Two Novellas in Now and Forever by Ray Bradbury:#NovNov22

HarperVoyager| 25 June 2012| 240 page| e-book| 4*

Now and Forever is the first book by Ray Bradbury that I’ve read. It contains two novellas – Somewhere a Band is Playing, in which a young writer discovers that all is not as it seems in a nostalgic community, and Leviathan ’99, a retelling of Moby Dick set in space. Two very different stories, each one fascinating, and both with a long history, as Bradbury wrote each one over several decades. They contrast both in style and content. I enjoyed both, but Leviathan ’99 is my favourite.

In the first, Somewhere a Band is Playing, (102 pages) a reporter James Cardiff arrives in Summerton, a small town in the middle of Arizona, a town which seems perfect, a quiet peaceful place. He can hear in the air the quiet sound of a band playing. But the more he explores the more mysterious Summerton becomes. For one thing there are no children and no hospitals or doctors because no one gets ill and even stranger the graves in the cemetery are empty. The story has a nostalgic feel, a sense of melancholy and myth as James, under the guidance of a beautiful young woman, Nefertiti, discovers the truth about Summerton.

Bradbury’s introduction to Somewhere a Band is Playing explains that he begun writing a screenplay and short story about a small town somewhere in the desert and how he had kept encountering Katharine Hepburn either in person or on the screen and was attracted by the fact that she remained youthful throughout the years. Then in 1956 she had made the film Summertime and this had led him to put her at the centre of a story and so Somewhere a Band is Playing slowly evolved. Another element of the story came when he saw the film, The Wind and the Lion and was so taken with the score that he wrote a long poem based on the enchanting music. He then put these elements together to produce this novella, which he dedicated to Anne Hardin, who had encouraged his work and to Katharine Hepburn.

Leviathan ’99’ (101 pages) is dedicated to Herman Melville because after spending a year writing the screenplay for John Huston’s Moby Dick he’d fallen under the spell of Melville and his ‘leviathan whale’. Bradbury then wrote his first script of Leviathan ’99’, which was eventually produced by BBC Radio in London, then as a longer version as a play in 1972. Finally thirty years later he finished writing it as a novella as his ‘final effort to focus and revitalize what began as a radio dream.’

I haven’t read Moby Dick, but I enjoyed this story about spaceships instead of sailing ships, mad astronaut captains instead of seafaring captains and the blind white comet instead of the great white whale. It’s set in 2099 and begins as Ishmael, an astronaut joins the Cetus 7, the largest interstellar ship ever built. The spaceship is on a mission, travelling beyond the stars. His cubicle roommate is Quell, a seven feet tall, green spider who is a telepath. The captain is mad, obsessed with finding the comet, Leviathan, the largest comet in history that had blinded him thirty years earlier. As Quell described it ‘the universe set off a light-year of immensity of photographic flash. God blinked and bleached the captain to this colour of sleeplessness and terror.’

It is an incredible achievement transposing Melville’s 19th century epic into a hundred page novella set in the future.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading. You can also share from a book you want to highlight just because it caught your fancy.

Today I’m featuring one of the books I’m currently reading, Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch, the third book in his Rivers of London series, police procedurals of a very different kind – urban fantasy, set in the real world of London, a mix of reality and the supernatural.

My Book Beginning

Back in the summer I’d made the mistake of telling my mother what I did for a living. Not the police bit, which of course she already knew about having been at my graduation from Hendon, but the stuff about me working for the branch of the Met that dealt with the supernatural.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

I was carrying my magic bowl with both hands and stepping carefully on the frost-slippery cobbles.

Ben Aaronovitch is an English author and screenwriter. He is the author of the Rivers of London series of novels. He worked as a scriptwriter for Doctor Who and Casualty before the inspiration for his own series of books struck him whilst working as a bookseller in Waterstones Covent Garden. His unique novels are the culmination of his experience of writing about the emergency services and the supernatural. 

The series is to be adapted for television, bringing together all nine of the novels, plus the accompanying short stories, novellas and graphic novels, for the screen. The TV adaptation will be co-produced by Pure Fiction Television, See-Saw Films and Aaronovitch’s own production company Unnecessary Logo.

Synopsis:

Peter Grant is learning magic fast. And it’s just as well – he’s already had run-ins with the deadly supernatural children of the Thames and a terrifying killer in Soho. Progression in the Police Force is less easy. Especially when you work in a department of two. A department that doesn’t even officially exist. A department that if you did describe it to most people would get you laughed at. And then there’s his love life. The last person he fell for ended up seriously dead. It wasn’t his fault, but still.

Now something horrible is happening in the labyrinth of tunnels that make up the tube system that honeycombs the ancient foundations of London. And delays on the Northern line is the very least of it. Time to call in the Met’s Economic and Specialist Crime Unit 9, aka ‘The Folly’. Time to call in PC Peter Grant, Britain’s Last Wizard.

What do you think? Would you read it?

Books Read in October 2021: Part One

I won’t be able to finish reading any more books this month, but it’s been a bumper month of reading, with a total of 8 books. Five of them are nonfiction (including one audiobook) which is probably the first time I’ve read more nonfiction than fiction during one month. But I’ve only written posts about 2 of them! I’ve definitely spent more time reading than writing this month.

These are books I’ve reviewed with links to my posts:

The Way Home: Tales from a life without technology by Mark Boyle 4* – This is not a ‘how to’ book, nor is it a guide to living without technology. It’s an account of what it was like for him, living in a wooden cabin he built on a smallholding in Ireland. He has no running water, no car, no electricity or any of the things it powers: the internet, phone, washing machine, radio or light bulb. He writes about the loneliness he experienced, the lack of contact with his parents and friends, and the damage to his relationships. The book follows the seasons of the year and is a collection of tales about his experiences and his observations about attempting to live a technology-free life.

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman 1* – light, easy to read crime fiction, this is a follow up to The Thursday Murder Club. Many people have written glowing reviews of this book, but Richard Osmond’s style of humour differs from mine, so I didn’t find it very funny. I don’t like being so negative about a book but I think the characters are rather stereotypical and the plot is over complicated and unconvincing. In addition it’s written in the present tense which usually irritates me – and it did.

And here are a few notes about 2 of the remaining 6 books with links to Amazon:

The Library of the Dead by T L Huchu 4* – I loved this fantasy novel, set in a future or alternative Edinburgh, with a wealth of dark secrets in its underground. Teenager Ropa, has dropped out of school to become a ghost talker and when a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, Ropa investigates his disappearance. It’s a dark story, but with flashes of humour to lighten the darkness, and is a mix of Zimbabwean and Scottish magic and culture. If you enjoy Ben Aaronvitch’s Rivers of London novels, you’d enjoy this book.

I Love the Bones of You by Christopher Eccleston 5* an audiobook read by actor, Christopher Eccleston, who has played many roles. He is probably my favourite Doctor Who and I especially loved his portrayal of Maurice Scott in the BBC drama The A Word. Maurice is an eccentric and lovable man who has an autistic grandson. I Love the Bones of you is not the usual celebrity autobiography that is just all about him and his work. This is a really vivid portrait of his relationship with his family and particularly with his father who had dementia at the end of his life. He talks about his lack of confidence in his acting ability together with his experiences with anorexia, depression and breakdowns and talks honestly about his struggles with mental health..

~~~

Part Two of Books Read in October 2021 will follow shortly.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Library of the Dead by T L Huchu

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading. You can also share from a book you want to highlight just because it caught your fancy.

This week I’m featuring The Library of the Dead by T L Huchu, the first book in the Edinburgh Nights series. It’s fantasy, set in a future or alternative Edinburgh, with a wealth of dark secrets in its underground. Teenager Ropa, has dropped out of school to become a ghost talker and when a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, Ropa investigates his disappearance.

I’m really not supposed to be doing this, but a girl’s gotta get paid. So, here we go.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. *Grab a book, any book. *Turn to Page 56 or 56% on your  ereader . If you have to improvise, that is okay. *Find a snippet, short and sweet, but no spoilers!

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Pages 55-56:

‘Please find Oliver quickly. You should see what they’ve done to his friend Mark. The two boys were together when they disappeared. Only one came back.’

‘Okay, I’ll poke my nose around. Sniff the wind. Try to figure out what’s going on,’ I say.

About the Author:

T. L. Huchu is a writer whose short-fiction has appeared in publications such as Lightspeed, Interzone, AfroSF and elsewhere. He is the winner of a Nommo Award for African SF/F, and has been shortlisted for the Caine Prize and the Grand Prix de L’Imaginaire. Between projects, he translates fiction from Shona into English and the reverse.

Books Read in August 2021

August was a busy month for me and it didn’t leave much time for reading or writing reviews! But I did read 5 books, and as both Framley Parsonage (684 pages) and Dead Tomorrow (663 pages) are very long books, it took me over half of August to read just those two!

  1. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope 4* – see my review
  2. The Queen’s Spy by Clare Marchant 4*
  3. The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray 3*
  4. Dead Tomorrow by Peter James 3*
  5. Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch 4*

The only book I reviewed was Framley Parsonage. So, before I begin September’s books here are just a few brief thoughts on the other 4 books.

The Queen’s Spy by Clare Marchant – historical fiction with a dual timeline set in 1584 and 2021. I read this quickly drawn along by the plot and keen to know the links between the two main characters, Mathilde in the present day and Tom in the 16th century. I was more interested in Tom’s story. He is deaf and dumb, but he can lip read. He is an apothecary and also a spy, working for Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I’s spymaster, during the period leading up to the Babbington Plot. Mathilde has inherited a medieval mansion, Lutton Hall, and she is surprised to find that she has family there she had never heard of before. The two timelines interlink as Mathilde discovers the secrets hidden at Lutton Hall.

The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray. Crowd behaviour fascinates me, so I hoped this book would cast some light on the subject – it certainly did. There are sections on sexuality, gender, technology and race, including a chapter on transgender, which I found the most enlightening. The synopsis describes how Murray “reveals the astonishing new culture wars playing out in our workplaces, universities, schools and homes in the names of social justice, identity politics and ‘intersectionality’.” Some of it I found shocking and infuriating.

Dead Tomorrow by Peter James – the 5th book in his Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series. Grace and his team investigate the deaths of three teenagers found by a dredger at the bottom of the English Channel, which leads them to a gang of human traffickers operating from Eastern Europe. Parallel with their investigation a desperate mother is fighting for her daughter’s life. One of the things I like about the Roy Grace series is the continuing story of Grace’s personal life. But what I find irritating is the way Peter James describes what all his characters are wearing and the details of all the little details of their surroundings. And this book in particular is far too long and drawn out.

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch, the second Rivers of London novel. I loved the first book, Rivers of London. These are fast-paced police procedurals of a very different kind – urban fantasy, set in the real world of London, a mix of reality and the supernatural. You could probably read them as standalones, but I really think it’s best to read them in order to get the full background to what is going on and what has already happened to the main characters.

DC Peter Grant is assigned to work with Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale (who is the last wizard in England) as part of a special and secret branch of the Met, dealing with all things magical and supernatural. Moon Over Soho begins with the murder of Cyrus Wilkinson, a part-time jazz saxophonist, who had apparently dropped dead of a heart attack just after finishing a gig in a Soho jazz club. Peter can hear music coming from his corpse. What follows is a complicated story full of twists and turns, humour, and some gruesome and unusual murders.

Books from the Mobile Library

The mobile library came here this week and for the first time since the first lockdown we could go on board the van! I borrowed just three books this time.

The Seal King Murders by Alanna Knight – an Inspector Faro Mystery. Set in 1861 in Orkney, this is the second casebook of Constable Faro, looking back to his earlier career. A champion swimmer, has drowned in mysterious circumstances and Faro is met with rumours of missing artifacts, the myth of the seal king, a dead body under the floor of Scarthbreck, his first love, and a mother who is determined to find him a wife. 

Faro later had an illustrious career as Chief Inspector in the Edinburgh City Police and personal detective to Her Majesty Queen Victoria at Balmoral. I haven’t read any of the Inspector Faro mysteries, so I think this could be a good place to start.

Alanna Knight had more than seventy books published in an impressive writing career spanning over fifty years. She was a founding member and Honorary Vice President of the Scottish Association of Writers, Honorary President of the Edinburgh Writers’ Club and member of the Scottish Chapter of the Crime Writers’ Association. Alanna was awarded an MBE in 2014 for services to literature. Born and educated in Tyneside, she lived in Edinburgh until she passed away in 2020.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. This is fantasy in a world that is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. It is the first of 8 books in the Invisible Library series.

Genevieve Cogman got started on Tolkien and Sherlock Holmes at an early age, and has never looked back. But on a perhaps more prosaic note, she has an MSC in Statistics with Medical Applications and has wielded this in an assortment of jobs: clinical coder, data analyst and classifications specialist. Although The Invisible Library is her debut novel, she has also previously worked as a freelance roleplaying game writer. Genevieve Cogman’s hobbies include patchwork, beading, knitting and gaming, and she lives in the north of England.

A Bespoke Murder by Edward Marston, book 1 in the Home Front Detective series. Set in 1915 with thousands of Britons away in the trenches, a severely depleted police force remains behind to keep the Home Front safe and continue the fight against crime, espionage, and military desertion. Detective Inspector Harvey Marmion and Sergeant Joe Keedy investigate the murder of Jacob Stein, a Jewish tailor, a victim of anti-German riots after the sinking of the Lusitania. His shop is set ablaze, his daughter is raped and he is murdered

Edward Marston is a pseudonym used by Keith Miles, an English author, who writes under his own name and also historical fiction and mystery novels under the pseudonym Edward Marston. He is known for his mysteries set in the world of Elizabethan theatre. He has also written a series of novels based on events in the Domesday Book, a series of The Railway Detective and a series of The Home Front Detective.

I’ve read one of Alanna Knight’s books and one by Edward Marston, but none of Genevieve Cogman’s. Have you read any of these books? Are you tempted?

Movalwar by Benjamin Cornelius

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Benjamin Cornelius is 11 years old. He’s my friend’s great-nephew, and I was delighted to read his book Movalwar. He wrote it during the pandemic when he was in lockdown with his family. I was most impressed with it – his storytelling, his imagination and his command of language. It gripped me right from the first start and I just had to read on. It’s about two eleven year-old boys, Alfie and Ben and their exciting and dangerous journey to save the fate of two worlds.

With no school because of the pandemic, the boys’ adventure begins when Alfie has a dream demanding that he goes to Movalwar through a secret lake to return a mysterious possession that controls that evil kingdom. Then he finds a box in his grandparents’ attic, containing a multi-coloured gemstone that reveals a map showing mountains, islands, seas and jungles. And so their adventure begins as he and Bobby set out to find the entrance to the evil kingdom.

Meanwhile the pandemic has reached a peak, no cure has been found, the rate of infection is rising and a vaccine has yet to be created. London has been plunged into chaos. And in Movalwar Alfie’s and Bobby’s lives are in increasing danger. Will they succeed?

I liked the mix of fantasy and real life in this tense, fast-paced book that kept me absorbed in the story all the way through. Ben also designed the lovely cover for his book. I hope Ben will continue to write more stories – he says he is currently enjoying thinking of new ideas for another story.

  • Publisher : Eklegein (11 Sept. 2020)
  • Language: : English
  • Paperback : 116 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1907971653
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1907971655
  • Source: I bought the book
  • My rating: 5 stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog. This week’s topic is Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020.

I have previously read books by these authors, so I am eagerly looking forward to reading their new books – if not now, then later!

The book descriptions are either from Amazon or Goodreads.

A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin – 1 October 2020

The 23rd Rebus book

When his daughter Samantha calls in the dead of night, John Rebus knows it’s not good news. Her husband has been missing for two days. Rebus fears the worst – and knows from his lifetime in the police that his daughter will be the prime suspect. He wasn’t the best father – the job always came first – but now his daughter needs him more than ever. But is he going as a father or a detective? As he leaves at dawn to drive to the windswept coast – and a small town with big secrets – he wonders whether this might be the first time in his life where the truth is the one thing he doesn’t want to find…

Still Life by Val McDermid – 20 August 2020

Inspector Karen Pirie book 6

On a freezing winter morning, fishermen pull a body from the sea. It is quickly discovered that the dead man was the prime suspect in a decade-old investigation, when a prominent civil servant disappeared without trace. DCI Karen Pirie was the last detective to review the file and is drawn into a sinister world of betrayal and dark secrets. But Karen is already grappling with another case, one with even more questions and fewer answers. A skeleton has been discovered in an abandoned campervan and all clues point to a killer who never faced justice – a killer who is still out there. In her search for the truth, Karen uncovers a network of lies that has gone unchallenged for years. But lies and secrets can turn deadly when someone is determined to keep them hidden for good …

Just Like the Other Girls by Claire Douglas – 6 August 2020

Una Richardson’s heart is broken after the death of her mother. Seeking a place to heal, she responds to an advertisement and steps into the rich, comforting world of Elspeth McKenzie. But Elspeth’s home is not as safe as it seems. Kathryn, her cold and bitter daughter, resents Una’s presence. But more disturbing is the realization that two girls had lived here before. Two girls who ended up dead.

Why won’t the McKenzies talk about them? What other secrets are locked inside this house? As the walls close in around her, Una starts to fear that she will end up just like the other girls . . .

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell – 6 August 2020

It is nearly midnight, and very cold. Yet in this dark place of long grass and tall trees where cats hunt and foxes shriek, a girl is waiting…

When Saffyre Maddox was ten something terrible happened and she’s carried the pain of it around with her ever since. The man who she thought was going to heal her didn’t, and now she hides from him, invisible in the shadows, learning his secrets; secrets she could use to blow his safe, cosy world apart.

Owen Pick is invisible too. He’s thirty-three years old and he’s never had a girlfriend, he’s never even had a friend. Nobody sees him. Nobody cares about him. But when Saffyre Maddox disappears from opposite his house on Valentine’s night, suddenly the whole world is looking at him. Accusing him. Holding him responsible. Because he’s just the type, isn’t he? A bit creepy?

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett – 15 September 2020

The prequel to The Pillars of the Earth.

It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages, and England faces attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Life is hard, and those with power wield it harshly, bending justice according to their will – often in conflict with the king. With his grip on the country fragile and with no clear rule of law, chaos and bloodshed reign. Into this uncertain world three people come to the fore: a young boatbuilder, who dreams of a better future when a devastating Viking raid shatters the life that he and the woman he loves hoped for; a Norman noblewoman, who follows her beloved husband across the sea to a new land only to find her life there shockingly different; and a capable monk at Shiring Abbey, who dreams of transforming his humble abbey into a centre of learning admired throughout Europe.

The Survivors by Jane Harper – 22 September 2020

Kieran Elliott’s life changed forever on a single day when a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences. The guilt that haunts him still resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal town he once called home. Kieran’s parents are struggling in a community which is bound, for better or worse, to the sea that is both a lifeline and a threat. Between them all is his absent brother Finn. When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge in the murder investigation that follows. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away…

The House of Lamentations by S G MacLean – 9 July 2020

The final historical thriller in the award-winning Seeker series (Damian Seeker 5)

Summer, 1658, and the Republic may finally be safe: the combined Stuart and Spanish forces have been heavily defeated by the English and French armies on the coast of Flanders, and the King’s cause appears finished.

Yet one final, desperate throw of the dice is planned. And who can stop them if not Captain Damian Seeker?

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig – 13 August 2020

Between life and death there is a library.

When Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library, she has a chance to make things right. Up until now, her life has been full of misery and regret. She feels she has let everyone down, including herself. But things are about to change. The books in the Midnight Library enable Nora to live as if she had done things differently. With the help of an old friend, she can now undo every one of her regrets as she tries to work out her perfect life. But things aren’t always what she imagined they’d be, and soon her choices place the library and herself in extreme danger. Before time runs out, she must answer the ultimate question: what is the best way to live?

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – 15 September 2020

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell transported over four million readers into its mysterious world. It became an instant classic and has been hailed as one of the finest works of fiction of the twenty-first century.

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville – 6 August 2020

It is 1788. Twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth is hungry for life but, as the ward of a Devon clergyman, knows she has few prospects. When proud, scarred soldier John Macarthur promises her the earth one midsummer’s night, she believes him.

But Elizabeth soon realises she has made a terrible mistake. Her new husband is reckless, tormented, driven by some dark rage at the world. He tells her he is to take up a position as Lieutenant in a New South Wales penal colony and she has no choice but to go. Sailing for six months to the far side of the globe with a child growing inside her, she arrives to find Sydney Town a brutal, dusty, hungry place of makeshift shelters, failing crops, scheming and rumours.

All her life she has learned to be obliging, to fold herself up small. Now, in the vast landscapes of an unknown continent, Elizabeth has to discover a strength she never imagined, and passions she could never express.

Inspired by the real life of a remarkable woman, this is an extraordinarily rich, beautifully wrought novel of resilience, courage and the mystery of human desire.

My Friday Post: Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I’ve been watching the BBC One adaptation of His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, which has made me pick up the first book in the trilogy, Northern Lights. I first read it several years ago but seeing the first two episodes has made me want to re-read it.

Pullman Northern Lights

Lyra and her dæmon moved through the darkening Hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

30879-friday2b56These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Pages 55-56:

“What is them Gobblers?” said Simon Parslow, one of Lyra’s companions.

The first gyptian boy said, “You know. They been stealing kids all over the country. They’re pirates -”

“They en’t pirates,” corrected another gyptian. “They’re canniboles. That’s why they call ’em Gobblers.”

“They eat kids?” said Lyra’s other crony Hugh Lovat, a Kitchen boy from St Michael’s.

“No one knows,” said the first  gyptian. “They take them away and they en’t never seen again.”

Blurb:

‘Without this child, we shall all die.’

Lyra Belacqua lives half-wild and carefree among the scholars of Jordan College, with her dæmon, Pantalaimon, always by her side.

But the arrival of her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, draws her to the heart of a terrible struggle – a struggle born of stolen children, witch clans and armoured bears.

As she hurtles towards danger in the cold far North, Lyra never suspects the shocking truth: she alone is destined to win, or to lose, the biggest battle imaginable.

~~~

It’s compelling reading, both in terms of storyline (with many parallel worlds) and in terms of ideas.

Are you watching His Dark Materials too? Have you read the books? Do let me I know.

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers of London

Gollanz|January 2011|396 pages|e-book |5*

Blurb:

My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (and as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit – we do paperwork so real coppers don’t have to – and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluble, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England.

Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden … and there’s something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.

The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it’s falling to me to bring order out of chaos – or die trying.

My thoughts:

I wish I had read Rivers of London when was first published in 2011, or in 2016 when I bought it because, when I finally began reading it I found I just didn’t want to put it down. 

I really didn’t expect to enjoy it so much, but I was completely engrossed in this book right from the beginning. It is a magical reading experience, and a fast-paced police procedural of a very different kind. It’s fantastical in the literal meaning of the word; an urban fantasy set in the real world of London. It’s a mix of reality and the supernatural, as Peter explains ‘Police work is all about systems and procedures and planning – even when you’re hunting a supernatural entity.

When a headless corpse is found in front of the West Portico of St Paul’s at Convent Garden, Peter interviews a witness, Nicholas Wallpenny, who tells him he has been dead for at least a hundred and twenty years – he is a ghost. From that point on nothing is straight forward as Peter is assigned to work with Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale (who is the last wizard in England) as part of a special and secret branch of the Met, dealing with all things magical and supernatural. And there are more murders

But interwoven with the murders is the feud between the Rivers of London, or rather between Mother Thames, whose territory is downstream and Father Thames who owns upstream. They both believe they rule the Thames and its tributaries. The dividing line is at Teddington Lock, two miles downstream from Eel Pie Island. Nicholas wants Peter to speak to Mother Thames to find out what the problem is and to find an amicable solution. And so he meets Beverley Brook and the other river goddesses.

Ben Aaronovitch knows London like he back of his hand and it shows in this book. It’s complex, the characters are great, the London setting is wonderfully detailed, and the writing is humorous and very entertaining. I loved it! It’s the first book in the Rivers of London series. The 8th book, False Value, will be published next year. So I have lots more Peter Grant novels to read, beginning with the next one, Moon Over Soho.

About the author:

Born and raised in London, Ben worked as a scriptwriter for Doctor Who and Casualty before the inspiration for his own series of books struck him whilst working as a bookseller in Waterstones Covent Garden. His unique novels are the culmination of his experience of writing about the emergency services and the supernatural.

See more about him and his work on his website.