‘Lies Sleeping’ by Ben Aaronovitch

'Lies Sleeping' by Ben AaronovitchI’d been saving this latest installment of the Rivers of London series for the holidays, when I’d have time to enjoy it, and it was worth the wait. Lies Sleeping is the seventh novel about Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard – part of an ongoing series of novels, novellas, short stories and comics. Ben Aaronovitch has said that he’ll keep writing the books “till I die or people stop reading them”, and while the last few novels have been enjoyable, they have felt a bit chaotic, with concluding chapters that raised more questions than answered them. Fortunately, in Lies Sleeping, the author chooses to focus on one major story line that has been present since the start and brings it to a satisfying conclusion. There are still villains to be thwarted, but it’s good to see justice done.

It’s difficult to discuss this book without giving away plot details, but here are my vague, spoiler-free thoughts.

Things I loved:
– I am not usually a fan of fight scenes, but I absolutely love all the bits where Nightingale unleashes his power, whether he’s blasting his enemy through the ceiling or ‘persuading’ a suspect to answer his questions.

– There’s plenty of fascinating London history, going back to the Romans, and it’s actually related to the plot, rather than simply being Peter getting distracted by architecture. Not that I ever mind Peter rambling on about history. The more history, the better.

– Peter’s narration is always so much fun (“I was pleased to discover that the patented acid-resistant soles of my Doc Martens were also vampire resistant”) and I love when his geeky fanboy knowledge comes in handy for interpreting, say, Dwarvish runes (“From the films, though, not the books”).

– Guleed the Somali Muslim Ninja doing … what she does.

– That there was finally some acknowledgement of the immense psychological stress that affects anyone involved in Folly business. You know things are bad when both Seawoll and Nightingale are urging Peter to see a therapist.

– I also liked that there was some discussion of religion, with Peter discussing how he’s an atheist, even though his girlfriend is literally a goddess. I’d really like to hear Guleed’s thoughts on this.

– Seawoll co-operating with Nightingale! And Stephanopoulos being so heroic!

– That thing that happens involving Molly! The backstory was awful, but the end was so lovely.

– All the callbacks to previous books, which gives me hope that my still-unanswered questions will eventually be addressed in a future book.

And things that made me go hmmm:
– Abigail. For all the same reasons I didn’t like her characterisation in The Furthest Station. At one stage, Aaronovitch mentioned a spin-off YA series starring Abigail and I really hope he doesn’t go ahead with that. I know this is a fantasy series, but Abigail is meant to be a regular London kid and yet she’s turned into SuperPerfectAbigail.

– There are always plot holes in these books, which I usually ignore, but there were a few scenes when things obviously happened to create interesting conflict or prolong the narrative, not because they made any sense, and that’s annoying.

– I was also annoyed that readers need to have read all the related novellas, comics and associated works to understand everything in these novels. I’ve read three of the five (or six?) comics, so I picked up some references, but there were other bits where I felt I was missing something. For example, has there been an explanation of the foxes in one of the comics? (The foxes were great, by the way, just confusing.) And the religion discussion takes on a different meaning if you know that Max is an acolyte of Beverley’s, not just her handyman. The problem is that I far prefer the books to the comics, because the comics are the old-fashioned kind, full of Ladies With Implausibly Large Breasts Who Tend To Wear Skimpy Clothes Or Be Naked For No Apparent Reason, alongside a lot of Violent Gentlemen With Excessive Muscles. I don’t want to have to read more of the comics, but now I suppose I’ll have to, and that makes me grumpy.

– I cannot see how anything good can come of Nightingale’s offer to teach magic to that particular character whom Peter correctly labels “entitled”, although I suppose it could lead to exciting magical battles down the track.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed this and I’m looking forward to the next book, due in June. If you’ve read this and have any thoughts, please do comment below – just assume there’ll be spoilers in the comments.

6 thoughts on “‘Lies Sleeping’ by Ben Aaronovitch”

  1. Lies Sleeping was one of my Christmas presents and I raced through it (as usual). I thought I was having trouble remembering all the characters and plot threads because things have become so complicated, but now I suspect it’s because I haven’t read any of the comics. Oh dear. Maybe I should? But you’re not selling them to me, Michelle..!
    I agree about Abigail. See also the bonus short story. And she has the same voice as Peter.
    I think the history parts are my favourite aspect of the series. London itself is such a vivid character in these books, it makes me want to do a Peter Grant tour of the city one day. If only it included afternoon tea at the Folly (with Molly catering, natch).

    1. The comics do have interesting stories, but they’re very Male Gaze-y, which annoys me. They’re a bit like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, if you’re familiar with those? My library has the Rivers of London comics in book form – I wouldn’t actually pay money to read them.

      I would love to do a Rivers of London tour! Especially if Peter was the guide – imagine him going on about architecture. He could bring Toby along, too.

  2. Oh yes! I love the Rivers books.
    I have read all the comics but only because I felt I had to. I find comics difficult to make sense of. I don’t think I interpret pictures very well (do you think that is a thing?) Anyway, I want words!
    I agree about Abigail. I think she has grown up too fast too.
    And the Molly story is so good! Love it!

    1. Yes, I think I prefer words, too – so much of the humour and charm of the books comes from Peter’s narration. I do like some graphic novels and wordless picture books (for example, Shaun Tan’s books and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home), so I know graphic novels can be thoughtful and meaningful – but the Rivers of London comics are just comics to me. Maybe I read them too fast? I will try to track down the ones I haven’t read, though. I want to know about the foxes!

  3. Have just finished the book this morning so have had to avoid this entry until now.
    I think this was one of the best books of the series, probably because of the focus as you said.I wonder if Ben Aaronovitch took the (pretty much universal) negative comments of the previous book to heart. I haven’t read any of the comics; didn’t know I needed to in order to gain understanding and continuity. I thought they were just a retelling via a different medium. I really don’t think the book series should be continued in the comics, not everybody is aware of them or willing to switch reading style. I might take a look in the library now you’ve given me that idea but I certainly won’t be buying the comics (and I speak as somebody who has read a superhero comics back in the day and who owns all gazillionthe Sandman graphic novels).

    1. The comics tell stories that run alongside the books and then characters in the books mention them. For example, Guleed and David Carey keep bringing up the “haunted cars” – there was a comic about that. It’s not strictly necessary to read the comics, but they give a greater level of understanding of the world Peter lives in.

      But give the comics a try – you might like them more than me if you’re a Sandman fan? I think Ben Aaronovitch is a major comics fan so I don’t think he’s going to stop writing them anytime soon.

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