I received this book from the publisher at no cost, via NetGalley.
If you have read any of Simon R Green’s Nightsider books, or his Hawk and Fisher, then you already have a sense of what this book is like. Whether you enjoy that or not is a different matter – Green has a definite style, and it’s on display here. (There’s a level to which it’s true of the Deathstalker books, too, although they have a whole other thing going on as well.)
Green’s style happens to work very well for me, as a rule, now that I know what to expect. Witty banter, cheerful playing with tropes, a courteous if shallow nod to the notion of substance, with a narrative that’s mostly flash and style in a “I’m fabulous and loving it” way. It’s not quite textual candy floss – there’s a bit more substance than that – but maybe it’s… candied peanuts. Tasty, some nutrition, pretty sweet, and even I can’t eat toooo many of them at a time. But I love it when I do have them. (And some people hate them.)
This book is a heist story and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Characters literally call it a heist and the section headings do too. So you know what you’re getting, and it delivers. The first part, therefore, is getting the team together, which is often my favourite part of such stories. Our narrator is now called Gideon Sable – we don’t know who he used to be. His first recruit is Annie Anybody, master of disguise (who, I now realise, is therefore much like Face in the A-Team) who is also Sable’s ex, which of course is going to lead to some tension. Then there’s a Ghost – who is actually a ghost; the Damned (… who, I now realise, is something like BA… in the A-Team…), who is damned for a dreadful misdeed but is spending his remaining time on earth killing bad people just to stick it to Hell; and Johnny Wilde (…who is… a lot… like Murdoch…), aka the Wild Card, who does terrifying things to reality.
(I’ll just stop here and think about the A-Team similarity. Sable doesn’t smoke a cigar and there’s no tanks; I don’t think this is actually deliberate. It’s just that those tropes – disguise, muscle, the spanner in the works – are exactly that; tropes, and useful ones at that.)
Team gets together, team plans heist, team attempts heist, hijinks ensue. The fun thing with a relatively standard narrative is knowing what to expect, AND the ways the author gets to spin expectations – and with Green, have fun and do ridiculous things along the way. Because, as this is Green, it is of course no ordinary setting: this is the magical side of London (a well-traveled path, I know), which means objects that defy reality and people with terrifying abilities and a ball point pen that can stop time (only briefly though).
This is a fun book. At times silly, always fast-paced, it’s also short at about 160 pages in my e-copy – so there’s no mucking around.
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I love this book a lot. I love the characters and the way Green plays with conventions – a prince riding a unicorn, a princess who is willing to fight, the brutal realities of being a second son in a royal house, some insightful passing comments about the danger of being too focussed on being a good warrior. I like the way betrayal and treason are explored, and how making compromises isn’t an inherently bad thing, and that peasants get a moment in the sun, and that not everything can get fixed but life goes on and can be fine. This was a comfort re-read and it absolutely worked and I am reassured that sometimes the suck fairy doesn’t visit.
Also I love the goblins.
But now I wonder about revisiting the entire Deathstalker series and that might get out of hand.
So a while back, due to a mix-up with an Amazon order for a friend, I ended up with two books by Simon R Green – Something from the Nightside and Nigtingale’s Lament. I put off reading them for a while because I wasn’t sure that they wouldn’t be a little bit too scary for me (I’m happy to admit I’m a wuss), but last week I needed a little paperback to take with me somewhere, and each of these is quite slim. So I grabbed one… and read it in, oh, a day. Then read the other, also in a day.
I’m not sure if there are books in the series before these two; I get the feeling there might be at least one, and I think there’s also one between them. Not that it matters hugely; you get enough back story that you don’t feel like you’re missing out.
I was already a big fan of Green thanks to the Deathstalker series (what’s not to like about Hazel? And Owen? And especially Jack and Ruby??) – although my big complaint about that series is the same one I have with the Nightside books: repetition. In the Deathstalker books, it got so I could anticipate how people would be described, and what people would say (after, say, five books); I’m already there with the Nightside. However, for me anyway, the writing is amusing enough and the story interesting enough that I am prepared to be tolerant of the slightly lazy writing (or is it an attempt at familiarity?).
The main character is John Taylor. He grew up in the Nightside – an area of London not everyone can find, and certainly not everyone wants to find; where not everyone is human, dreams and nightmares come true, and it is always night. He’s been away for a few years, but now he’s back; there’s mystery around his birth; and he’s a private detective because he has a Talent for finding things… anything. Green goes for a bit of a Bladerunner that doesn’t always work, but also has some pretty awesome humour going, with some very nice puns and making metaphors come true. The other characters are entertaining – Suzie Shooter! Razor Eddie! Walker! – and the city itself provides endless scope for madcap adventures.
Is it as scary as I had feared? Hell no. Some gruesome things happen, but they’re passed over very lightly; the humour and the fast pace help too.
Is it quality literature? Hell no.
Is it worth reading? Definitely. If you like witty repartee, clever plot twists and easy-on-the-brain slightly stereotyped characters, in an easily digested format, the Nightside books are a great read. They’re the sort of thing I would happily take on a plane to read, knowing I would be utterly enthralled but that it wouldn’t matter if I got interrupted. There’s definitely a place for that sort of book.
Also? I doubt I’ll get around to read these again, so if you want to give them a go – drop me a line!
YAY for Simon Green. Seriously – YAY. I’ve just re-read Blue Moon Rising, and Beyond the Blue Moon. There’s a scene in the latter where there are a number of heroes fighting against overwhelming odds (of course), and I realised that it was really quite a lot like the scenes with Owen Deathstalker et al fighting a bunch of baddies. He really is a big fan of the group fight thing, with all of them bringing individual skills and so on. And Hawk and Fisher have a lot in common with Owen and Hazel. Hmm… I might have to read Deathstalker again… but probably not soon. I don’t think I could stand having to go through that again quite so soon.
Yay for Simon Green.
I am finally completely finished with the Deathstalker series… except for Deathstalker Prelude, but that doesn’t count, since it’s not about a Deathstalker, it’s just set in the same universe. I am very glad I have read them all – very worthwhile in the end, and I must say not quite as dark as I had been expecting. It’s certainly not Eddings, but there is definitely more horrid scifi in the world than Green. I really liked the Owen character, and thought he developed quite well, although once again the repetition of words and phrases did get a little tiring. I guess that’s the danger of a series that’s about 7 books long. I forgive him.
Ok, so… in Lorne for the loong weekend, and I didn’t leave the house in about 48 hours. That’s not to say I didn’t go outside – I did, they have a perfectly lovely balcony. We dragged cushions out there and slept for a bit in the sun on Saturday afternoon; it was great.
Anyway, I started my third book of the weekend this morning. The first two were the Deathstalkers I mentioned. Really good. The book – even two books – before, I was getting a little bit distressed that maybe, just maybe, he was losing The Touch a bit; he was repeating stuff in the same book, whole phrases in fact (which is fine if it’s a character’s catch phrase, but when it’s the narrator describing something, I’m not such a fan), and I was getting a bit narked. But never fear – these were really well written, so it’s all good. Except… yes… I realised when I got home that I have not, as previously thought, bought all of the next books. I have Deathstalker Prelude, which I am looking forward to reading, but I don’t have the one after Deathstalker Legacy, which is making me a bit mad. But the Readers’ Feast night is coming up, so I’m not that fussed… they will soon be in my grubby little hands.
Well, I finally – finally! – found Deathstalker War, the third in the series, which it took me absolutely ages to find. I read it… and then realised that I did not, as previously thought, have the fourth. More frustrations, but thankfully this one was infinitely easier to find.
The Back Story: I read Deathstalker ages ago, maybe 18 months or something. I loved it, but I couldn’t find the second, Deathstalker Rebellion, for ages. Then I found it – and about 3 others in the series, which I figured I ought to get too – but couldn’t find the third. I tried the usual places… and then realised that I hadn’t been to Minotaur, because the only other time I had dared got there I nearly cried and had to tear myself away from the place before I lost all my money. Anyway, I braved that most dangerous of places, and it was there – hurrah! So I got it, and read it. Then the above saga happened.
Regular Programme: Anyway, I was reading another book when I found the fourth (which doesn’t usually stop me, but it was really good; I’llpost about it later when I remember the author’s name), soI get to start it this weekend – a long weekend – yippee! Much excitement. And I noticed, when I was at Reader’s Feast buying said fourth book, that there is another Deathstalker book, which I don’t have, that is still in large paperback! So I wonder if he is still pushing them out… he’ll have to run out of steam, though, just from what I’ve sneaked on the backs of the books I haven’t got up to yet (yes, I actually bought books I hadn’t read the blurb of; you can’t read the blurb of a story two books removed from where you’re up to, it’s immoral!)
My “I need to read at the airport and REFUSE to take Dart-Thorntot with me” book. A Simon Green, but less dark than his usual stuff, which was refreshing. Quite odd and very entertaining; I was worried it was going to morph into needing a sequel but this story has avoided it, although of course there is always room for another with the same characters. Highly recommended.
Now I need to get back to the Deathstalker series, but a) I think I’ll have to read the lot again, and that will be a bit painful – they’re so dark; and b) I know something bad is going to happen (thanks a lot, Kate). So I’m in denial.
Went to Borders before church; browsed their 75% off table. I don’t know whether I was actually meant to get 75% off the sale price marked on the front of the books… but I did.
Who’s Afraid of Beowulf?
Love it. Tom Holt is often funnier than Terry Pratchett. So literary… so wonderful… look out for the Milk Board… at the price, could simply not be passed up.
A Parrot in the Pepper Tree
I’ve been looking around a bit for this, because I have read Driving over Lemons, Chris Stewart’s first, and I really liked it. It’s about an English couple who decide to go and live on a farm in Andalucia (hmmm… trend… travel-ish books… not that I’m unhappy here, of course).
The Botany of Desire
“A plant’s-eye view of the world,” apparently – apples, potatoes, marijuana (is that really “integral to our everyday lives”?) and tulips, and how they have “survived by satisfying one of humankind’s most basic desires.” I’m a little sceptical of this, but interested to read the histories of the four.
Drinking Midnight Wine
Simon Green… again, love it… have read part of one of his series, Deathstalker, but reluctant to continue because someone (Kate) told me it has a tragic end. Eventually I will have to, because it keeps plaguing me. This promises to be dark and magicky too.
Dan Simmons. I’ve read a book set after this one, not realising it was an ‘after the first set’ book, and I loved it – I almost cried when I finished it, knowing I had both books before and after to find and read. Sad but true. He’s excellent. Actually not a sale book, but I suddenly thought of it and had to get it.