On My Shelves: The Delirium Brief


In the prior Laundry Files novel, The Nightmare Stacks, the UK was invaded by a desperate army of super-Nazi magic-wielding Elves. Fortunately, the army was defeated when the innocent young vampire (er, sorry, PHANG) agent captured the heart of the Elven Princess and the two of them defeated her Evil Stepmother and Evil Overlord Father, thus making her the All-Highest.

Of course, all this troperiffic goodness was filtered through the twisted nature of the Laundryverse, but still, it was surprisingly upbeat; eldritch horrors notwithstanding, it ended with love conquering all, at least for a moment.

Unfortunately that moment is past, and Bob Howard's back. Specifically, he's back in the position of his former boss, James Angleton, a DSS (officially Detached Special Secretary, more realistically Deeply Scary Sorcerer) known also as the Eater of Souls. Bob's inherited the power and nature of the Eater of Souls, which while a very useful thing to have if you're surrounded by other eldritch horrors out to eat your soul is not conducive to making your wife feel safe to sleep in the same room, or even building, with you.

Bob's been chosen to be the "face" for the Laundry in the aftermath of the Elven Nazi Invasion because he actually wasn't present for it. Thus, he is "clean" – they can't hang any of the blame for the event on him. So Mhari (his not-quite-so-psycho ex and now a major player in the Laundry) is set to put him on camera on the most-watched news program in the UK, to be interviewed by Jeremy Paxo, a hard-hitting and ratings-hungry news personality.

Right away alarm bells start ringing in Bob's head. Jeremy's wearing a ward, a very high-powered ward indeed, and a civilian like him shouldn't have one. Moreover, the questions he asks soon show that he has information that was supposed to be secret – information he's now broadcasting to the world, such as the fact that the All-Highest has requested asylum for herself and her people.

Something's rotten in the state of the UK, and someone's playing games in the Laundry's own bailiwick.

And things are about to get so very much worse. As readers, the first hint of how much worse we get is a briefing where it's mentioned that the Laundry has a plan called PLAN TITANIC, with all that implies… and then we see that Reverend Schiller is arriving in London.

Yes, THAT Reverend Schiller, the main antagonist of The Apocalypse Codex, a follower of the Lovecraftian monstrosity called The Sleeper in the Pyramid who uses a twisted televangelist version of Christianity plus a truly horrific mind-control parasite infection to build a cult to serve him in bringing the Sleeper's reign to the world. Bob Howard, along with BASHFUL INCENDIARY and JOHNNY PRINCE, had stopped his attempt to take over the United States and the world previously, and Schiller was thought to be dead.

He got better, apparently. And this is only the beginning.













Schiller and his allies have already initiated their plans to start corporate "outsourcing" hostile takeovers of other paranormal-wise agencies in the U.S., and are bringing this plan to the UK – immediately in the wake of the invasion disaster which has made the Laundry look both unprepared and ineffective.

It doesn't take long for the government to dissolve the Laundry as currently constituted, paving the way for a privately-contracted replacement – which Schiller intends to provide.

The government does not quite grasp what kind of a disaster they are setting in motion. The Laundry's operations have depended on magically-enforced oaths of office and other geases that all are linked to their official nature as agents of the Crown. By dissolving the department, they break the oaths. Not only do the tools of the typical Laundry agent (such as their "warrant cards" that can appear as any appropriate identification) stop working, but all the gray and black ops assets are suddenly cut off, and some of their controls and seals weakened.

The UK is now nearly defenseless against supernatural threats… and one of the largest threats is already there.

Once the disaster ball starts rolling, The Delirium Brief kicks into high gear as all the members of the Laundry scramble to keep ahead of those who intend to arrest them – or worse. The last-ditch "lifeboat" plan does allow them to re-activate a core of Laundry personnel and resources, but only a small one, dependent on using methods and materiel that they've managed to keep hidden from the authorities.

But as Schiller's plans gain momentum and his influence increases, it becomes terrifyingly clear that there may be no simple way to stop him. They may have to make a deal with another devil in order to stop the Sleeper from becoming manifest on Earth.

This book is a whipsaw after the prior novel. With CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN in full swing, the Laundry's collapse and Schiller's reappearance are a double gut-punch of "oh, shit" for anyone who's followed the series, and the desperate scramble for everyone trying to find a way to survive and recover at least some of the pieces is heart-wrenching. Bob and Mo manage to try to patch up some of their problems, but by the end of The Delirium Brief it's not clear that there is a way to patch it up, because of the bargain that has had to be struck in order to prevent the Sleeper from gaining parasitic dominion over the Earth.

The problem is that if you make a bargain with an eldritch horror that's powerful enough to make the Sleeper back off… how are you going to keep that eldritch horror from conquering the world in its stead?

Admittedly, things are not entirely hopeless. For one thing, there's still Bob Howard. If there's anything we've learned from following Bob's adventures, it's this: Bob constantly underestimates himself, and then plays down his abilities and knowledge even when he, personally, isn't underestimating them. It may be that even the Lovecraftian being they've called upon to protect them might not be able to laugh off the Eater of Souls… especially if said Eater of Souls thinks that Dominique O'Brien is in danger.

And there is still Mo herself; we don't know exactly what Mo can do now, but it seems highly doubtful she is entirely human any more, despite the loss of her combat violin. There are still the superheroes out there. And Mhari, who is not a little badass herself (and boy, does SHE get a moment of awesome in this one!). BASHFUL INCENDIARY and JOHNNY PRINCE aren't out of the picture. And, not least, there is still Alex and Cassie the All-Highest.

But boy, that ending does make you worry about just how far down into the DARK we are going.

I await the next with eagerness… and trepidation.


Your comments or questions welcomed!