Monday, May 03, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Uncanny- A novel of the Nightside by Simon R. Green

The Nightside is a strange area of London, created by Lilith because she had been thrown out of Paradise and didn't want Hell. Created to be her place, it is a collection of people and places from all worlds and all times. It is always 3 AM there, and you can find anything you want there- things that aren't good for you, things that will eat at your body, your sanity, and your soul.

John Taylor is a Private Eye who has lived in Nightside for years. He has one specific psychic talent- he can find anything. And, as he has learned, that Talent comes from who his mother was- Lilith. But when she appeared back in the Nightside, ready to take it over again, John fought against her to keep the Nightside as free as possible.

But the Nightside isn't truly free. Something always keeps watch over it. Originally, it was the authorities, until John and his friends brought them down. Now it is the New Authorities, and their agent is a man named Walker, who was once the friend of John's father, and once John's friend as well. But John isn't so friendly with Walker these days, because he knows what Walker has had to do on behalf of his new bosses, and John doesn't approve.

So, when Walker turns up to talk to him, John hears him out, but won't agree to anything more. It turns out that Walker is dying, and he needs to pass on his job, to be the front man for the Authorities as they currently exist, on to his chosen successor, and to John's shock, that person is none other than John Taylor, P.I..

John, though, doesn't want to, and he turns Walker down. He's seen what Walker's time as an Agent of the Authorities has done to him, and John isn't particularly able to give up his scruples and morals to be a mouthpiece or the man behind it all. The Authorities both old and new have condoned some awful things in the past, and John has too much of a conscience. Walker gets him to agree to at least consider it, but John still plans on saying, "No,", much to Walker's anger and disappointment.

John takes on a job with an elf named Lord Scratch, to escort him to a portal to Faerie through the Nightside. Nobody likes elves, considering they look down on humans, and anyone who isn't an elf, not to mention lying like a rug whenever they feel like it, but John isn't going to go back on his word once it's given, and teams up with Mrs. Fate, the Nightside's Transvestite Superhero and her supercar to get Lord Scratch to his destination while opposed by Werewolf bikers. But can even John Taylor succeed here? And what is the information that Lord Screech seems to think that John Taylor needs to know that he offered in payment?

Next, Larry Oblivion, the Nightside's Dead Detective, coerces John to help him find his brother, Tommy, who disappeared in the Nightside during the Lilith War. Larry is afraid that his disappearance has something to do with his other brother, Hadleigh, who once was a simple magician before going truly out of his mind and becoming something truly frightening and out of his mind. But Larry isn't the only one still missing from that time, and John's talent is giving him inconsistent results, which is why he thinks that Larry is really dead.

But can he and Larry survive the many places they will have to look to find out where Larry Oblivion really is? And can Larry and John survive a meeting with Hadleight, and Larry, Hadley and Tommy's parents, a famous adventurer and his wife?

Lastly, Walker ups the stakes on his request of John, and takes him on a tour of the Nightside, showing him the powers and privileges of the new position Walker would offer him. But all John wants is to enjoy his life and his love with Suzy Shooter, who has finally faced up to the pain of her past, and can actually stand to be touched now- at least for a small while, and John has hope for more. But Walker won't take no for an answer- and John isn't willing to give in. Who will win, and who or what will be the new face and Voice of the Authorities?

I love the Nightside novels, and I love John Taylor, but even more than him (and trust me, he's great), the best parts of the Nightside are the other characters who live there, like Mrs, Fate and her fluffy pink car, or Alex, the owner and bartender of John's favorite bar, Strangeways, with his dead ancestor, Merlin, who lives (if one can say that about him) in the basement of the bar, and can save Alex's bacon, but who mostly just makes his life hell. And then there is Slick Eddie, God of the Straight Razor, who is only mentioned here, but one of my favorite characters.

Another good thing about this series is the writing, which is sharp, vivid and witty as all Hell. The Nightside is a place that seems like a more twisted version of big city back alleys late in the night in the midst of the drunks and the muggers who wait in the alleys to pick you off, only magnified by at least a thousandfold. It's a bit like the puzzle box in Hellraiser- the people who end up in the Nightside are the people who want the most extreme things that the world and existence has to offer, and mostly the more profane over the blessed. It's not Hell itself, but definitely Hell's doorstep- or maybe somewhere on the same street.

This series is winding down now, I hear there will only be a novel or two more, and I will tell you that I am going to miss this series. I haven't enjoyed Simon Green's other series about Eddie Drood as much as this one, and I really miss his "Hawk and Fisher" series that I first read. But this is definitely a series you have got to read, as John Taylor has it all over Eddie Drood, Mixing a modern Fantasy tale, with Noir Detective character, and characters from Fantasy, Science Fiction and Mythology as well as wit, verse and dialogue so sharp it can cut a single hair without even trying, this combines several genres and a grim and gritty worldview like nothing else you've ever read. Highly recommended.

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