Posted on June 29, 2010 by GRIM
Simon R Green (Whose name, for some reason always makes me think of I.R. Baboon) is the writer of the Deathstalker and Shaman Bond book series which are notable for their over-the-top action and rat-tat-tat pacing. Into the Nightside follows pretty much the same model as these other books although it is, ostensibly, set in a mirror of our own London, the eponymous ‘Nightside’ of the title. This book collects the first two stories of The Nightside ‘Something From the Nightside’ and ‘Agents of Light’.
The hero of the Nightside books is ‘John Taylor’, a mysterious private eye who normally works in The Nightside. At the opening of the story he has left The Nightside for the real world, where he’s impoverished and not too great at his job – or at least making money from it. Eventually he gets dragged back into his former life in The Nightside by a case that he simply can’t dismiss, one that’s almost designed to appeal to his instincts, a damsel (a rich damsel at that) in distress and an innocent in need of rescuing from The Nightside that he’ secretly missing.
It’s only in the Nightside that his special gift, the ability to see and trace things, any kind of things, is at its power and he can use his unique talents to serve the peculiar clientèle of The Nightside.
The Nightside itself is a dark mirror of London where it’s always 3am, existing alongside the ‘real’ London though The Moon is larger in the sky and the people that hang out there are somewhat… different. The Nightside is inhabited by demons, werewolves, vampires, ghosts and even stranger things that are all looking for a good time, though their idea of a good time may be very different to that of even the most perverted inhabitant of the normal world. This gives the author all the license he needs to throw anything and everything into play in The Nightside and to have all the crazy and unnatural ideas he wants all clashing together in the same place.
Because The Nightside is a separate and divided world from the ‘real’ one this works a lot better than in the Shaman Bond series where we’re expected to believe that all this over-the-top magic, explosions and so on is taking place – relatively uncommented on – in the real and everyday world. However, since it’s established in the Shaman Bond series that The Nightside exists in the same universe as Shaman Bond the point of The Nightside when all that over-the-top nonsense IS taking place in the ‘real world’ becomes rather diluted. When you have UFOs engaged in a long road battle on a motorway, the idea of dark things actually HIDING from society becomes a little ridiculous.
In the second story Taylor is tasked with finding The Unholy Grail, the cup that Judas drank from at the last supper. The problem is that nobody knows where it is and Taylor’s gift, which can usually find anything, can’t trace it, forcing him to rely on more ordinary legwork, friends, contacts and his detective skills in order to track it down before the legions of angels from both heaven and hell, utterly destroy The Nightside. This ramps up the power level of the book all over again which makes me wonder where there is to go!
Simon R Green’s books are enjoyable romps but, unlike with his Deathstalker books, I can’t suspend my disbelief as I can with a whole, new Science Fiction world. The Nightside series occupies a space between the real world of Shaman Bond and the out-there SF goodness of Deathstalker. For me it’s all a little OTT, though more forgivable than Shaman Bond since it’s all contained in its own fantasy world. This whole alternative world or underbelly of occult strangeness seems to be a recurrent theme in a lot of books I’m reading lately and The Nightside series certainly occupies a position on that spectrum, much more to the extreme/Gonzo than, for comparison, Neverwhere.
Review by James ‘Grim’ Desborough