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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

“London Falling” by Paul Cornell (Reviewed by Sabine Gueneret)

Order “London FallingHERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Read An Extract HERE

INTRODUCTION: When I first heard of London Falling by Paul Cornell—best known for his work with Doctor Who—I was thrilled! As a big fan of Doctor Who myself, I couldn’t wait to read Paul Cornell’s first urban fantasy novel. Plus, I had been looking for a horror novel to read and with London Falling’s setting, the sometimes gloomy and menacing surroundings, and the book’s mixture of gangsters and black magic, I had very high expectations!

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Paul Cornell is a Hugo Award-nominated writer best known for his work with Doctor Who which includes numerous novels, comic books and screenplays of some of the best-loved episodes of the Doctor Who television series for BBC. Other television work includes Robin Hood, Primeval and Casualty. He has also written a number of comics for Marvel and DC (X-Men and Batman& Robin) and won the BSFA Award for his short fiction. London Falling is his first urban fantasy novel.

FORMAT/INFO: London Falling is 400 pages long and is the first volume in a new urban fantasy series. December 6, 2012 marked the UK Trade Paperback/Ebook publication of London Falling via Tor UK. The US version (see below) will be published on April 16, 2013 via Tor.


Detective Inspector James Quill is about to complete the drugs bust of his career. Then his prize suspect Rob Toshack is murdered in custody. Furious, Quill pursues the investigation, co-opting intelligence analyst Lisa Ross and undercover cops Costain and Sefton. But nothing about Toshack’s murder is normal.

Toshack had struck a bargain with a vindictive entity, whose occult powers kept Toshack one step ahead of the law – until his luck ran out. Now, the team must find a “suspect” who can bend space and time and alter memory itself. And they will kill again.

As the group starts to see London’s sinister magic for themselves, they have two choices: panic or use their new abilities. Then they must hunt a terrifying supernatural force the only way they know how: using police methods, equipment and tactics. But they must all learn the rules of this new game- and quickly. More than their lives will depend on it.

ANALYSIS: London Falling was a very good read, highlighted by a well-constructed detective story that kept me out of breath until the end. There is no secondary plot here—it was all about the Toshack mystery, which was more than OK for me thanks to witty ‘copper dialogue’ and fast-paced action. That said, the story definitely does not lack complexity: London Falling is a beautifully intricate and highly enjoyable mystery with lots of twists and a fair number of funny and emotional moments – a killer!

Characters also played a major part in the success of London Falling: James Quill and company are all well shaped and interesting individuals, with their own unique flaws and personal stories. Revealed piece by piece, these backstories really helped maintain my interest throughout the book, especially since each chapter brought a new element to the puzzle, either about a character or the main plot. The team of four investigators are sometimes a bit cliché in their policeman roles, but they are still very engaging and the alternating points of view between the four of them makes it easier to connect with them and get into the story.

My only problem with London Falling was the lack of horror. While the book had supernatural elements in it, including a few dangerous and tense encounters, London Falling never scared me properly. For instance:

“They all turned to look, and Costain was the first to realize what the woman was seeing. The room had got significantly darker, but without the lights dimming. It was as if the darkness had moved in from every corner. He felt his pulse increase, his breathing grow faster. Bit of a white-knuckle ride coming up, then. Okay. It was as if he’d stepped into an open doorway with light behind him, and was, for some reason, pausing there. He wanted to run. I will not run. He controlled himself. His fear suddenly seemed as artificial as this darkness was. It wasn’t coming from inside…Oh fuck.

He could feel it. Something enormous was approaching from all directions at once. Its shadow had fallen across the house. The Sight seemed to be turning a dial in his head, up and up and up. ‘This is not the shallow end’ he said. ‘This isn’t like what we saw before. This is bigger than Losley, than anything else we’ve yet seen…’ Bigger than what that smiling bastard lets us see of him. Or maybe this is him!

‘No’ says Sefton. ‘Wait a sec. This isn’t what it looks like’.”

By utilizing police methods and rationalizing Mora Losley, the horror elements in London Falling are drastically lessened. As a result, while I very much enjoyed the book as a detective story, the horror dimension was lost on me, and this was a big disappointment since I was really expecting more in that department.

CONCLUSION: Even though Paul Cornell’s London Falling was not the horror novel that I was expecting, it is still a very enjoyable book, highly recommended for a long winter night!


Unknown said...

I skimmed the review since this one's on my TBR shelf - I'm not a horror fan normally, but I do like my London based fantasy. Sounds like it's worth a look, thanks for the review :)


Sabine said...

it is indeed a great example of a London based fantasy, and an in-between horror, urban fantasy and detective story...a must-read!

Elfy said...

I loved Paul's work in the comics format and for Dr Who, so I'm looking forward to this. Thank you for the review.

Alexander Gordon Jahans said...

I just finished the book, I read it largely during the long waits and travel time to and from LA for Gallifrey One. You're right it isn't horrific, despite the horror elements but it is realist about the insane fantasy horror that is going on and that combined with the characters makes it more than worth it.


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