Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book Review: Something From the Nightside, Simon R. Green

The Nightside is not a pleasant place. It's somewhere in England, though where precisely is unclear. And all you ever fear exists there. All the ghosties and ghoulies walk around and are somehow mostly cordial with each other. Mostly. Okay. Not really, but they are better behaved in this book than you'd expect, though they also spend much of their time being creepy and dangerous. It's somewhere that normal people should never ever be, in any case.

And then there is John Taylor. Seemingly normal, something of a specialist and a detective. He's come back to the Nightside - not because he wants to, but because someone is lost and they need to be found, and he's the only detective that can do it.

But John's not normal. Not at all. He has a very very special talent, something extremely helpful to any detective. He can find anything. Absolutely anything. A lost person, a forgotten dream, bullets in a gun, tangible or intangible, it doesn't matter. He calls it his Gift, though it is as much a gift as it is a curse. He's also constantly trying to escape the Nightside, though things always manage to drag him back.

He gets a visit from a scared (and wealthy - the wealthy part is very important) mother asking if he can help her find her daughter. If there's one thing John's good at, it's finding someone or something. But the problem is - the daughter was lost in the Nightside. That's never a good sign.

Oh, the Nightside series. Similar feel to them as the Dresden Files, though a bit darker (in some cases, quite a bit - some of the images that will get put into your head while reading it can make you a bit squeamish. Fine if you're already a horror or crime fiction reader, not so much if you're not used to fairly graphic descriptions - I've actually read that as a complaint about the books. Green is very clinical with his descriptions, so there's a heads up). Also, significantly shorter - I think the first novel clocks in at under 250 pages. But there's a lot packed into that little novel.

Since these are mysteries and so short, I'm not even going to get into that bit about the plot, and instead I'm going to focus on the characters.

John Taylor. Very much the classic detective type. He even calls him "tall, dark, not particularly handsome". The way he lives is sparse. He doesn't have many friends. A lot of people don't particularly trust him, and he has no idea why (neither do the readers for several books), because no one tells him anything before it's too late. But he's good at what he does - he has to be, with a Gift like that. He's the only detective alive that can do what he does. Nothing really surprises him - it's almost as if he doesn't allow himself to be surprised. But then, things are so bizarre in the Nightside that one would have to deaden themselves to it.

Oh, and Merlin is a character. Yes, that Merlin. Everyone's reaction is the same: "The Merlin? O_O" Sometimes his ghost shows up (actually, he does in the next book). To be exact, he's linked with a bar called Strangefellows, which could almost be a character in itself. Strangefellows is owned by Merlin's descendents, currently one Alex Morrisey. He's basically this LOLcat incarnate. He hates everything. EVERYTHING. He will complain about everything (but he'll still usually give John a decent drink. While complaining about him to him).

Other characters include Suzie Shotgun (or "Oh Christ, it's her, run!") - pure kickass. There's also Razor Eddie, Patron Saint of the Straight Razor. Walker, the man with a voice that can make very dead people speak and force anyone to do his bidding. There's the Harrowing, some of the few creatures that John is terrified of - creatures made for one purpose: to kill, and they will stop at nothing to complete this task (they also basically look like people made from Playdoh). The Collector, a man who collects everything of any sort of value (and can travel in time! He's not a nice guy, though).

The thing to note about the Nightside is that everything odd that could possibly happen usually does in these books. It's dark (it's always nighttime, no matter the actual time of day that is in London). It's mean. And somehow it all makes sense even when it shouldn't. This is one of those things that can go very very wrong in other books, because of the utter lack of well, cohesion, but somehow it just works here. It's a bit of "everything and the kitchen sink" feel, I admit, and I don't know how Green does it, but it works. It shouldn't work as seamlessly as it does, but it does.

Also, there is time travel - in this very book, actually (and the result is... creepy). This also somehow makes total sense. Seriously anything can happen.

I also have to add about the running gag of "the first rule of being a PI" - it never ever stays the same. Never go looking for the Maltese Falcon, it never ends well (or at least, according to John, it never does). ;P

I've recently reread book two of the series, Agents of Light and Darkness, so that should be reviewed soon!

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