Saturday 31 January 2009

Simon R. Green: Into the Nightside (2008)

Published: Solaris, 2008
Omnibus edition containing Something from the Nightside (2003) and Agents of Light and Darkness (2003)

I'm not sure why it is, or exactly when it happened, but the horror genre has changed. Possibly it's the influence of TV programmes like Buffy, which blended horror with other genres and made the scariness less of an integral part of the experience. But there are now lots of these genre crossover books around now, from the really bizarre (say, the chick-lit vampire of Mary Janice Davidson' Betsy series) to this more obvious pairing of hard boiled detective with horror. It is not even unique in choosing that combination, which is also used in the Harry Dresden series. In general, these work by taking well known horror ideas (such as vampire lore) and using them more as plot elements than for their frightening qualities. After all, it becomes much harder to be frightening with something as familiar to a modern reader and as frequently satirised as a vampire.

John Taylor is a sleazy private detective with a unique talent: he can find any object. But to do so he must go from the everyday London which holds his office into the Nightside, where his magic becomes a beacon attracting the enemies from which he fled five years earlier. So business is not good. Then a rich beautiful woman asks him to help find her daughter, lost in the Nightside, and he accepts the commission, charging only double his usual rates. Once into the Nightside, the tone changes, and there's much less of the hard boiled detective as the story becomes a more standard fantasy/horror tale, rather like a milder version of Anita Blake in a crossover with Neverwhere.

The Nightside series is not Green's only crossover of this sort; there is also The Man with the Golden Torc, which (as is obvious from the title) blends horror memes with James Bond. This, and the series which follows, is much less serious in tone than the Nightside stories, though both are amusing in places rather than fully satirical. But enjoy one and you'll enjoy the other. They are too good to be considered a guilty pleasure (unlike Anita Blake, which I find contains far too much dull sex), but not quite good enough to be in my novels of the year. Unusually for the fantasy genre today, Green's novels are quite short, which makes them ideal for an hour long train journey - light to carry, and fun to read.

I've decided that it would be a good idea to have ratings for the novels in these blog entries, starting here. I'd give Into the Nightside 7/10.