Posts Tagged ‘Ben Aaronovitch’

Well, here’s an exciting surprise sitting in my YouTube list – Doc Brown has made a rap video based on Ben Aaronovitch‘s Rivers of London. A musician I admire rapping about a book I enjoyed? Sounds good to me. And Doc Brown seems a perfect choice to portray Aaronovitch’s supernatural cop Peter Grant. Lets give it a go.

 

Alright, I admit, I thought that was only OK. The best rap evokes powerful emotions, and that didn’t. The best story songs either evoke a strong sense of atmosphere or tell a condensed tale from beginning to end, and that sat uncomfortably somewhere in between, not really achieving either. Brown’s direct lyrical style is better suited to comedy than to this. Exhibit A, My Proper Tea:

 

But.

I am still very glad that this track exists. I love when artists in one medium respond to a work in another. I think it’s fantastic that we’re now hearing really good music on nerdy themes. And much as I love Steam Powered Giraffe or listening to Christopher Lee doing heavy metal history songs, I don’t want the music of the fantastical to all be created by white guys with guitars.*

Having said that, lets take a moment for one of those Christopher Lee tracks:

 

I would rather live in a world full of exciting and varied failures than one where everything succeeds in the same way. I would rather listen to something flawed but unusual like this than anything Kanye West or Oasis have ever produced. I’ll take the experiments that don’t quite work if it makes the world more interesting.

And hey, maybe if they do a sequel I’ll like it more.

So thanks for this Aaronovitch and Brown. Please keep at it.

 

* Confession time – the majority of my music collection probably consists of white guys with guitars. What can I say, I’m a white guy who grew up listening to guitar music. But I like to have variety too.

Last week was the first time in ages that I’ve listened to a whole audiobook. My iphone is usually swamped with podcasts, and I like a wide variety of music. But I had lots of driving to do – Cornwall to Stockport is a loooooooong way – so some substantial listening seemed a good idea.

By happy coincidence, my local library had an audio version of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London, which was already on my to-read list. I also picked up Arthur C Clarke’s The City and the Stars, because if you’re going to listen to a random book it might as well be a classic.

From the start, this made for a different driving experience. My usual car habit is to listen to rock that was new when I was young – when your favourite bands have broken up, reformed and done a few reunion tours, you know you’re not ‘down with the kids’, but Superunknown is still an awesome album. But it’s hard to headbang to an audiobook, and they took more attention. Not so much that I was a hazard on the road, but to the point where driving soon achieved a trance-like quality, reflexes doing a lot of the work, the part of my brain that listens to the satnav barely even a conscious thought.

Listening rather than reading affected the pace at which I consumed the books. I think that, for the literary purist, this is an advantage of audio. Readers can’t skim over the bits that are slow or bore them. Every word is a beat in the ‘reading’ experience. It’s a slower experience, partly because of this but also because reading out loud takes longer than reading in your head.

One side effect I’d not considered before is the little pleasures you lose. You don’t get the feel of how many pages you have left, and counting down CDs and tracks isn’t quite the same. You don’t get the brief, anticipatory pause of turning the page.

In exchange you get to listen to a voice actor, a professional performer of words, and that’s interesting in itself. I imagine that good voice actors are often forgotten by their listeners, as their voices carry the texture of the story, heightening the author’s work rather than drawing attention to themselves. Certainly I had a lot of that while listening to Rivers of London, but when I remembered to pay attention I enjoyed the reader’s voice, his firm but friendly tone, the use of pauses and emphasis.

Rivers of London worked well as an audiobook. The narrator – I forgot to make a note of his name – fitted well with the tone of the book and its point of view character. A bit of a modern London accent, nothing over-done or drifting into comedy cockney. I was engaged and enlivened both by his voice and the story, and it kept me going for miles. This may explain why I enjoyed this book more than many of my friends – SiC’s comment yesterday seems pretty representative.

The City and the Stars was another matter entirely. It’s written in an old-fashioned, expository style. The voice was older and less lively. The whole tone of the experience was soporific. Struggling to stay alert, I gave up after half an hour and went back to growling along with Soundgarden.

It’s not that this was a bad book. I haven’t got far enough to judge that yet. But the experience of listening rather reading accentuated its flat emotional tone, and it turns out that, when trying to stay alert, that’s a bad thing.

I’m pretty much converted back to audiobooks. They’re a good way to consume books while doing other things. I’ll probably even finish The City and the Stars, as a bit of restful entertainment while I do chores in the evening. But it’s interesting to notice how the format changes the reading experience. It’s not necessarily better or worse, just… different.

What do the rest of you think? Do you listen to a lot of audiobooks? Have you found that some work and some don’t? Which ones do you particularly recommend?

I’ve been meaning to read Rivers of London for a while. I’m intrigued by the idea of hidden cities lurking beneath our own, both literally and metaphorically, and this looked like it would play on that theme. I’ve not read much urban fantasy, but this looked fun and a bit different, and I’m familiar enough with London for that to add to my interest. I don’t know how original this is by comparison with other fantasies in modern settings, but it worked for me.

Rivers of London follows policeman Peter Grant as he’s drawn into a world of supernatural danger and politicing. It’s rich and convincing in its detail, including that on police life and London’s history. I don’t know if it would stand up to an expert in those fields, but I’m no expert, and Aaronovitch convinced me he knew what he was doing. In fact, that was one of the biggest lessons I learned from this book as a writer – do more research. The throw-away details and the real-sounding depiction of the nuances of police life really sucked me in, even when dealing with the unreal.

Story-wise, this was pretty familiar. An apprentice drawn into an exotic life, growing out from beneath the wings of his master. A mysterious power to be thwarted. A crime with limited suspects. A hint of love triangle on the side. Nothing innovative, but nothing wrong with that. The parts combined well, it was easy to follow and cracked along at a good pace.

And strangely, I’m struggling for more to say. There was nothing that stood out as wrong with this book, and nothing that leapt out and made me go ‘holy cow, I must talk about that!’ It was good enough that I’ll probably read more Peter Grant books, and at the end of the day, isn’t that a success for a novel?

Overall, worth reading. I enjoyed it, I’ve learned a bit, now on to the next story.

Have any of you read it? What did you think?