Ben Aaronovitch: ‘Rivers of London’

This book, and its follow up Moon Over Soho is billed as ‘what would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the fuzz.’ Ignore that. They are both better written books than anything Rowling has turned out. Sure, the books are decidedly post-Potter (and, come to that, post-Mieville and post-Gaiman) and even make cheeky reference to the fact from time to time, but Aaronovitch’s word craft is far superior to anything presented us in the Potter series.
The novel assumes that, in the current pop-cultural climate where Lord of the Rings, Potter, and Superhero movies have accustomed the consumer to the science fictional and fantastical, the reader is able to parse such ‘alternative worlds’ with ease, so the magic is introduced very quickly, and without the regular ‘surely this can’t be really happening’ rigmarole, into what is otherwise a sharp look at contemporary, multicultural metropolitan police culture from the point of view of a newbie copper who is thrown into (and quickly embraces) a world of visceral magic where the personified and estranged Lord and Lady of the river Thames are, respectively, an ancient carny and an immigrant nigerian suicide, where casting a glamour means an unscheduled and normally fatal face-drop, and you don’t make references to the gallows tree to the Lady Tyburn if you value your balls.
This book is just as intimately concerned with London as Mieville can be, but it romanticizes the city less. The night streets aren’t filled with dangerous but glamorous underworlds, they are filled with violent drunks, either stabbing you or puking on you. The dramatic rooves of Canary Wharf towers are swapped for grotty council estates as well as the quiet streets of Bloomsbury which sit both at the heart of London and at the heart of this book.
An absolutely excellent read which I devoured in a weekend. Sharp and very funny, yet a book which refuses to pull any punches.

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~ by Snake Oil on July 12, 2011.

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