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The Severed Streets, by Paul Cornell - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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The Severed Streets, by Paul Cornell [May. 28th, 2014|10:28 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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Review copy provided by Tor.


Last year when I read London Falling, I thought that it was clear that the beats fell where they would in a Doctor Who episode, and that’s still one of the places where Paul Cornell’s TV background is coming through in the sequel. Another place, though, is that I’m afraid he leans pretty heavily on the actors to carry the characterization and charisma of the characters. This…is not entirely ideal in a novel, where there are no actors.


Here, the most vivid character is Neil Gaiman. I don’t mean “someone who was made to startlingly resemble Neil Gaiman but was slyly named something like Bill Hayman so that only those in the know will recognize him.” No. It was actual Neil Gaiman as a major character–and yes, a major one; he seems early on to be making a minor cameo, and if you think, Lordy, this is about all the Neil Gaiman cameo I can take, there’s more. I hate Tuckerizations. This is a Tuckerization on steroids. This could have the alternate title All Tuckered Out. Best Bib and Tucker. Etc.


In a world where I don’t seem to be getting Mike Carey books any more, in a world where Ben Aaronovitch books don’t come out as often as they might, this is a London urban fantasy series, and it will do. But it’s pretty flat affect, and the Jack-the-Ripper inversions don’t ever get as vivid or as important as they might, and, well, it’s all right, if you’re up for that much Neil Gaiman as a fictional character, I guess. I’m a little worried about who will guest star in the next episode–er, novel–and what will be joyless about it. But I haven’t quit on the series yet.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: rosefox
2014-05-31 04:30 am (UTC)
I found that cameo profoundly annoying. I was also really troubled by... uh... how spoilery can I get in comments?
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2014-05-31 10:46 am (UTC)
SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT. DO NOT SCROLL PAST THIS POINT IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO SEE SPOILERS. ROSE HAS SPOILERS TO DISCUSS AND I AM INTERESTED IN DISCUSSING THEM WITH ROSE AND WHOEVER ELSE, SO: FROM HERE ON OUT, POTENTIAL SPOILER GROUND.
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[User Picture]From: rosefox
2014-05-31 11:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)

Okay, so, here we have this serial killer, who is (approximately) a woman. And she's killing men because she hates ALL men because men were mean to her once.

Did anyone else find this kind of an odd and unpleasant choice? I think it's supposed to look like a feminist choice because look, she's taking down all those bad evil rich straight white men! Except the feminists I know don't actually want those men to die in horrible awful ways. And if making them die in horrible awful ways is angled as a feminist thing then I am really REALLY uncomfortable with that.

Yes, she's manipulated by the real antagonist, who is himself a bad evil rich straight white man. But she has some agency, because she resists him when he wants her to kill women.

Basically, I really don't think creating a "feminist" Jack the Ripper analogue does feminism any favors. To put it mildly.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2014-05-31 11:28 pm (UTC)
I don't find it strikingly egalitarian or feminist, no. If he was aiming for that, I think it was a failure. Honestly it didn't occur to me that he was aiming for that, but that may just be because I was pretty bored with it.
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[User Picture]From: rosefox
2014-05-31 11:35 pm (UTC)
A lot of the language around the victims felt very consciously (and perhaps self-consciously) social-justice-y to me, emphasizing that they're men of privilege, etc.

I'm generally squicked by the idea of setting up a female serial killer who only targets men, because that's so completely opposite how it happens in the real world. But this felt like it had more of an agenda behind it--maybe because I know Paul and I know he's personally very consciously (and perhaps self-consciously) feminist. I mean, this is the guy who stirred up all of UK fandom by refusing to be on all-male panels. So having that context in my head made the choice a particularly discomfiting one to me.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2014-05-31 11:41 pm (UTC)
Ah, I see. Whereas I kind of see it as possibly the author's wish fulfillment that way, sometimes. Depending on the author.

This time, just, meh. Invoking Jack the Ripper is a good way to get me to start hearing the Charlie Brown adult voice trombones, though, sadly. Unless it's truepenny talking about her true crime books about them, weirdly enough.
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[User Picture]From: rosefox
2014-05-31 11:15 pm (UTC)
Also, in regard to your last paragraph, I recommend the works of Benedict Jacka.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2014-05-31 11:23 pm (UTC)
Good to know!
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