothing has officially happened yet – the inertia of the US government is astonishing – but it’s obvious that the fix is in: too many people want the post office to die.
    • Chapter 4, “Termination” (p. 121)
  • Well, incoming fire has right of way, as they say.
    • Chapter 5, “Breakout” (p. 160)
  • I’ve finally done it, I’ve broken something that shouldn’t have been broken, and I’m really not sure who the monsters are anymore.
    • Chapter 5, “Breakout” (p. 176)
  • He’s found a teapot and milk and is brewing up, because that’s what the English do when they’ve just broken out of military prison one jump ahead of murderous assassins from an alien death god cult, then survived being shot at by a main battle tank.
    • Chapter 5, “Breakout” (p. 177)
  • It’s insane, but no more insane than Japan shutting down its entire nuclear reactor fleet in the middle of a heat wave because an extreme tsunami washed over one plant, or the USA invading a noninvolved Middle Eastern nation because a gang of crazies from somewhere else knocked down two skyscrapers. In a sufficiently large crisis, sane and measured responses go out the window.
    • Chapter 6, “Party Planners” (pp. 195-196)
  • Mhari consults her conscience and takes another step into the twilight borderland between bending the rules and breaking them.
    • Chapter 6, “Party Planners” (p. 201)
  • It’s the sort of Maxwell Smart hack that used to cost the CIA black budget half a billion to develop in the ’60s but is off-the-shelf from a Chinese toy factory these days.
    • Chapter 6, “Party Planners” (p. 209)
  • Lord Acton said power corrupts, but PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.
    • Chapter 7, “Audition for Apocalypse” (p. 233)
  • What are the consequences when the government, the media, and the leaders of commerce all speak with one voice? Why, it means that if you hold opinions other than the ones you are told to, you are out of step, and if so, it is best to bite your tongue and be silent. The most efficient kind of censorship isn’t the heavy-handed black inking of the secret policeman: it’s the self-censorship we impose on ourselves when we’re afraid that if we say what we think everyone around us will think us strange.
    • Chapter 10, “A Very British Coup” (p. 317)

The Labyrinth Index (2018)[edit]

All page numbers from the hardcover first edition published by Tor ISBN 978-1-250-19608-8 (October 2018) 1st printing
All italics as in the book
  • Venous blood isn’t really blue. In lipstick terms it’s dark plum, not crimson gloss.
    • Chapter 1, “God Save the King” (p. 13)
  • “We need to deal with the Jews, you know,” Fabian confides, then pauses dramatically.
    This is new and unwelcome, and more than somewhat worrying. (I knew the PM held some rather extreme views, but this level of forthright anti-Semitism is unexpected.) “May I ask why?” I ask hesitantly.
    “I’d have thought it was obvious!” He sniffs. “All that charitable work. Loaves and fishes, good Samaritans, y’know. Sermon on the Mount stuff. Can’t be doing with it—”
    Beside me, Chris Womack risks interrupting his flow: “Don’t you mean Christians, sir?”
    “—And all those suicide bombers. Blowing people up in the name of their god, but can’t choke down a bacon roll. Can’t be doing with them: you mark my words, they’ll have to be dealt with!”
    Across the room, Vikram Choudhury nearly swallows his tongue. Chris persists: “But those are Mus—”
    “—All Jews!” the Prime Minister snaps. “They’re just the same from where I’m standing.” His expression is one of tight-lipped disapproval—then I blink, and in the time it takes before my eyelids open again, I forget his face. He sips delicately from his teacup, pinky crooked, then explains his thinking. “Christians, Muslims, Jews—they say they’re different religions, but you mark my words, they all worship the same god, and you know what that leads to if you let it fester. Monotheism is nothing but trouble—unless the one true god is me, of course.”
    • Chapter 1, “God Save the King” (p. 19)
  • The British ruling class was never noted for its expertise in haut cuisine. Rumors that they conquered a quarter of the planet in search of a decent meal cannot be discounted.
    • Chapter 1, “God Save the King” (p. 27)
  • A current generation smartphone is more powerful than a 1991 supercomputer.
    • Chapter 1, “God Save the King” (p. 37)
  • Story of my life. I wasted nearly a decade before I realized that life is not a game and there are no save points or second chances.
    • Chapter 1, “God Save the King” (p. 40)
  • Shopping is the true religion of Middle America, and this Walmart is the most eclectic of mega-churches, perpetually understaffed and a bit unkempt, with stock flowing off the shelves and piles of stripped packaging forming cardboard snow drifts in corners.
    • Chapter 2, “Morning in America” (pp. 54-55)
  • I’ve never been so frightened for somebody in my life: I felt totally powerless. You can’t punch extradimensional parasites out of your boyfriend’s brain.
    • Chapter 6, “Leviathan’s Representative” (p. 193)
  • The Republic of Mhari contains five thousand times more cells than there are humans on earth, but is somehow both more and less than the sum of her parts. If all those cells die, then I am, by definition, dead. But the relationship between cell-citizens and the Republic of Me is less obvious than you might think.
    At any point in time some of my cells are dying and being replaced, and the me that exist today consists almost entirely of different cells from the me of a couple of years ago—although I’m still me. But if you were to separate all my cells and then keep them alive in a mad scientist’s test-tube collection, I’d be dead, though all my bits live on. The Republic of Self can be dissolved, or taken over in a coup, or drastically reformed. I harbor this illusion of unitary identity—but in reality I’m what biologists call a superorganism, a swarm, and ensemble entity. I am not me: I am Hobbes’s Leviathan, or Leviathan’s Representative.
    • Chapter 6, “Leviathan’s Representative” (p. 195)
  • He’s had a lot of practice helping families suffering from experiences that are simultaneously mundane and far more horrifying than anything in a movie: deaths from cancer and dementia, the loss of babies and young children, that sort of thing.
    • Chapter 7, “Critical-Path Dependencies” (p. 199)
  • Contingency time is useless wasted time, right until you need it.
    • Chapter 8, “A Game of Vampires” (p. 236)
  • History is written by the survivors, a narrative they compose to explain events to themselves. So the historicity of journals like this one—their accuracy and authenticity—is a function of the reliability of the narrator.
    • Chapter 8, “A Game of Vampires” (p. 244)
  • His Infernal Majesty leans towards me confidingly. “You have imposter syndrome,” He says, “but paradoxically, that’s often a sign of competence. Only people who understand their work well enough to be intimidated by it can be terrified by their own ignorance. It’s the opposite of Dunning-Kruger syndrome, where the miserably incompetent think they’re on top of the job because they don’t understand it.”
    • Chapter 9, “Mhari’s Big Day” (pp. 260-261)
  • “Yes-yes!” Jon bounces up and down on the balls of her feet.
    “How much coffee did we have this morning?” Pete asks, suspicion dawning.
    “All of it!”
    Brains absorbs this fact slowly. The room he and Pete shared didn’t come with a filter machine, but there was an industrial-sized one in the motel lobby. If Jon drank the entire jug—
    “How many times did you refill it?” asks Pete.
    “Only three times! It kept running out!”
    Brains glances at the vicar. “Are we going to need a tranquilizer dart?” he murmurs.
    • Chapter 9, “Mhari’s Big Day” (p. 273)
  • Anxiety loves company almost as much as misery.
    • Chapter 10, “Flight Plan” (p. 296)
  • I’m not a politician, even though I play-act one when the boss tells me to—I’m allowed to change my mind when my understanding of the facts changes.
    • Chapter 10, “Flight Plan” (p. 301)
  • American cops are so heavily militarized these days that the only way I can tell the difference between them and the army is the color of their body armor—that, and the army is less trigger-happy.
    • Chapter 11, “A Dead God Did It and Ran Away” (p. 321)
  • We’re enveloped by a cortege of motorcycle outriders and blacked-out SUVs so ostentatious that Her Majesty would die of embarrassment if they tried it on her back home. We are so visible I have to fight the urge to crouch down in my seat—but then I realize here in DC your importance is telegraphed by the size of the gridlock in your wake.
    • Chapter 11, “A Dead God Did It and Ran Away” (p. 332)
  • I’ve known all along I’m not qualified for this—it’s not really imposter syndrome if you really are a fake.
    • Chapter 11, “A Dead God Did It and Ran Away” (p. 347)
  • Apocalypses are easier slept through than experienced.
    • Epilogue, “Debrief” (p. 360)

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