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The Severed Streets

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Severed Streets (2014) Paul Cornell

the-severed-streetsWell done, Paul Cornell, well done.

He turned round and saw that he’d encountered the long legs of a man in black jeans, black T-shirt and black leather jacket who was sitting in a discreet corner of the bar, his mobile phone in his hand. He had a long face, caring, slightly sad, with a worried look around his mouth, and a shock of dark hair. He was looking as if Quill had disturbed him in the middle of a thought.

Quill realized, to his surprise, that he recognized this man. He didn’t quite know from where, but he had a feeling that it wasn’t in a police context.

‘Can I help you?’ said the man.

Quill became aware that he had been staring, and at the same moment knew where he’d seen this guy before. It had been on the inside flap of a book he’d read to Jessica, and on another that Sarah had been reading in bed, and he’d been surprised that the same bloke had written both. ‘Here,’ he said, ‘aren’t you that writer?’

I knew who that was immediately, and THIS bit is fabulous.

Once the story moved along and I got to the further bits, I was all, “Wait, what? That didn’t really just happen, did it?”

Like the first book, it took me a bit to keep everyone and everything straight at the beginning. But once I got settled into the story, I fell in completely and stayed up past my bedtime to finish.

One of the strongest things about his writing is the dialog.

He blinked awake, realizing that this time the noise wasn’t the voice of his child, but of his phone on the bedside table, ringing. He lay there for a moment. There was a lovely pre-dawn light through the curtains.

‘Would you please answer that,’ said Sarah, ‘and tell them to fuck off?’

Quill saw who was calling and answered the phone. ‘Lisa Ross,’ he said, ‘my wife sends you her fondest regards.’

‘If it’s her, I actually do,’ amended Sarah.

‘Listen,’ Tunstall said immediately. ‘I want to change my statement.’

‘Now, wait—’ began Quill.

‘What I said happened was impossible. It couldn’t have gone like that, could it? One of the protestors must have got into the car—’

‘Mate,’ said Costain, ‘we believe you.’

Tunstall stopped short. ‘You what?’ Then he slumped, a tremendous weight on him again. ‘Oh, right, I get it: you’re the good cop.’

Costain pointed to himself, looking surprised. ‘Bad cop.’

‘Surreal cop,’ said Sefton, also pointing to himself.

‘Good cop,’ admitted Quill. ‘Relatively. Which is weird.’

Ross just raised an eyebrow.

Tunstall looked between them, unsure if they were taking the piss.

Being interviewed by this unit, thought Quill, must sometimes seem like being interrogated by Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

‘So, DI Quill,’ said Forrester, ‘what can you bring to the table?’

Quill had prepared this report mentally over the last few days. ‘We’ve placed undercovers in relevant communities and are already hearing useful chatter, though none yet of operational relevance.’ He wished he could mention the silver, but couldn’t think of a way to do it.

‘So, you’ve got fuck all?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Fantastic. Keep up the good work.’

I will warn you that this story is dark. I suppose it could be considered bordering on horror, but it’s not startle-scary horror (the stuff I hate) it’s more the manifestation of all the horrible things in the world, horror.

As far as he and the others could tell, they were some sort of … well, they were either a metaphorical representation of various psychiatric disorders – of human misery, basically – or they actually were that misery, and psychiatry was the metaphor.

If you don’t like dark horrible things, these story isn’t for you. But it’s the kind of dark and horrible that mirrors society, rather than monsters that attack from under the bed horrible.

Me, I loved it.
Rating: 9/10

Published by Tor

 

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