Saturday, 20 October 2012

On the wonders of London (and Tom Pollock)

I bloody love London.

No, really, I bloody love London. To my mind, of all the places in the world I've been, it's by far the best - though I've yet to visit New York, and I hear tell that that s wonderful, vibrant and stunning - like an American London, then, just with higher buildings and a bit less history.

I'm a student at a London university (King's College London to be precise), and, as of last October when my mum moved to Seattle, a full time London-liver. And I still bloody love it. Nowhere else is so diverse, culturally, architecturally, with people, with places, with history. There is a new surprise around every corner. A new shop to be found. A new stunning scene to stumble upon.

A couple of stories: I referee football matches which occasionally sends me to weird bits of London. I went to Victoria Park the other week, and found a shop that specialises in different types of chicken eggs, from rare breeds, and then sells eggs from other birds on top of that!... How cool is that??? And then, I live in Bangladeshi East London, next to the DLR. And yet, just around the corner, an 8 minute walk, I stumbled upon St. Katherine's Dock, which is an absolutely gorgeous place full of the boats of the rich, a (fairly average) pub, and more cool shops. The difference in atmosphere between Shoreditch and the City, between Chelsea and Borough, between Brixton and the West End is astonishing for just a few square miles. So much diversity in what is, in reality, such a small place.

St. Katherine's Dock

Does this blog have a point, I hear you ask/ Well yes - I'm using it as background for espousing about Tom Pollock's lovely novel The City's Son, which I read recently (well a couple of months ago, but I'm lazy...). I met Tom back in August at Blackwell Charing Cross' Fantasy Faction event with Joe Abercrombie, Peter V Brett & Myke Cole. His book had come out a week earlier, massively backed by Jo Fletcher books with a launch at the excellent Forbidden Planet. I had heard nothing but good things from the Fantasy connoisseurs there, so I decided to try it out.

Thank god that I did.

The novel is bloody excellent. Regarding a weird-fiction idea of the modern juxtaposed with the fantastic in an "unseen city", its an idea that has been done before done in a completely new way. The feeling of the city, both real and unreal, blend with awesome ease.

What a cool cover!!

Concerning the "City's Son" himself, Filius, and the normal human teenager Beth, and their attempts to defeat the crane king, Reach, who is slowly destroying London. Full of weird creatures, from Railwraiths to the Pavement Priests (animated statues across London) to the Chemical Synod, a sinister group of chemical-based pseudo-men, the fantastic world is meticulously built up. The setup is a little jaded, but the characters are excellent. Beth, Filius, Beth's best friend Pen, Beth's father - all felt real to me, felt like people I could reach out and touch.

The (MINOR SPOILER ALERT) romance between Beth and Filius that inevitably develops is handled well, with a subtlety and yet a certain realism of teenage fumblings to it. The plot itself is solidly constructed, exciting and reaching a natural climax. The only faults I had were the length and the action scenes - at times I felt that the action scenes were too long, too ponderous, too hard to imagine - Pollock can be forgiven in this as a debut author, but it is something that to me needs work, as well as parringdown some of the exposition - again, we can applaud the idea of trying to draw us in as best as possible, but at times a little mystery makes for a better experience.

However, this i ignoring the point of this blog. London. Amazing. The descriptions, the places, the feeling of London. Its astonishing. I can feel thephysical presence of London, both its real and unseen parts. I can see the dancing by the rough brick arhitecture of East London, under flicking sodium lamps. I see Crystal Palace radio tower, full of movement and menace. I see St. Paul's, crawling with cranes, with activity, with building work. I feel the diversity of London, that sense of wonder at its sheer presence, that sense that this place is exciting on every level, from the Eastender's-title-sequence-aerial-shot all the way down to the individual alley off the Old Kent Road.

London is awesome. Tom Pollock captures it sublimely. That is all.