By Ben Aaronovitch



416pp/£18.99/February 2020

False Values
Cover by Alex Janson

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

False Values, the eighth volume in Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series sees Peter Grant suspended from the police force in the aftermath of Lies Sleeping and looking for work in the private sector in the security department for the Serious Cybernetics Corporation. Naturally enough, the supernatural rears its ugly head at the company headquarters and Grant must use his abilities as both a policeman and a practitioner to figure out what is going on.

More than any of the other books in the series, False Values is a fish-out-of-water story. Apparently severed from the Folly and seeking private employment, the early chapters slip in time between Peter's present time working for the Serious Cybernetics security division and the events from a few months earlier that explain how he came to work for them. While in the past, Peter was ab le to maintain a professional and emotional distance from the individuals he was investigating, working daily at a non-policing job means that he is also building friendships with his boss and co-workers which can not only hamper his decision-making, but can also lead to a sense a betrayal when he begins investigating what might really be happening at SCC.

Peter's situation allows Aaronovitch to introduce several new characters, such as his new boss, ex-police-turned head of security Tyrel Johnson and his wife, Stacy Carter. His co-workers at CSS include Stephen, Victor, Everest, and Leo. In addition, there is the enigmatic Mrs. Chin who represents the Librarians, an American group that may be similar to the Folly or the Virginia Gentleman's Company. The influx of new characters provides numerous suspects and red herrings for Peter and Aaronovitch to follow up with. At the same time, Peter isn't entirely severed from his past and there are numerous appearances by Seawoll, Nightingale, and Guleed, among others.

Working at a technical company also allows Aaronovitch to introduce Charles Babbage's Difference Engine and the programming work of Ada Lovelace into his complex world of magic. Babbage and Lovelace's lengthy adoption by writers of steampunk make their use by Aaronovitch fit well into his work and allows him to play with the mythology that has grown up around the individuals and their achievements. Similarly, Aaronovitch has already established the power of artifacts through the undertakings of the Faceless Man and Lesley in previous novels, so the mysterious happenings as CSS, the investigation by the Librarians, and Grant’s own activities are all logical extensions of his world.

At the same time, Peter is faced with the prospect of becoming a father as Beverley Brook is progressing in her pregnancy with their child. Peter's domestic life doesn't take over the novel, but it does have a larger role than in most of the novels. This addition allows the possibility of an entirely new point of view in future novels. Aaronovitch also uses it to demonstrate that Peter and Beverley have an actual relationship with Beverley meeting Peter's boss and his wife and creating her own friendship with them which could cause issues for Peter and his investigation moves forward.

The Serious Cybernetics Company is an homage to Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and while some references are welcome, Aaronovitch uses a wide variety of terms from Adams' work to refer to the departments of the company which, while a nice call-back to a seminal work tends to get in the way of the story since none of the divisions have obvious names tied to their functions. Aaronovitch indicates he is aware of this issue early in the novel by having a character refer to "HR" rather than the "Magrathean Ape-Descended Life Form Utilization Service," although he is pretty consistent in calling the security division the Vogons.

The new setting and situation of False Values is a pleasant break from the previous books in the series. Even though Peter get out of London in Foxglove Summer and some of the short stories collected in Tales from the Folly, the fact that he was still working for the Folly in those works and wasn't figuring out what his life as a civilian might look like meant that it was merely a change of setting, not a different direction, which, to some extent, Aaronovitch offers, successfully, in False Values.

Purchase this book

Amazon BooksOrder from Amazon UK




Return to