Thursday, January 02, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #2: London Falling by Paul Cornell

Ah, the horrors of good intentions! I read London Falling back in mid-July, and wanted to take some time to write carefully about it -- so I set it aside to review "a little later." That never works, but I keep trying -- this time for sure! So I'm left, almost six months later, with an excellent novel I read too long ago to say anything clear or coherent about. But let's see if I can jog my memory at all...

This is urban fantasy -- meaning that it's set in the modern world, full of steel and computers and capitalism and complex societies, not that it's about a tough chick in tight pants and the seventeen gorgeous supernatural men who lust after her. The place is London, the time is now, and if London Falling was originally plotted as the pilot script for a TV show that was never made, well, that's not really a concern. It's a police procedural, in the direct tough line from Prime Suspect, set in that tough, nasty, gritty London that was once called the Big Smoke.

And the characters are from that tradition and that world: two undercover policemen, at the end of a long and stress-filled and unrewarding stint in the camp of a gangster whose major crimes all seemed to be done away from his gang; their controller, frustrated and angry and sure at least one of them have turned to the other team; and the female back-office support agent who worked for all of them. All of them are specific people with quirks and foibles, though those quirks and foibles also have clear, actorly hooks that could easily turn into an arc of the series this probably will never be.

And the four of them are involved in an event -- at the end of that long undercover assignment, when the higher-ups finally lost patience and decided to grab whatever evidence they can and end it all -- that turns London Falling from the gritty procedural of the first fifty pages into the urban fantasy that every reader is expecting. They get the Sight; the learn the secret of the world; they are initiated into a world that they never thought could exist.

More importantly, they stay cops. They know that they have a job to do -- and the fact that only they can see that job, and only they can do that job, and only they know that job even needs to be done...that doesn't matter. Since my biggest complaint about urban fantasy is the casual attitude towards vigilantism and mob violence in that subgenre -- that it's a field full of protagonists who have to casually commit murder, because they're special and always right -- London Falling is perfectly calculated to appeal to me: these people are supposed to take care of these problems.

This could easily be the beginning of a series, and I hope it is: the characters and world are rich and engrossing, with depths and specifics Cornell only has room to hint at in this novel. And there will definitely be more problems in this London, more things that only these four cops can see and fight and stop. So they had better be back.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

1 comment:

-dsr- said...

_The Severed Streets_ is rumored to be out in February.

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