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Something from the Nightside (Nightside book 1), Simon R. Green

So I've been (as you may have noticed) on an urban supernatural kick, and trying out a few new series/books either from recommendations, or because they crop up on Amazon.com as recommended for me or "other people who bought this bought" things or whatever. This one was one of the latter, and I figured I'd give it a spin.

Here's the skinny on what it is: The main character, John Taylor, is a Private Investigator that comes from the Nightside - a side of London that's magical, with funky denizens and even lapses in Time and Space, and that none of the normal people know about. Because of Mysterious Bad Shit in the past, he left five years ago, and hasn't been back since. Until a client comes along with a sob story and a large check, er, cheque, and he finds himself going back "home" to look for a lost girl.

The verdict? It doesn't do anything for me, honestly. It's one of those "hard-boiled detective meets the supernatural" type books, and while those CAN work out very well (ie, the Dresden books), this one... doesn't. The character tries a bit too hard to be hard-boiled, and is just a bland and typical guy with a heart of gold but serious social dysfunctions who Can't Let Anyone In (but immediately does). His "power," while he uses it in some interesting ways, isn't extremely well-defined, letting him do pretty much whatever, with some vague excuse. And he comes across frankly as not all that high-powered, and yet he has a Reputation and is supposed to be Big and Bad and all that.

The dialogue is also... clunky. Mostly from the main character, John Taylor, because he doesn't so much converse as he Narrates. Seriously, he talks to the other characters in the same sort of attempting-to-be-poetic, dramatic, vaguely purple prose that usually only shows up from the narrator. And no one even bats an eye or calls him on it - seriously, NO ONE talks the way he does, or frankly has that good of an insight on the psychology of every situation, if that makes sense.

The book is also put together in a way that frankly makes me cringe sometimes from a plot standpoint. Like the client that tags along with him, never having been to the Nightside, which seems to have a sign hanging around her neck saying "excuse to give long info-dumps to the reader about this world and how it works here." The world is never well-defined, and very little flavor is given, so you just have a general semi-world with your generic ghosts, demi-gods, and other Mystical People plopped down in the book, and a sense that pretty much anything could happen because you don't know the rules. In a bad way.

There are a few semi-interesting concepts and characters, but nothing that really grabs me, and nothing that makes up (for me at least) for the clumsiness in other areas. That, and the moment we run into a talking cab horse, that pretty much pegged my Twee meter right out.

So yeah...

Recommendation: If you want to read books of this particular detective urban-supernatural genre (sub-genre? Sub-sub-genre? Sub-sub-sub-genre?), you'd be much better off going with Butcher's Dresden Files (even the first book or two, which don't quite match up to the quality later on) or with Mike Carey's Felix Castor books. I'd tend to avoid this, honestly, unless a) you really REALLY love the sub-whatever-genre and want to try anything in it, or maybe b) the books get much better later in the series, which I have no desire right now to find out first-hand.


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Feb. 3rd, 2009 04:27 pm (UTC)
Hee hee.

The wife and I read the first two at a friend's insistence. Since then, the books have inspired a running gag we've had going.

The problem is that, and I do hate to sound like an egotistical ass but this is our take on it, Simon Green is not a particularly good writer in those two books. He writes like Mel and I both did in our early twenties - the plot pacing is terrible, he over-describes the strangest, boring shit, and especially: he overuses that stupid fucking gimmick of "This is how it is, in the Nightside."

Since reading these, Mel and I have been using that phrase anytime something stupid occurs.

"Hey, the waiter forgot to hold the chives on your baked potato soup."
"Chives are always on your soup... In The Nightside."

"Honey, can you bring me some toilet paper?"
"You should always check to see if the roll is empty before you sit down on the toilet... In The Nightside."

"Wow, that opening act was terrible. They sounded like a shitty version of MSI."
"All bands sound like shitty rip-offs of MSI... In The Nightside."

I mean, really. It got comical within the first four chapters of the first book. IIRC, he even has some shit in there about how people drink their cokes In The Nightside. Flip back through the book and see how much he overuses it.

It might have been an average, mediocre novel if he'd let a good editor work on it. But I guess there are no good editors... In The Nightside.
Feb. 3rd, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)

I notice that you didn't bother to warn me away from the books though!

And yeah, that's one of various minor annoyances that I just kinda generically lumped under "not-so-great-writing" and didn't go into in great detail, but yeah, it's an annoying tick.

And don't even get me started on the Coke scene. I mean gods, okay, so Green likes his old-style Coke. But the way he goes on about it, you'd think they used to put some chemical in it that induces euphoria and multiple orgasms with every sip, or something. Yeesh.
Feb. 3rd, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
Coke is mixed with orgasmic fairy farts and unicorn semen... In The Nightside.
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 3rd, 2009 05:19 pm (UTC)
Heh. Well, it wasn't *hideously screamingly terrible*, but yeah, not something I'd recommend.
Feb. 3rd, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
Oh, and if you ARE interested in at least seeing what his writing's like for yourself, without it being a total waste if you don't like it...

I'm thinking about picking this up, and you might be interested as well. Apparently four novellas, one of them a Nightside one, one Harry Dresden, and two others I haven't yet been exposed to.
Feb. 3rd, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC)
Green has one good book, Blue Moon Rising. It's really pretty good. Ignore that he claims to have written "sequels," they basically take all the cool that was in that first book and uncoolify it.
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