Author: Ben Aaronovitch | Publisher: Gollancz
Martin gave the body the ‘London once-over’ – a quick glance to determine whether this was a drunk, a crazy or a human being in distress. The fact that it was entirely possible for someone to be all three simultaneously is why good-Samaritanism in London is considered an extreme sport – like base-jumping or crocodile-wrestling.
Rivers of London had me in stitches right from the very start. It’s slick, smart and funny. It’s also properly addictive, original, and modern – in the best possible way. I loved almost everything about it.
If, like me, you’re a Londoner, you’ll find the setting for Rivers of London viscerally fascinating. It’s clearly written by someone who knows the turf, because every detail and every comment are spot on. I could vividly picture every scene. And so, when the familiar was overturned, I was right there with the characters with the feeling of a world gone topsy-turvy. It felt real because, in a sense, it is real. I found that rather clever.
I didn’t immediately take to the main character, Peter Grant. Too young. Too brash. Too “laddish”. I can generally do without a running commentary on the characters’ trouser regions, breast scanning, and attempts to find a casual bed partner. It’s the same reason I stopped reading metal biographies; it just feels a little immature to me. I’m not interested. However, once I’d got past that… I found I rather liked Peter Grant. He’s a dreamer. Funny. Smart (sometimes too smart for his own good). And a realist. I also rather liked his Mr Bean-like ability to crap up any given situation. If I was his superior officer, I’m fairly sure I’d have sent him on some sort of re-training… But it made for an amusing plot.
The story itself is fast-paced, compelling, and surprising. I thoroughly enjoyed all the twists and turns, and it kept me on the edge of my seat. I also rather liked the combination of fantasy and detective fiction; like an English, and therefore less gritty, Dresden Files. That being said, I did feel that the author took the whole “suspend disbelief” thing a little too far. Do we really believe that, on learning the supernatural is real, any sane person would just go “oh, ok, cool, can I learn magic now?”. I mean, surely, you’d be shocked. You’d have questions. And there seemed to be an awfully large number of people “in the know” when it came to this super-secret branch of the police which deals with magic…
I liked the originality of Rivers of London. It felt fresh. It was unlike anything else I’ve read; and, at the same time, had the kind of sly, referential nods that always makes the reader feel smart when they “get” them. I do think that it was a little heavy handed on the pop culture and references, and, in time, the book will probably feel all the more dated for it. That being said, living in the moment, I found it interesting. I also really enjoyed the way the history and folklore of London was laced through a very modern police procedural, and the way the interplay between magic and science was given a “rational” explanation. It was like a very well-made jigsaw puzzle.
All in all, although I felt it had a few minor issues, I thorough enjoyed Rivers of London and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one!
4 Archimedes / 5 Archimedes