Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review: Midnight Riot (aka Rivers of London) by Ben Aaronovitch

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) is one of those fun reads that I nearly let fly by. You see, the title Midnight Riot does nothing for me – it’s too terribly generic. But I saw a bunch of buzz surrounding Rivers of London (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) from my UK blogger brethren. At the time I didn’t realize that Midnight Riot goes by the much more appealing title of Rivers of London in the UK. While I’m generally a bit hesitant to jump onto the blogger buzz bandwagon, it sounded like a short, fun read and I’m glad I picked it up. Midnight Riot is an entertaining, almost pulp-ish urban fantasy that I enjoyed quite a bit.

Probationary Constable Peter Grant seemingly gets the chance that every rookie cops longs for – an exclusive interview with an eye witness to a mysterious murder. Only it turns out the witness is a ghost, and understandably Peter questions his sanity and is hesitant to mention it to anyone. Eventually, Peter gains the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who turns out to be a wizard. The murders start adding up – Peter is both rookie cop and apprentice to a wizard and things get interesting.

Midnight Riot is simply a fun, fun book where magic meets the detective thriller. While I’ve not read them, I think it’s probably safe to sum it up as a British version of The Dresden Files. The book is relatively short, it’s a fast read, it’s addicting and hard to put down, and leaves you wanting more. And the second book of the series, Moon Over Soho (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound), is already available and there is already word of a third book, Whispers Under Ground (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound), coming this fall.

Peter Grant is a wonderfully believable rookie cop. He’s not cool or terribly exciting – really more of a bland guy that may not be suited for police work, but at least he has a sense of humor about it. But when he discovers that he may have a talent for magic he gets a bit cocky and over confident – not very much, but enough to make him feel even more real. In short, he’s the sort of guy that’s easy to cheer for. And I really enjoy the extra bit that Peter is a bit of geek, making Midnight Riot just self-aware enough to be extra amusing.

My biggest issues with the book have little to do with my enjoyment of it or anything Aaronovitch has control over – buy the book, but you may want to consider buying the UK version rather than Del Rey’s US version. As I go into in greater detail in another post, Midnight Riot seems to have gone through a bit of ‘Americanization’ of its text. Since I haven’t done a line-by-line comparison I can’t say how bad, but I do know that it’s highly unlikely that the word soccer appears in the UK version. I mean really, when someone raised in a rougher part of London thinks about soccer rather than football, I’m literally yanked out of the carefully crafted mood of the novel. This sort of change is unnecessary, insulting, and simply a bad idea.

Additionally, I really am unhappy with the implications of the potential white-washing of the cover for both Midnight Riot and Moon Over Soho by Del Rey. I go into a bit more detail here, but it looks really bad – and an already questionable cover potentially becomes something much worse.

So, I’m jumping on the bandwagon with this – Midnight Riot/Rivers of London is a great read. Sure, you don’t want to think too much about it because it all may just fall apart, but it is a fun take on the supernatural detective and captures the atmosphere of London wonderfully. This pulp-ish urban fantasy has a bit of an old-school vibe – just how I like it. 7.5/10

3 comments:

Jamie (Mithril Wisdom) said...

This will most likely be my next Kindle purchase (and I'll be damn sure to get the UK edition). Combining the fantastic with real places and with real people is an idea that's growing on me (thanks to Neverwhere and Kraken) so I'm looking forward to this.

Kathiravan Isak said...

So, how bad is the "Americanization"? Is always present, or does it dull? Is there a lot of 'em?

Neth said...

@Kathiravan

It's hard to say for sure since I didn't do a direct comparison. But it seemed to be more than I usually see. The use of soccer instead of football is definately the most noticable, but I'm sure there are other bits as well.

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