Ah, the difficult second album. It’s a well worn cliché, but one that’s apparent for Ben Aaronovitch. Rivers of London was a great piece of Sci-Fi/Fantasy fiction that capitalised on the current fanbase of Doctor Who, Torchwood and their ilk. Branded as “Harry Potter grows up”, the story of Metropolitan Police Constable Peter Grant continues here.
Of course, being a sequel there is little point in opening Moon over Soho without reading the preceding part. This novel follows on directly from the first and, despite Aaronovitch’s best attempts at filling back story, it would be trite to read this first. With that out of the way, is Moon over Soho a worthy follow up?
For anyone with even a penchant for a world of geeky tips of the hat the answer would be a resounding yes. For those who wouldn’t ‘get’ the reference to System Shock 2 (which occurs in a particularly grizzly scene), there’s still plenty to enjoy.
The plot for this outing revolves around the Soho Jazz scene and its wistful musicians as they are brutally killed by something or someone who seems to enjoy the taste of musical talent. Along the way Grant falls for a girl, his superior Nightingale is laid up with injury and Lesley is all but absent from the events in the first book. This gives way to a few new characters and bigger roles for the supporting cast.
The story starts with Jazz Saxophonist Cyrus Wilkinson dead and when Peter Grant arrives on the scene he soon determines that Jazz Vampires (that’s right) are at work. As the case opens up it’s clear that there is much more to these murders, particularly as Grant starts to investigate the burlesque clubs of London. It’s safe to say that revealing any more would spoil the plot and it’s not knowing what will happen next that drives you to read more.
In fact, Moon over Soho is an incredibly readable book. I had slight issue with the first novel for its large cast and frantic storytelling and thankfully this iteration scales much of that back. Dealing with a smaller cast allows the reader to feel more for them as they go through the hardships of the plot and the slower pace of the story allows for better connection with what happens.
Once again Aaronovitch paints a picture of London that most who have visited can relate to. His story weaves in and out of the familiar haunts with flair and nostalgia. Again the author excels himself with his descriptive text and each locale appears fully formed in your mind. All of this, of course, adds to how easy the book is to read. The words flow wonderfully and much like with Rivers of London, Aaronovitch uses his humour to deliver.
There are times when authors attempt to shoe horn a bit of comedy into their novels and they barely raise an eyebrow, let alone a smile. Thankfully that isn’t the case here and at times I had to shoot a look of apology to my wife as I disturbed her by quite literally Laughing Out Loud. Ben’s writing is always warm and full of good humour, but his joke telling is superb and like the best comedy it’s always something the reader can relate to.
It’s hard to review Moon over Soho without a nod to Ben’s ability to harness our current love for Sci-Fi. This is a perfect book for those in love with Matt Smith and John Barrowman, in fact Doctor Who even gets name dropped in this novel. There’s also a great deal of enjoyment from the almost tongue in cheek mentions of Harry Potter. You can see that this trend of accessible Sci-Fi and Fantasy writing is where Aaronovitch needs to be, not for him but for us.
Moon over Soho is not just a great follow on novel but it surpasses Rivers of London with more humour, a more involving story and becomes just a great piece of fiction. Only Ben Aaronovitch knows how many more parts to this tale he has in him, but I sincerely hope it’s an epic series. I can’t wait to read the third part later this year. Britain has a great writing talent here and hopefully he won’t be overlooked just because he writes for this genre.