Quotes From Whispers Under Ground, Broken Homes, and Foxglove Summer

Some quotes from “Whispers Under Ground“, “Broken Homes“, and “Foxglove Summer.” They are the third, fourth, and fifth novels in Ben Aaronovitch’s “Rivers of London” series of novels about Peter Grant, a London Police Constable and apprentice magician.

I bought these three on the strength of his first book  I had the feeling that Aaronovitch succumbed to “Game of Thrones” disease–not greyscale but “literary elephantiasis”–where he is afraid to bring anything to a conclusion because his series has become so popular–and profitable.

Whispers Under Ground

Unfortunately this proved to be the weakest book in the series and I only found two quotes somewhat funny.

“Like young men from the dawn of time, I decided to choose the risk of death over certain humiliation.”
Ben Aaronovitch in “Whispers Under Ground

There are many things we do to keep the esteem of our friends, but if the motivation is rooted in an inability to accept the humiliation of admitting a mistake it can cause problems.

“Actually I’d always thought he sat in the library with a slim volume of metaphysical poetry until the commissioner called him on the bat phone and summoned him into action. Holy paranormal activity, Nightingale–to the Jag mobile.”
Ben Aaronovitch in “Whispers Under Ground

Peter Grant is apprenticed to Thomas Nightingale, a master magician and a far a more interesting character. In this quote he casts himself in the role of Robin to Nightingale’s Batman. The problem with this, as explained by Nathan Brazil in his review of Foxglove Summer is: “Ultimately, this book and much of the series is like reading a Batman comic featuring only Robin. A well written Robin, for sure, but not the main man.”

Broken Homes

This book reminded me of the world of “Metropolitan” and “City on Fire” by Walter Jon Williams. Also “urban fantasies” where in Williams’ world building, “Magic is the ability to alter the laws of nature in accordance with human will.”

“That’s the trouble with evidence–either you’ve got it or you don’t.”
Ben Aaronovitch in “Broken Homes

Here evidence is in the context of the police procedural half of the novel, but this is also good advice for entrepreneurs on the value of distinguishing between facts, intuitions, and judgment. When you need to convince others you have to back up your intuition and judgment with facts.

“Unless you think that’s possible?”
“Unlikely, but I have to say recently I have lost my faith in the word impossible.”
Ben Aaronovitch in “Broken Homes

Unlikely is a more useful concept than impossible. This is an echo of Wernher von Braun: “I have come to view the word ‘impossible’ with the greatest caution.”

“That which does not kill us has to get up extra early in the morning if it wants to get us next time.”
Ben Aaronovitch in “Broken Homes

I thought this was a neat encapsulation of an evolving competitive equilibrium.

Foxglove Summer

“A modern search isn’t just a matter of marking off a grid and working through it one by one. These days you section it off by probability–where your subject could have got to under their own power in the time available. So the search area grows like frost on a spider web, shooting down roads and tracks, spreading out in sheets over fields and gardens.”
Ben Aaronovitch in “Foxglove Summer

I thought this was a beautiful metaphor for a costed maze search (or a breadth first search where each move can have a different cost)

“We trooped off behind her into waist-high bracken, down something that was not so much a path as a statistical variation in the density of the undergrowth.”
Ben Aaronovitch in “Foxglove Summer

If the topography and brush were modeled accurately this could be detected by the search algorithm. At some level the paths you find when you are exploring a new market look more like a somewhat easier way than “the easy way” or smooth path.

“Is your work always this vague?”
“Nah, sometimes we really don’t know what we’re doing.”
Ben Aaronovitch in “Foxglove Summer

This also reminded me of the realities of early market exploration. Wernher von Braun again, “Basic research is what I am doing when I don’t know what I am doing.”

Metropolitan / City on Fire Related Posts


City on Fire

  • Walter Jon Williams: “Running Off the Cliff: Cit on Fire
    The first book in the series was about Making the Revolution.  That’s common in SF and fantasy.  In fiction, wicked rulers get overthrown all the time by pure-hearted revolutionaries. City on Fire, though, was about Making the Revolution Work, and you almost never see that in our field.  In Lord of the Rings, you never actually get to see Aragorn running the kingdoms he’s inherited.  In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, the Professor dies after the revolution, and Mannie and Wyoh retire to make babies or something.  Even Mike the computer retires.  Actual politics was beneath these people.  They might get their hands dirty.

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