Saturday, 30 August 2014

Guy Adams: The Clown Service

Right up to the end, I was thinking of this as a passably silly book, kind of a cross between Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London and Mick Herron’s Slow Horses, something which would do to tide me over until one or other of those two got around to giving me another book I actually wanted to read. Then the book did something very clever indeed with the idea of change having consequences, and I was suddenly intrigued.

It’s a well written book, though I was puzzled by the way that the narrative voice kept shifting; we keep seeing the characters in different viewpoints as the book unfolds; at first Toby Greene exists only in third person narrative, and then we get a first person perspective, and similar things happen with August Shining. It’s carried off well enough, but it’s jolting, as though Adams hasn’t made his mind up how he’s going to tackle the story.

Which wouldn’t have surprised me, really. It’s one of those things which feels like the idea came before the characters. What if the British Secret Service had a department for dealing with the occult? And what if they were under-resourced and kind of a laughing stock? (this is why it didn’t make me think of Charles Stross’ Laundry, before you even ask). I could see a writer setting off down that road, trying to figure out where it was going to go and who the main voice would be, and then settling down on one main view. Inevitably, because it’s so narratively useful, the view of the newby.

But then there’s that clever switch at the end; was that just a moment of sheer epiphany for Adams, setting up a whole series of books that will be all about the consequences of the one clever idea that saves the day while ruining the years, or was that the plan all along? I can’t even decide which would impress me more. But the next one’s a must-read rather than a maybe.

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