Premise: during World War II, secret research into occult science proceeded much along the lines of atomic bomb or cryptography research. Alan Turing “cracked the code” that permitted interaction with beings in parallel universes – demons and Lovecraftian horrors, pretty much. Some of these beings are very interested in humans (for not-so-nice reasons) and certain demonological tricks can quickly go south, even in the hands of trained scientists. So, the research has been kept a strict secret protected by an MI5-like entity called The Laundry; anyone in the public who happens to stumble upon the (horrific) truth is forcibly drafted into Laundry service.
1st story: Well, the Nazis also were researching such things, and some remnant actually escaped to one of these other universes. A massive energy-guzzling entity in that universe kind of fouled up their plans though and is now trying to break through to our tasty, energy-rich universe…
2nd story: There’s some secret hijacking of closed circuit TV systems which melds in some medusa-like qualities, turning cameras into deadly weapons.
Kind of some crazy stuff, but entertaining enough for a cross-country flight!
In the afterword, Stross mentioned an early reviewer asking if he had ever read “Declare” by Tim Powers. Stross hadn’t. I have; and there are some surface similarities — Cold War spy stuff tangled up with Lovecraftian horrors and the like — but I don’t think too similar beyond premise. Reminded me of when I read “Declare” (years before this blog started) and also the reason I read it – because one of another Tim Powers book, “The Anubis Gates” which I still think is one of my most favorite stories of all time. Just wanted to mention that!