April 26th, 2011

Rivers Of London / Moon Over Soho - Ben Aaronovitch

I wasn't going to read Rivers Of London based on the free Kindle extract, but was told it got better, so I bought it (on t'Kindle), and it does.
Being an urban fantasy ('it's set in a city and it didn't happen' (c) C. Mieville) set in London it invites comparison with Kraken but without the 'everything including the kitchen sink' factor. I was also reminded quite strongly of the novels by Anton Strout which are set in New York. Maybe they could have a cross-over :-)
As you know, professor, I have an aesthetic objection to urban fantasy where the magic is too science-like and orderly - unless magic is explicitly science in the manner of the Laundry novels. Another aesthetic objection I have is where the magic is on such a large scale that it seems that half the people in the world are in on it. These two novels both just come the right side of the boundary on both these counts - the magic is initially codified by Isaac Newton and essentially seems to be what those of us of a certain age would call 'psionics' i.e. it is essentially a mental power which can be learned, albeit slowly and (at least in the first book) only with a mentor. There are also ghosts, vampires and spirits of the rivers of London - Father Thames, Mother Thames and various tributaries e.g. Beverley Brook, Ash, Ty, Brent etc.
When the book starts, our hero is a probationary policeman (from an ethnic minority) and not destined for a glorious future in the Met. He sees a ghost who tells him useful things about a bizarre murder, then goes back to see the ghost, sees a Met inspector who he tells, without knowing that he is an inspector that he is looking for a ghost, and thereby gets recruited into the Met's unit for dealing with such things. Unlike the Strout there is only one person in the unit, the inspector, though other people, notably one pathologist are in on the secret to a greater or lesser extent.
The books are both quite witty, the first rather better than the second. He is obviously digging in for a long series (number 3 can already be preordered on Amazon) and there is definitely magic creep - more people are in on it, things seem to be on a bigger scale, and using the power seems to be easier so I slightly fear the worst.
I suspect that like most British crime novelists it is written with about 1.99 eyes on a TV adaption.