purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (books)
The Moon over Soho is the second in Ben Aaronovitch's "Rivers of London" series. I enjoyed the first book a lot though I complained about the rather extended denouement. The Moon over Soho is much more satisfactorily put together in that regard and considerably less gory since the magical enemy this time around is mysteriously giving people heart attacks rather than bludgeoning their heads in. I think it is probably the more accomplished novel of the two, though it lacks the verve and surprise of the first where Aaronovitch is having a lot of fun setting up his world. D. C. Peter Grant is a likeable, yet flawed character, though one is sometimes a little surprised that some random supernatural creature hasn't eaten him for breakfast by now. Mind you, a lot of the people in the novel are clearly equally surprised about this! Unlike the Rivers of London, the novel is also busy setting up a recurring villain for the series. I was impressed with the way this was done without too obviously compromising the book's ability to stand on its own.

This time Peter does get to add improbably wish-fulfillment sex to the improbable wish-fulfillment mansion and the improbable wish-fulfillment vintage jaguar. These seem to be staples of at least a subsection of the urban crime fantasy genre (or at least what little of it I've read) but I still find it odd in a set of books which are otherwise striving to be fairly down-to-earth about their world.

I'd say these look set fair to be a good solid series of genre books, assuming you like the detective novel meets the supernatural basic set up. It's got a number of strong supporting characters, some intriguing hints at back story, a nice mash-up of British myth and history with modern multi-cultural London, and (mansion and jag notwithstanding) enough of an implicit crisis in the magical establishment to make sure the stakes are always high and the protagonist's position is not too secure and cosy.
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Ben Aaronvitch wrote the Dr Who episode Remembrance of the Daleks which catapulted classic Doctor Who into the Cartmel era. It represented a hugely dramatic shift in style to any Doctor Who that had gone before and it is difficult to evaluate it properly. I suspect to new eyes today it would look over-lit, over-earnest and self-conscious, but it did a combination of things radically differently to what had gone before, its inter-cutting between scenes and shots was much faster, it relied on the audience to do a lot of the mental legwork to join the storytelling dots, the companion was relied upon by the Doctor to act independently*, and it explicitly sought to deal with "issues" and use metaphors.

Aaronovitch went on to write novelisations of his own Dr Who episodes which were distinctly more ambitious than many of the series novelisations though not quite as stand out as the actual episodes had been. Once the series ceased, he wrote a couple of original novels the first of which I've always thought of as Aaronovitch writes William Gibson (and was incredibly controversial which says much about the reading habits of Dr Who fans) and the second of which I've always thought of as Aaronovith writes Iain Banks. Despite their incredibly derivative nature, both novels were stand outs in the range. A third original novel was hugely late, suffered from a computer crash and was eventually completely by Kate Orman - I've never personally rated that one very highly.

The upshot of all of this is that I've always thought it would be interesting to see what an Aaronovitch novel looked like when he was writing himself rather than a more famous author. I finally have my answer and I'm impressed.

Mild spoilers beneath the cut )

*The odd thing at the time was that although this was stark contrast with Doctor Who of the 1980s, the 1970s was awash with independent and resourceful companions. I've always found the 80s back-sliding in this regard very peculiar and it is difficult not assume it was related to script-editor Eric Saward's "macho" approach to storytelling. Remembrance of the Daleks comes a year after Saward's abrupt departure from the job and coincides with the new script editor, Andrew Cartmel, clearly beginning to find his stride.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (books)
The Jadepagoda mailing list had a long and agonised debate a few years back, before new Who came along and changed everything. The debate went something along the lines of "Who fans will buy any old tat with the logo on, therefore BBC books publish any old tat. If we, as Who fans, only bought the books by the authors we actually like then possibly the quality might improve and even if it didn't we wouldn't have wasted money on books we knew in advance that we wouldn't like." While I recognised the validity of this argument I couldn't quite bear the idea of not being able to say "I have every Doctor Who novel and novelisation on my bookshelf". However, I eventually, with much indecision, decided I didn't need every officially published Doctor Who Short Story on my bookshelves, especially since the "Short Trips" collections by which these were primarily published were generally rather dull and inispiring. So, with much pride, I heroically cancelled my subscription. But then I began to hear rumblings, also on Jadepagoda, that "Short Trips: Time Signature" was actually rather good. And, mostly, it is.

More including mild spoilers, though nothing I hadn't guessed after the end of the third story, under the cut )

Genius Loci

May. 9th, 2007 09:52 am
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
I just finished reading Genius Loci by Ben Aaronovitch. This has taken me over six weeks to do which sounds a bit like an appalling comment on the book, but has more to do with Gwendolen's occupation of our bedroom during the whole electrician thing. However it does tell you that the book was not sufficiently gripping to make it out of bedside reading and get taken downstairs.

Review of Genius Loci )


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