False Value by Ben Aaronovitch: Peter Grant Gets a New Job and a Great Series Gets Better

False Value

False Value

by Ben Aaronovitch
Series: The Rivers of London, #8

Hardcover, 294 pg.
DAW Books, 2020

Read: February 28-March 3, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

“Somebody else came during the night and magicked them,” I said.

“Is that a real term—’magicked?'” asked Guleed.

“And it’s spelt with a ‘k,’ too,” I said. “But the technical term is actually ‘enchanted.’ Only the trouble with that word is that everyone starts thinking glass slippers and spinning wheels.”

There’s very little that I don’t like in The Rivers of London series, you may have noticed, but the friendship and banter between Peter and DS Sahra Guleed is possibly my favorite part of the books. The way they slip between discussions of magic (or magick) theory, police procedure, family stuff, the cases they’re working without missing a beat—or doing so professionally or like a couple of teenagers having too much fun under the nose of authority figures. It feels real, it feels natural, and it’s fun.

It’s also much more beneficial for each character—and the Queen’s peace—than his friendship with Leslie May.

After the series-altering events of Lies Sleeping, the question most readers had was, “Will the series be any good post-Martin Chorley?” Most were likely like me, with a firm “Very probably. Hope so.” False Value demonstrates that things are just fine without Chorley—better than fine, really (although everyone is dealing with the aftermath of everything he did).

Also, as nice as The October Man was, it’s great to be back with Peter and the rest of the Folly.

Most of the books in this series are about a Wizard-in-Training who happens to be a police officer. This book was a Crime Fiction novel about a guy who happens to be a wizard in training.

With the suspension he received at the end of the last book, and his future with the Police uncertain, Peter Grant goes off in search of a new job. He ends up finding work investigating some internal shenanigans for a tech giant headquartered in London. Peter’s computer-geek gets the chance to shine a bit as well as flexing his investigative muscles.

It’s not long before he discovers the source of the shenanigans, and that’s where things get interesting. The source is associated with The New York Libraries Association, “the militant magical wing of the New York Public Library Services.” Which is one of the American analogues to The Folly (just without the official police sanction). He and his superior are also investigating the company—because they’re convinced that SCC is utilizing magic in a potentially hazardous way, paving the way for something huge. I am beyond curious about the Libraries Association and hope we get to see them in action again soon. The whole thing is ripe with possibilities and it’s going to be great to see it all play out.

If you were to draw a Venn diagram with circles for Charles Babbage/Ada Lovelace, Artificial General Intelligence, and Wizardry—the overlap is where you’d False Value. Who wants more? The mix of contemporary cutting-edge technologies and Newtonian magic is just fantastic.

This all leads up to a wonderfully exciting climactic showdown between Nightingale, Peter and the rest on one side, The Librarians on another, and SCC on the other.

If we act now we might be able to roll them up before they know what’s hit them.”

Nightingale frowned into his teacup.

“Perhaps,” he said.

“What have we got to lose?” I said.

Nightingale looked up and gave me a strange, sad smile.

“Oh, everything, Peter, “he said. “But then such is life.”

Yeah, sure, there’s plenty of things going on with Abigail, Molly, Foxglove, and (of course) a very pregnant Beverly. But I just don’t have the time to talk about it all. I think it’s safe to say that this is the busiest novel in the series with something for every fan (more than one something, too).

We also got to check in with our favorite FBI Agent. She was able to give Peter all sorts of background about SCC and its founder (an American), which proved vital and interesting (she got some information about the Librarians in return). Better yet, some of what she uncovered changed Peter’s understanding of some of what went on in Lies Sleeping (the reader’s understanding, too). I’m betting this will prove to be at the core of the next arc for the series.

So now we have an idea about two groups in the States, German practitioners, ,and then a smattering of some in the UK. I love how they’re all very diverse, while sharing a lot in common.

I stopped short in the first sentence of the book:

My final interview at the Serious Cybernetics Corporation…

Serious Cybernetics Corporation? As in,

The Encyclopedia Galactica defines a robot as a mechanical apparatus designed to do the work of a man. The marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation defines a robot as “Your Plastic Pal Who’s Fun to Be With.” The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation as “a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes,”

from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. So I thought that Aaronovitch was having a little fun with an in-joke and moved on. But no, it was a theme throughout the entire tech company. HR is referred to as “the Magrathean Ape-Descended Life Form Utilization Service,” and Security (where Peter was applying) is “the Vogon Enforcement Arm.” The book is full of these things, and after page 14, I stopped counting them. There’s so many of these that around page 150, Peter says something about SCC “pushing copyright” after a particularly egregious example. I had a great time with this book anyway, but all this was a thick layer of icing on the cake.

A carefully and intricately plotted main story, some fantastic action scenes, and character growth—coupled with Aaronovitch’s signature style and wit. I just can’t think of anything wrong with this book—this is exactly the kind of book that I want to read.

5 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

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