So I’m trying to kickstart myself into reading again which is a weird thing for me but as I mentioned, I just haven’t felt like reading much recently (again weird). So I opened my omnibus A Walk on the Nightside to do this because Simon R Green is one of my favorite authors ever. I just finished rereading Something from the Nightside, which was the very first of the Nightside novels and one that I haven’t read for a while.
We start out in real London where our leading man, John Taylor, is lounging in his run down private detective office when rich business woman Joanna Barrett walks in. Joanna’s daughter, Cathie, is missing after running away. She wants her daughter found and John Taylor is her last chance. He often is. She mentions that her previous private detectives told her that Cathie went into somewhere called the Nightside and then refused to go any further (with good reason as we see later). So for an exorbitant amount of money, John Taylor takes Joanna to the hidden heart of London.
The Nightside is a place where literally anything goes. You can buy, sell or trade your soul, or someone else’s, to get what you want or need. John Taylor grew up here and ran five years ago in order to survive. John Taylor is something of a wanted man but he doesn’t really know why. His mother, long missing, was not human. Finding this out caused his father to drink himself to death, leaving John as an orphan. Something about what his mother is causes people to try and kill him, for things he might possibly do in the future. Of course, John Taylor is a smart ass, so people try to kill him for his winning personality as well. This info is pretty important in the Nightside arc.
So John and Joanna are in the Nightside where Joanna is trying to sort things out. Being a regular schmo from London, she’d never really dreamed about a place like this, where it’s always three o’clock in the morning and anything goes. With a few run ins with the usual characters in the Nightside, none of them good, John eventually takes them to Strangefellows, the oldest bar in the world. I love Strangefellows and I love its bartender Alex Morrissey. I don’t know what it is, but I do.
John gets a tip to check out a place called the Fortress. The Fortress is for those who have been abducted by aliens (for realsies) and just don’t want to put up with that shit any more. They’re paranoid and armed to the teeth. Pretty usual for the Nightside. They also take any anyone who needs protection and for the most part, no one tries to screw with them. John thinks it makes perfect sense that a teenage runaway with a tough family life would find her way there so off they set after a quick talk with one of John’s old ‘friends’, Razor Eddie (another personal fav of mine).
Before they can get too far, the enemies that John had been running from when he left the Nightside five years ago corner them outside the bar. I always thought the Harrowing were creepy. Faceless, emotionless hommunculi with only one mission: Kill John. A little Weeping Angels, yes? John is terrified to the point where he actually gives up for the most part. He tries fighting a bit but he realizes that he just cannot compete with these creatures. And then Razor Eddie rides to the rescue, so to speak, and carves up the Harrowing into bitty pieces. He tipped off those of John’s enemies who control the Harrowing in order to send them a message by destroying their creatures. Nothing is ever simple in the Nightside.
So, imminent death and destruction avoided, John and Joanna take an honest to god horse and carriage to the Fortress where they meet up with another of John’s old friends, Suzie Shooter. Also known as Shotgun Suzie and Oh-Christ-Its-Her-Run. 🙂 She’s a bounty hunter with no heart of gold. She’s a monster (in a way, I never really felt that but that’s what Green is trying to get across), made that way by the circumstances of her life. She is a damn good bounty hunter and exceedingly loyal to John in her way (at this point, she’ll still bring him in if she’s got good paper on him).
Suzie is at The Fortress to pick up a bounty, which has resulted in a fire-fight with the locals. John diffuses the situation for the most part and manages to talk Suzie into helping with his missing teenager case (for a price, of course). Someone in the Fortress (unnamed alien abductee) explains to John that Cathie had been there but had left a few days ago. Someone or more likely something was calling her to Blaiston Street. Blaiston Street is pretty much rock bottom for Nightsiders. So what would a teenager be doing there? And happy about it to boot?
Only one way to find out! So off they trot once more only to get stuck in a timeslip. A timeslip are eddies in time that can throw you forward or backward, either for a little bit or for a lot. People are always falling into and out of timeslips in the Nightside, sometimes on purpose. In this timeslip, John and Joanna get thrown into the future, an apocalyptic one. Everything but the bugs (and I’m talking like Starship Troopers big damn bugs here) and Razor Eddie is dead. Even the m0on is gone.
Razor Eddie, being immortal, is the last living person on earth and that is not a good thing. I won’t go into details about what Eddie goes through (because gross) but he explains to John that this particular future is all John’s fault. He doesn’t give too much information because Eddie is pretty well insane by now but he reveals that this future is a mere 82 years from the time that John stepped back into the Nightside and that this happened in some way because of John searching for his mother.
After figuring a way out (a very painful one) of this timeslip future, John takes Joanna to the Hawks Wind Bar & Grill. The Hawks Wind is a ghost establishment. It is forever stuck in the 60s. Everything in the menu, everything in the jukebox is all real 60s stuff. But any time you spend there, stays there. You will leave the Hawks Wind at the moment you initially entered it, so its a great place to recuperate if you’re on a time crunch.
Here we are introduced to the mysterious Walker (I always pictured him as Anthony Head from Buffy and Merlin), who ostensibly runs things in the Nightside on behalf of the shadowy Authorities. He basically taps John to deal with whatever is happening on Blaiston Street because some very important people have gone missing there, not just the riff-raff and runaways.
With nothing else for it, even if he hates doing Walker any sort of favors, John and Joanna head to Blaiston Street. John uses his gift of finding things (a sort of third eye deal, courtesy of his not-at-all-human mother) to see that Cathie has been here recently and has entered a house…that doesn’t exist. Which is apparently strange even for the Nightside. Suzie shows up moments later and with that, the three of them enter the house.
It is a quintessential creepy haunted house type house. The three of them get herded upstairs and find Cathie. Cathie is quite literally half the person she was. The house that isn’t there is a predator and is eating her alive, body and soul. And convincing her that she’s happy about it. Well, John doesn’t want to put up with that and he pretty well challenges the house to give up Cathie.
That doesn’t go over well and the house cuts off all means of escape. Deciding the newcomers are far to dangerous to be getting on with, the house decides to make a quick meal of the threesome. Its in the confusion of fighting the house and trying to find a way out that its revealed that Joanna Barrett really isn’t Joanna Barrett. She was made a la the Harrowing to be the perfect lure for getting John back into the Nightside, though she really didn’t know it. She kills herself by allowing the house to eat her and John, pissed off and upset on so many levels that he’ll never speak of, uses his gift to find the heart of the weird creature and kill it.
After that, it’s a matter of blasting holes in the carcass and getting himself, Cathie and Suzie out before it collapses on them. John never did get paid for finding her, but Cathie adopts him anyway. Rating: B. Its a good read for sure but it is a little expositiony. Its clearly setting up things to come and giving you a taste of the people who are going to be major players in the Nightside arc. You don’t need to read this to understand the rest of the series but its so much more fun if you do because Green really likes to interconnect all of his stories. You’ll get his in-jokes if you read everything. Read it. READ IT! 😉