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Something from the Nightside

Simon R. Green

Ace / Penguin Putnam

US Mass Market Paperback

ISBN 0-441-01065-2

Publication Date: 05-27-2003

240 Pages; $6.50

Date Reviewed: 06-16-03

Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2003



Horror, Mystery, Fantasy, Science Fiction

03-07-02, 05-28-02, 05-15-03, 06-14-04, 07-21-04

The supernatural detective seems to offer so many possibilities for fun, it's surprising that more writers don't create these characters and set them off on a series of adventures. Simon R. Green takes steps to correct this oversight in his latest mass market paperback original 'Something from the Nightside'. It's a little bit thin, but it's so much fun it's practically irresistible. Green strides confidently into territory previously covered by the likes of Emma Bull, Clive Barker, John Ford and Neil Gaiman. With a flip of his trenchcoat, an insolent smirk and an ever-ready quip, John Taylor is a man who is employed to find things. He has a special ability to do so, even when they scooted off to the Nightside, a hidden part of London where it's always 3 AM. Men walk with myths and monsters in Nightside. Taylor left five years ago, but a new case draws him back. Green takes his cue to play out scene after scene in a delirious recombination of hard-boiled monster noir.

Reading quite a bit like last year's 'Drinking Midnight Wine', 'Something from the Nightside' eschews invention for a witty re-imagining of convention. Taylor has spent the past five years in our world, not making much money. At least he's not on the run from insanity-inducing supernatural foes. But when Joanna Barrett walks in he's near enough broke to accept her offer of £50,000 to find her daughter - in the Nightside. Green apes the typical detective's monologue with endlessly entertaining supernatural substitutions. You get the bar inhabited by all manners of demons and monsters, the gun-toting violent blonde and the literally faceless thugs with drugs.

Green's monologue is easy on the reader and pages slip by without effort. He has a way with a nice humorous turn of phrase, specializing in the kind of smirking prose we expect from Neil Gaiman or Christopher Moore. But he's got his own beat firmly in hand. 'Something from the Nightside' includes not just myths and monsters, but a group of permanently suspicious alien abductees armed to the teeth and holed up in a high-tech warehouse. Green comfortably integrates SF into his supernatural horror as if it belongs there. In his hands, it does.

Green's characters are varyingly successful. Taylor is firmly etched into the reader's mind by virtue of his continuous monologue. Shotgun Suzie, a leather clad Valkyrie clutching a brace of weaponry, also gets a pretty good slice of life. Razor Eddie, Punk God of the Straight Razor (a nice tribute to Joe R Lansdale) also gets enough skin to shamble into three dimensions. And you know, that's probably enough for a 230 page first book in series. For while the cover gives nary a hint that this is planned, the text practically screams serial set up.

The fact is that most readers will find this perfectly delightful. Green gives just the right amount of detail to make his monsters seem monstrous, but not nauseating. He keeps Taylor and Joanna on the run for most of the book, but the pacing doesn't seem frenetic or forced. The ultimate solution to the mystery includes at least one nice twist and smartly leaves the door open for further adventures. 'Something from the Nightside' has just enough of a throw-away feeling to make the reader wish there had been more when it's finished. It's not just 'Something from the Nightside'. It's potentially the start of a series of books that could come to dominate our beach reading for many a summer to come. If it isn't - if Green goes off on another tangent - then it's just fine as is. If you buy the book, be prepared to loan it to your friends. It's that kind of fun.