Monday, February 07, 2011
The Perilous Offence: It Smelt of Americanization
Or what colour is a football?
I’m just finishing up Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) and I can’t help but be annoyed at the apparent level of Americanization that occurs in this book. For a background, Midnight Riot is set in London and features a rookie cop who is thrown into some rather interesting events that may or may not involve magic (okay, they do involve magic, but that’s not the issue). Throughout what has been a largely enjoyable read, I keep getting yanked out of the flow of the story by what appears to be the American cleansing of a British novel (did you spot the pun?).
For example, the main protagonist mentions his love of soccer several times during the book and discusses it once or twice. Really? Someone raised in a rougher part of London likes soccer? I’m pretty certain it’s called football ‘round those parts. Even the title was scrubbed a bit – Midnight Riot is published as Rivers of London in the UK. Now, a there could be a whole separate debate on which title is more appropriate – each is both somewhat appropriate and rather out of place based on the content of the book, but Midnight Riot seems to me to be much more generic. As a reader, a book called Rivers of London peaks my curiosity, but Midnight Riot – no interest there. If it weren’t for some positive buzz I’ve seen elsewhere from trusted sources, I’d have let this book fly right by.
I can except that when a book crosses the pond that Queen’s English spelling gets shifted to American English. That’s fine – after all, I read American English. But I think it takes things too far when the colloquialisms of language become effected. I want to feel the atmosphere of a book, and when a born-and-raised Londoner speaks of soccer all sorts of flags go off, destroying that carefully crafted atmosphere. Most books I read that originated in the UK don’t scrub so thoroughly, so that’s probably why this one stands out so much.
Why? Does Del Rey see this one having such mass appeal that they need to dumb it down? Is it even necessary to dumb down a British book for the masses of the US? I think a tremendous disservice was done to the readers here, and to the author as well who put so much work into creating an atmosphere that feels like the streets of London.
So, good readers, what do you think of all this?