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Something from the Nightside

Simon R. Green

US Paperback Original

Ace Books; The Berkeley Publishing Group/ Penguin

ISBN: 0-441-01065-2

Publication Date: June, 2003

230 Pages; $6.50

Date Reviewed: January 26, 2004

Reviewed by: Terry D'Auray © 2004



Horror, Mystery, Fantasy, Science Fiction

03-07-02, 05-28-02, 05-15-03

You can usually tell by looking that some books are clearly "occasion-specific" - the big, expansive novel by a favorite literary author is ideal for rainy weekends, the thick page-turner perfect for long airplane rides, and the short, fits-in-pocket-or-purse paperback is just right for those times when anything too grand or too demanding won't engage. 'Something from the Nightside' is a nifty little waiting room book, a private eye mystery and science fiction combo that demands little of the reader and delivers an energetic, escapist romp.

John Taylor, the protagonist of 'Something from the Nightside" is the classic, struggling P.I., a loner with a dark past, tough and romantic, working and living in a seedy office complete with opaque glass door, peeling paint, second-hand furniture and girly calendar. In walks "the dame", Joanna Barrett, a beautiful, bosomy blond, oozing money and class. Barrett's desperate to find her runaway teenage daughter Cathie, who's gone to the "Nightside", and Taylor's her last resort for help. Taylor's reluctant, but broke, and, let's face it, way too gallant to refuse a damsel in distress. The set-up is lifted straight from the classic pulp PI novels, and the reader knows immediately right where they're going to be taken. It's the start of the "quest" - for answers, truth, justice, closure, fill-in-the-blank, sure to be harrowing, full of unexpected twists, maybe grim but ultimately successful.

The "Nightside" is the dark and malevolent netherworld of London ("London is the smoke, Nightside is the fire') where the evil, the wanton, and the weird live in a strangely beguiling world of perpetual darkness and glaring neon. Taylor's gifted with a special ability to find things, a third eye he calls his "private eye" (I kid you not) that serves him and saves him in this fantastic netherworld. The quest is an Indiana Jones meets Farscape romp down streets that are not only mean, but streets that sometimes completely disappear, complete with aliens, time warps, time travel, people-eating houses and really creepy bugs.

Green's first-person narrative and stripped down style fits this unique PI-gone-astray genre; his prose is basic, but zippy and often clever. He skims lightly over the surface, hinting at, but never stirring, the discomforting depths of human passion and depravity.

'Something from the Nightside' asks little of the reader and delivers far more simple entertainment than a casual, inattentive reader has a right to expect. Rick would describe it as cheesy, and he would probably like it. I'd describe it as unabashedly corny, and I liked it too.