The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch: Meeting Peter Grant’s German Counterpart

The October ManThe October Man

by Ben Aaronovitch
Series: The Rivers of London, #7.5

Hardcover, 208 pg.
Subterranean Press , 2019
Read: June 19 – 21, 2019

So about the time that the one German Magic Practitioner hears that Nightengale has taken on an apprentice in Peter Grant, she decides that it’s time for Germany to do the same — keeping the playing field level, and all — she finds that apprentice in a second generation police officer, Tobias Winter. We meet Tobias a few years into things when he’s called away from leave time to investigate something that may be supernaturally related.

He recognizes vestigia right away — although I think the manner of death would be a pretty big tip off, no matter what. A mysterious fungal rot that covers him in precisely the way that fungus doesn’t cover people. I can’t do justice to how creepy it sounds when Tobias narrates it for us — you’ll have to read it.

Tobias is teamed up with Vanessa Sommer, a local police officer who knows the area, knows a bit about the particular fungus, and is super-curious about magic. Naturally, there’s an encounter with a River or two, and an interesting take on regional history — because this is a Rivers of London novel, what else are you going to get?

It’s a quick read with great story and the kind of people that Aaronovich fills his books with — these just happen to speak German and look at things in a different way from Peter and those he usually runs with — Tobias isn’t as funny as Peter, but he’s amusing to read and handles things in ways that Peter doesn’t. Still, at the end of the day, Peter’d be happy getting the same result (and probably would be jealous how little property damage that Tobias inflicts before wrapping up the investigation).

We’ve been given glimpses of what Nightengale and his fellows got involved in during WWII, but here we get more details — from the German point of view. It’s always been clear that happened wasn’t pretty — but I didn’t realize just how devastating it was until now. It’s also interesting to see just how significant it was for Nightengale to make Peter an apprentice. He essentially kicked off an international magical arms race (of sorts). Don’t get me wrong, the main point of this book is to be introduced to new characters, to see how magic is dealt with somewhere that isn’t London — but man, what we learn about things in London is fascinating.

I don’t know how this qualifies as a novella — even a “long novella,” as I’ve seen it marketed. I have several novels within reach of me right now that are smaller than this. It’s a semantic thing, but book nerds are supposed to be into words — so I don’t get it. Two hundred eight pages does not mean novella to me. If someone can explain it (or point to where Aaronovitch or Subterrerean Press explained it already), I’d appreciate it. Just to scratch that intellectual itch.

Aside from what to call this book, I enjoyed it. Tobias is an good character, he’s no Peter Grant, but he’s not supposed to be (in either Aaronovitch’s mind or the German practitioners’). I’d like he and Peter or he and the Nightengale to brush up against each other — or to have extended contact (like FBI Agent Reynolds and the Folly have had). If Aaronovitch decides on writing another novella/novel/adventure with him, I’d jump on it. But I’m not going to be waiting expectantly — if he doesn’t want to write another (or sales don’t justify it), I can be satisfied with just this much that we’ve been given here.

This’d be a great jumping on point for someone who wants to get a feel for the Rivers of London and Aaronovitch’s style. It’s also a great way for devoted fans of that series to dabble in something new, get a fresh perspective and realize that Peter Grant’s world is smaller than he realizes — while enjoying a creative and fun story.


3 Stars