There was a good deal of magic AND non-magic kerfuffle at the end of Lies Sleeping. Peter, Lesley, Chorley, and the Nightingale himself were all thrown into the process of red tape and blue lines. I read Lies Sleeping back in September of last year, and then stopped dead in the ROL-iverse except for a short story here or there. False Value was available, but no way in hell was I about to mess up my matching set of mass-market paperbacks with a hardcover! I waited impatiently until False Value came down the paperback chute earlier this year, and oops- there was a lot that I forgot.
Or did I?
The blurb on the back of the book seemed wholly unfamiliar, and the first chapter also left me out in the dark and the cold. Who are these people? Why is Peter talking about being an ex-cop? Why is everyone obsessed (not a term used lightly) with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Fear not folks, Peter is still Peter, Bev is still Bev (and VERY pregnant with twins dubbed “The Bulge”), and the Nightingale is The Nightingale. Everything else, though? Everything else is all over the place.
I’m not here to complain. Trajectories change, series need to stay fresh, and authors do not exist to just entertain one reader. Unfortunately, the hard shift from “fantasy shenanigans” to “sci-fi fuckery” left me cold. Part of what I loved about the Rivers of London universe was the constant inclusion of history. Every page was crammed with facts and stories from pre-Roman Britain up through post-war London and Thatcher-era atrocities. We were treated to gods, monsters, and politicians- all of whom were tied together in a patchwork that made London London and the ROL series something greater than just “weird shit happens and the police show up”.
History is still on hand, of course, but a few Lovelace/Babbage namedrops aren’t enough to keep the ROL blood pumping. I found this entry difficult to connect with and generally hard to follow. So many characters were introduced and tossed aside, and with names including, Stacy, Silver, and Skinner they were difficult to keep separate. The bizarre amalgam of the guts of London was replaced completely with references to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Peter does some undercover work with a tech company, and nothing is subtle. Vogons, mice, babblefish, bambleweeney, doors that are so happy to open and close for you- if you haven’t read Douglas Adams it will just hit like technicolor confetti. I had the background, but I was still rolling my eyes and expressing audible sighs as I followed Peter and company through this mystery.
The name dropping was too much, the additional characters were overwhelming, and the lack of known and loved characters was baffling…but still. Aaronovitch wrangled a compelling (but confusing) story. For every complaint I give, I also have a moment of joy reserved for Aaronovitch’s depiction of good people providing foster care and the need for mental health support in communities. My favorite moment came very early on, when Peter met a person who possesses physical characteristics that would be assumed to be female; Peter describes seeing a woman, Victor introduces himself as Victor- and that’s it. That’s the end. No confusion, to tiptoeing, Victor says he is Victor and that. is. that.
This wasn’t my favorite of the series, but I will not stop reading here. I’m impatiently awaiting the next entry, and I am curious to see where all of this (especially characters and instances not mentioned in this entry) will head next. Onward!