February 3rd, 2009

Pretty Words

In a Nutshell: Books - Something From the Nightside by Simon R. Green

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.