Monday, June 30, 2014

An honest man in Parliament

Paul Cornell's follow up to London Falling is one wild ride with a few surprises I wasn't expecting.

The Severed Streets brings us back to Quill, Costain, Sefton, and Ross (and in a more prominent role, their direct supervisor, Lofthouse), the detectives who have the "Sight", the ability to see quite a bit more of London than the average person. Things like demons, hell, spectres... you know, the invisible things trying very hard to kill everyone. At the end of the last book, we found out bits and pieces of an organization not there anymore that helped police the supernatural world, and were lead to assume that the fab 4 here (and Lofthouse) might become that group again.

Which doesn't exactly happen in this book. We do get some new concepts (the last book focused on "Remembering", this book focuses on "Ostentation"), we also get what I thought was a cameo by Neil Gaimen, who instead turns into a fairly major supporting player. (We'll come back to that here in a minute.)

The books opens with the British equivalent of Anonymous here in the States (in here, Toffs... I'm kind of wondering about the Toff masks, since Anonymous here wear Guy Fawkes masks. I'm curious what the Brits would wear... Nixon masks?) protesting outside Parliament While a Liberal Democrat MP tries to get through the crowd. We get a bit of his thoughts on compromise with the Tories (I had to look up a bit about them, since Tory here in the states usually connects with the Loyalists who didn't support the Revolutionaries), and then our PM encounters a Toff who somehow manages to get in the car without opening the door. Said Toff proceeds to butcher the MP in the backseat while the chauffeur sees about what Rod saw in the original Nightmare on Elm Street when Tina dies. (Which is to say, seeing the murder, but not the entity doing the murdering.)

This of course leads to Quill's team getting involved, which is made more difficult by rising austerity measures and cuts to public funding starting talk of a Police strike.

We find out Lofthouse knows some of what's going on, but doesn't have the Sight. She does, however, have a key charm on her bracelet that's implied to have something to do with her knowledge.

Quill's team's investigation takes them to a gathering of the Sighted, which reveals a split among interested parties. Seems two young bucks on the block (The Keel Brothers) are working on opening up the occult community to more people, and getting rid of the barter system in favor of money. (IE buying an object for Pounds sterling instead of a pint of blood.) It's here that Gaimen makes his first appearance, talking about how he was given the Sight by a fan.

Gaimen appears a few more times, explaining Ostentation (the idea that things have their own momentum... like protests getting bigger because of one or two Twitter posts entering the collective unconscious of the Toffs) and pointing out how his sight lead to the huge difference between the original BBC Neverwhere and the book that followed. (And if you haven't read the book, go do so now. I'll wait.)

Anyway, as the killer strikes a few more times, it gets wrapped into Jack the Ripper mythology (Without spoiling anything, Cornell does reveal his pick for the real Ripper in later chapters.), only this ripper strikes at rich white men.

The last third of the book plays around with time to a very large degree, as chapters go back a day or two at a time, revealing bits of story that need unveiled slowly.

We get much character development in here, from Ross (the only female on the team trying to find a way to free her father from Hell), to Costain (trying to find a way to avoid Hell), to Sefton (gay, and dating a nice, normal man), to Quill (who's wife's newspaper gets bought by a Rupert Murdoch type magnate. Or Randolph Hurst. More Murdoch though. His back story is very similar.) We also get a new character, The Rat King, who finds things lost in London who takes a bit of a shine to Sefton.

A few notes here: This setting is kind of like Lovecraft writing Narnia books. You can tell Gaimen influenced the writing here, and a note at the end does acknowledge Gaimen's approval. (Which is good, since Gaimen the character is kind of shady in a few spots.) Also, even though The Smiling Man (a shadowy antagonist from the first book) is in here, he's even more in the background in this one. He's quite a bit like the Cigarette Smoking Man on The X Files

Really good read, and much more cohesive than the last book.