London Falling, by Paul Cornell

London Falling is a gritty, tense, occasionally horrifying crime drama. I strongly recommend it to folks who like Luther or Red Riding. But Paul Cornell has done something else here, something more than merely deliver a great, compelling read. He has made heroism out of some somewhat atypical character traits.

When I was younger I liked books about people who were special, who found a home and family with other people who recognized the special heroic-ness of the protagonist. This was the narrative that held meaning for me — it’s what I wanted, with all my heart. I wanted my Terrific Special Wonderfulness to be acknowledged by the world.

The theory I’m currently operating under is that everyone is special and important, which means it’s not something you get prizes and parades for. It’s just life — a life in which everyone is important. So anyone is a protagonist, whether they want to be or not.

The four leads of London Falling are just regular people. Flawed, oh, god, yes, flawed. But they have regular strength, too. The First Major Set Piece With Villain was horrifying. In it, the police officers — the coppers, as they call themselves — are totally flummoxed as to what is happening. It’s business as usual to be totally in the dark. It’s a terrible sort of usual, but good coppers grit their teeth and go on solving crimes anyway.

This ability to persist is at the heart of London Falling. Terrible evil springs from persistence. But so does the good that comes from stupidly stubborn hope. Both the villain and the protagonists grit their teeth, put their head down, square their shoulders, and just fucking get on with it already.

Stubborn, mule-headed endurance of character is not the sort of story I think I would have appreciated when I was younger. But I devoutly appreciate it now. My life is not a life of flashy battles, of tasks accomplished and put behind me. My life is a life of doing the same things every day, of teaching school and letting out the dogs and doing the dishes and going to work. I do these things in service. I do these things because I believe that in ten or fifteen years time the accumulation of my acts will leave palpable good in the world. I will have given animals a good home, I will have seen tens of thousands of pilots safely to their destinations, I will have helped produce competent, ethical adults who go one to further the future of humanity.

It’s a long game. And it’s built of everyday persistence.

I loved London Falling. I am eagerly, anxiously, awaiting the sequel.

Thank you, Paul. I appreciate what you have written.

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One Response

  1. Yeah, its very good, indeed. I love how they just carry on, because they are in the MET and that’s what you do.

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