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Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
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Rivers of London (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Ben Aaronovitch

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1,8341763,804 (3.94)371
Member:aliena0811
Title:Rivers of London
Authors:Ben Aaronovitch
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Collections:Your library, Currently borrowed by others
Rating:****
Tags:2012

Work details

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (2011)

  1. 230
    Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (riverwillow)
    riverwillow: Both 'Neverwhere' and 'Rivers of London' (US title 'Midnight Riot') evoke a magical fairy tale London which sometimes feels more authentic then any real life guide to the city.
  2. 202
    Storm Front by Jim Butcher (majkia)
    majkia: both involve paranormal mystery and smart-ass dialog.
  3. 61
    A Madness of Angels: Or, the Resurrection of Matthew Swift by Kate Griffin (TheDivineOomba)
    TheDivineOomba: Same Location, similar themes. Both Capture the essence of London.
  4. 62
    The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: It's difficult to explain this recommendation without giving spoilers to one or other of the books. There were certain plot elements to Rivers of London/Midnight Riots which made me think of The Big Over Easy. And both books have a well-developed sense of humour.… (more)
  5. 30
    The Rook by Daniel O'Malley (Rubbah)
  6. 20
    Archer's Goon by Diana Wynne Jones (LongDogMom)
    LongDogMom: The way that the river spirits are characterized is similar to the characters in Archer's Goon. Same feel/style.
  7. 20
    Rule 34 by Charles Stross (fhprice)
    fhprice: Besides the urban setting and police procedural genre similarities, both have protagonists with a snarky "we're just cogs making witty observations about the machine" voices. Wicked humor.
  8. 20
    King Rat by China Miéville (mikewilliams64)
    mikewilliams64: London urban fantasy with malevolent magic in the wings. Sharp contemporary horror from the beginning of Mieville's career
  9. 10
    Stray Souls by Kate Griffin (LongDogMom)
    LongDogMom: Both are a bit quirky, set in London, and deal with the spirits of things, magic and murder.
  10. 32
    Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: Both books have a certain dark British humour to them.
  11. 10
    Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire (Mav.Weirdo)
  12. 10
    The New York Magician by Jacob Zimmerman (LongDogMom)
    LongDogMom: Both books have a similar way of portraying Gods and Powers and both are urban fantasy/mysteries
  13. 00
    No Hero by Jonathan Wood (Rouge2507)
    Rouge2507: Similar: British policeman fights against the supernatural
  14. 00
    Nightfall by Stephen Leather (agneson9)
    agneson9: features supernatural/paranormal side of London
  15. 11
    Never the Bride by Paul Magrs (jonathankws)
  16. 66
    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (jonathankws)
    jonathankws: Both books feature an apparent normal world where magic takes place behind the scenes.
  17. 00
    The Memory of Blood by Christopher Fowler (hairball)
    hairball: Two books with Punch & Judy-themed murders--must be something in the water in London.
  18. 00
    The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell (LongDogMom)
    LongDogMom: Both series feature British police who deal with supernatural crime and both are more creative and well written than the average urban fantasy
  19. 01
    Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding (Alliebadger)
  20. 02
    Embers by Laura Bickle (thewalkinggirl)
    thewalkinggirl: Both series have smart heroes who are more likely to use their brains than their powers to solve problem and both series make good use of mythology.

(see all 20 recommendations)

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Showing 1-5 of 172 (next | show all)
A unique book showcasing multicultural London as the main character featuring much of her history, geography, associated Britishisms, pop. culture references and slang. I'm surprised non-Brits (or even non-Londoners) didn't give this a lower rating for all that they didn't understand because I'm a Brit and there were a couple I didn't get. A basic map and a glossary would've been helpful, I think.

Having a mixed race protagonist instantly put this book in my good graces being mixed race myself, although I was a little disappointed Peter's mother wasn't Afro-Caribbean, like mine. Thankfully, he's not mixed race in name only as his race was referred to consistently throughout without becoming unnecessarily repetitive. Another thing broadcasting loud and clear was Peter's manliness. Refreshingly, he's most definitely male with urges, sexual thoughts and erections just like the next man. No shying away from, or sanitisation of, his sexuality here.

'I was fighting the urge to fling myself down to my knees before her and put my face between her breasts and go blubby, blubby, blubby. When she offered me a seat I was so hard it was painful to sit down.'

'I dreamed that I was sharing my bed with Lesley May and Beverley Brook, both lithe and naked on either side of me, but it wasn't nearly as erotic as it should've been because I didn't dare embrace one for fear that I'd mortally offend the other.'

Peter's charmingly colourful London copper voice had me visualising Gerry from New Tricks reading this to me. Immediately Peter Grant drew me into his interesting and fun narration, increasing my excitement and anticipation for what I thought could be a 5-star awesome book.

'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.'

However, with an ultra realistic background, magic seemed incongruous, inconspicuous and surreal in comparison. Ghosts and vampires appeared normal to me, it was the river spirits I couldn't get a handle on. Magic itself, I gradually accepted although to begin with it was an oddly unsubstantiated concept because Nightingale refused to elaborate, purposely keeping Peter in the dark about everything magic-related which was super frustrating. I couldn't believe in something I didn't understand. Apparently, Newton made pioneering breakthroughs in magic at the same time he did science as they're both inextricably linked, which we observe during Peter's rigorous experiments into how magic use damages all technology in its vicinity.

"Well the second, murdering gent, he puts on a cap and a red jacket and he brings out his stick and as quietly and swiftly as a snoozer in a lodging house he comes up behind the first gent and knocks his head clean off."
"You're having me on," I said.
"No, I'm never," said Nicholas, and crossed himself. "I swear on my own death, and that's as solemn a swear as a poor shade can give. It was a terrible sight. Off came his head and up went the blood."

A nod to [a:Laurell K. Hamilton|9550|Laurell K. Hamilton|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1352276598p2/9550.jpg] was made via the intriguing [b:Anita Blake|30281|Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #1)|Laurell K. Hamilton|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1309206550s/30281.jpg|3349934]-like horror scenes, a welcome distraction from the magic. I ate them up and wanted more. Aaronovitch had to have been a fan at one stage because his crime scenes are reminiscent of the way LKH wrote hers. I did wonder if the vagina dentata was a surruptitious comment on the way her series devolved over time, though I think I'm reaching with that one since the owner of that vagina seemed to have targeted a rapist.

'Somebody was screaming and I had to check it wasn't me. It could've been me. I certainly wanted to scream, but I remembered that, right then and there, Lesley and I were the only coppers on the scene, and the public doesn't like it when the police start screaming: it contributes to an impression of things not being conducive to the public calm. I got to my feet and found that we'd attracted a crowd of onlookers.
"Ladies and gentlemen," I said, "police business. I need you to stand back."
The crowd stood back - being covered in blood can have that effect on people.'

Eerily, this was published only 7 months before the 2011 London riots and yet the author got the riot behaviour and media reactions down pat. Yes, the Daily Mail did have field day, the resulting reasons they came up with being basically this:

"Because who is more oppressed? Those that seek nothing but entitlements for themselves, or those that claim for everything: social security, housing benefit, disability, and pay for nothing?" [...] [redacted] must either be using stuff from [redacted]'s memory or else had been reading the Daily Mail for the last two hundred years.

Excellent social commentary, idiosyncrasies of specific groups and observations on current tensions mixed with the studious Newtonian science, history and geography would make Rivers of London a prime candidate for study in schools and universities.

'It's a myth that Londoners are oblivious to one another on the tube: we're hyper-aware of each other and are constantly revising our what-if scenarios and counter strategies. What if that suavely handsome yet ethnic young man asks me for money? Do I give or refuse? If he makes a joke do I respond, and if so will it be a shy smile or a guffaw? [...] If he opens his jacket and yells 'God is great', will I make it down the other end of the carriage in time?'

'People are conditioned by the media to think that black women are all shouting and head-shaking and girlfriending and 'oh, no you didn't', and if they;re not sassy then they're dignified and downtrodden and soldiering on and 'I don't understand why folks just can't get along'. But if you see a black woman go quiet the way Tyburn did, the eyes bright, the lips straight and the face still as a death mask, you have made an enemy for life: do not pass go, do not collect two hundred quid.' [LOL. My mother does this.]

"I just wanted to talk to someone who could speak English properly. I went on holiday to Bavaria last summer and everyone spoke English really well. I bring my kids down to the West End and everyone's foreign. I don't understand a word they're saying." [A common complaint]

Aaronovitch mentions Waterstone's book shops, his ex-employer (and mine, high-five!) but the punctuation actually dates the book as pre-2012 because it's now 'Watersones', no apostrophe. (This dumbing down, eh? Tut, tut). Speaking of dated, two women owned Nokia phones. The likelihood of that is pretty low, even now with the Lumia. Nokias were popular in the early noughties when pretty much everyone owned one, including myself. Now, it's all about smartphones: the iPhone, Samsung and HTC, and yet nobody owned one? The slang and pop. culture references also date this work. You could certainly call this book a dedication to it's era, circa early 2000s.

Perhaps I'm nitpicking and taking this book too seriously, and yet I’m about to take it to a new level.


*Puts feminist hat on.*


Disproportionate gender treatment isn't something I usually notice in fiction. Here, it was abundantly clear women are to be feared, lusted after or victimised and used whereas Nightingale and Peter are painted as the 'good guys' who can do no wrong but, where are the strong, positive female characters?

Let's go through some examples:

✺ Molly. Mute throughout the whole book, is a vampire and is feared at one point and a sex object in another (in the nude painting), and also happens to be a housekeeper.

✺ Lesley. Sex object. Victim as her body is possessed and used and then she's critically disfigured, then saved and will now be receiving facial reconstructive surgery. Used regularly as a dogsbody by Peter. I say 'dogsbody' because she rarely asks for anything return and it appears Peter is her only friend and vice versa, so she's like a doormat because she never says "no, do it yourself". Where's the give and take in that relationship?

✺ Stephanopolous(sp?). Painted as the much feared butch lesbian senior cop. Stereotype much?

✺ Mama Thames (Nigerian river spirit). Sex object. Her power is to be feared.

✺ Beverley Brook (Nigerian river spirit). Sex object, used as a hostage and means of transportation and communication.

✺ Tyburn (Nigerian river spirit). Feared. Acts like a mob boss, and while Peter never calls her a bitch, that's what is implied/inferred.

✺ Peter's mum. Wife of an addict, 'nuff said.

✺ Cinema woman. She assaulted a cinema employee, and while not her fault this essentially turns her into a victim of possession.

✺ Mrs Coopertown and her baby. Murdervictims.


I enjoyed the references to places I knew well like Euston station, Forbidden Planet and Waterstones; to authors like [a:John William Polidori|26932|John William Polidori|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1206804357p2/26932.jpg] and [a:Oscar Wilde|3565|Oscar Wilde|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1357460488p2/3565.jpg] (although I felt his mention white-washed over his awful criminal conviction for homosexuality by calling it a 'public nuisance' - Grr!), both of which wrote gothic horror in London settings, if I remember correctly.

Mistakes, inconsistencies and continuity errors marred my experience a little, for example:

Nicholas Wallpenny became Thomas Wallpenny at one point.

➛ Dr John Polidari became Dr John Polidori which confused me at first.

➛ Peter's designated department switched to Nightingale's without explanation. Nightingale had no way of knowing Peter had had contact with the Wallpenny ghost because later it's explained this ghost never had contact with Nightingale, and Peter never named the ghost to that police officer (who thought he was crazy) at the beginning so I doubt he passed the info on. So, how and why would Peter be placed in the Folly (magic department) without any basis for it?

Small things, I suppose. It sucks to be observant sometimes. This wasn't one of those books I could allow my brain to switch off with if I wanted to enjoy the educational lessons provided. As I said before, I really enjoyed the beginning, gradually becoming slower paced and less interesting when I skimmed and skipped around a bit. There was much potential there for high ratings but, for me, it didn't quite deliver, though I can still appreciate much of the book for it's uniquely entertaining voice, ethnically diverse characters, spot on cultural observations and educational lessons - ergo 2-2½ stars. ( )
  Cynical_Ames | Sep 23, 2014 |
Very good urban fantasy mystery set in London about a young police constable who becomes the apprentice of the one-man magical department and is caught up in a swirl of ghosts, theater, murder, and revenge. It took me a bit to get immersed in the first-person Britishness, but once I did I was hooked. ( )
  egret17 | Sep 6, 2014 |
Not much to say beyond:
It's a good book, and I'm sure I'll read the others in the series (having started with #3, I may end up re-reading it when I get back to that point...).
It's magic and wizards meets crime fiction -- like Dresden Files but ... a little dryer and a little slower. It was definitely enjoyable and had a nice discussion on London :) I would recommend to people to whom the above brief description appeals.

Also, I am happy to hear that they (London people) are planning on making a tv series from the books! ( )
  avanders | Sep 2, 2014 |
It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. I found it entertaining enough, but I won’t be picking up the sequel.

Midnight Riot’s is a police procedural sort of urban fantasy, the sort I’ve been keeping an eye out for after reading London Falling earlier this year. The tag line is a familiar one: rookie cop faces bad job prospects until a mysterious murder reveals that magic is real and he has the sight. From there, Peter Grant, our narrator, is introduced to the police department in charge of all things magical. The department’s almost dead, and its only employee is Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who promptly takes Peter Grant on as an apprentice. Together with Nightingale and fellow police officer Leslie, Peter investigates the wave of unusual murders hitting London.

As I said earlier, it wasn’t all bad. There were some funny lines, and the set up of the murders were interesting. I also liked some of the detecting bits. The hero’s also mixed race, which is a change from the run of the mill urban fantasy detective. However, I had issues with the plot and pacing and some of the narration regarding women.

The mystery aspect didn’t pick up until half way through. Yes, there were murders happening, but the reaction seemed to be “Gee, look! Another dead guy with a rearranged face!” I’m not sure what sort of investigating they could have been doing at that point, but I think there needed to be something more.

I also kept assuming that the different plot threads – the mysterious murders and the feud between Father Thames and Mother Thames would come together somehow, which they didn’t. The book would have been a lot better if it integrated the two plots or just focused on the mystery instead. As it was, I think the mystery was underdeveloped.

The female characters themselves may be competent (this one’s still up for grabs), but the narration regarding the two main ones (Leslie and Beverly) was tiring. The attention kept being brought back to how sexually attractive they were, and I really didn’t need to read about how Peter had had a sexual dream or erection or whatever. There was a bit in the last chapter that was really squicky and not at all related to the plot or characters.

I’m not highly recommending this one. If you want to check it out, I’d suggest getting it from the library first.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | Aug 15, 2014 |
The background is a London which Londoners which recognise, overlaid with a Met Police which coppers will recognise.
Then there's the magic.
The magic is well constructed and nicely limited, distrusted by the police, but understood as a necessary annoyance in the weirder (wyrder?) cases.
It's a good exploration of history and criminology with a sense of mysticism connected to, and deeply entwined within, London's soul.

You don't have to be a Londoner to appreciate this story, and you will come to know it well. You'll come to know and care about the characters: living, dead and... otherwise.

If you enjoy a magical realism with a definite touch of historical fantasy, you will not be disappointed in this story. ( )
1 vote kaalalexanderrosser | Jun 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 172 (next | show all)
Sometimes There Are Men Who Get It Right This author is proof that men can actually grok the full humanity of le deuxième sexe, and write it into their fictional worlds. without having the female characters come across as either absent, ciphers, stereotypes, or sex-fantasies.

(Rivers of London/Midnight Riot, Moon Over Soho, and Whispers Under Ground) are smart, sharp, fast, witty books with a real sense of place (the place being London, if you hadn’t guessed). They’re told from the point of view of PC Peter Grant, who gets himself mixed up in some deeply Weird Shit in the opening chapters of Rivers of London—and the icing on the cake is that Peter is surrounded by a variety of women who are more competent than he is in any number of ways. And he’s okay with that.

Don’t get me wrong. Peter is still a guy, and occasionally a right arse. But the women in these books are real and human—even when they’re not. Human, that is.
added by feeling.is.first | editTor.com, Liz Bourke (Sep 11, 2012)
 

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ben Aaronovitchprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dürr, KarlheinzÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holdbrook-Smith, KobnaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?

Since sorrow never comes too late,

And happiness too swiftly flies.

Thought would destroy their paradise.

No more; where ignorance is bliss,

'Tis folly to be wise.

Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College by Thomas Gray
Dedication
In memory of Colin Ravey, because some people are too large to be contained by just the one universe.
First words
It started at one thirty on a cold Tuesday morning in January when Martin Turner, street performer and, in his own words, apprentice gigolo, tripped over a body in front of the West Portico of St Paul's at Covent Garden.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 034552425X, Mass Market Paperback)

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:38 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"As a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic"-- P. [4] of cover.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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