Friday, 6 June 2014

What I've been reading: The Severed Streets, Good Omens and, *sigh* Gone with the Wind

Yay! I've been waiting for this!

So. The Severed Streets, by Paul Cornell, is the sequel to 2012's London Falling and is part of a genre that I have taken to calling the supernatural-police-procedural-set-in-London. Among this rather niche interest group, Cornell is probably my favourite as he is the darkest, most merciless, and the most likely to give you nightmares

To be more specific, both books follow the experiences of a group of Metropolitan Police Officers after the investigation of a drugs bust grants them the Sight and reveals a whole other, much scarier side, to the London they know. Their remit becomes the investigation of crimes that have 'impossible' aspects to them, 'impossible' because the suspects or motives involved concern this other, invisible London. In The Severed Streets this refers to the Ripper, a killer who travels among the protests and riots of 'The Summer of Blood', able to walk through walls, to create riots, a Jack-the-Ripper whose victims are rich, white men.

I think what I like best about these books is the powerlessness of the main characters. They are thrown into a big, terrifying supernatural world, of whose rules they know nothing, and in which the abilities they have been granted seem woefully inadequate. The real sense of fear and frustration which pervades these books makes the narrative race along with an almost hallucinatory intensity, something even more pronounced here than in London Falling. Cornell is also more openly political in this novel, clearer about his intentions and themes, better at balancing the different moods and experiences of the characters, working overall with an assurance that makes The Severed Streets far stronger than its prequel.

Still, much as I love it, I would say that the very pace of the novel can work against it. As well as telling a breakneck mystery/thriller, Cornell is constructing a very complex world - as such it is possible to get lost and confused, to miss vital bits of exposition. I would advise anyone who hasn't read London Falling to read it first, and anyone who has read it to reread it before embarking on The Severed Streets. And, if you like your crime/horror fiction intense and gruesome, I'd suggest you do so asap.

Okay, that was a long review. So, let's not talk about Gone with the Wind, suffice to say I haven't finished it yet and it doesn't look like it's getting any better. It's making me think of this parable.

Much loved, as you can see.
Indeed, on the theme of heaven and hell, there is Good Omens, an absolute masterpiece from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. If you haven't read this, all your friends are laughing at you behind your back. It tells of the end of the World, the rise of the anti-Christ, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the battle between Heaven and Hell and it's hilarious. Smart, sharp and incredibly silly, its sheer awesome has not diminished in the 24 years since its publication (although it has dated a little).

If you have read it before and you're feeling down, maybe read it again. That's what I'm doing. Lovely stuff.

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