That’s a wrap

Screenshot_20180823-151710Hooboy. I legit almost cried last night reading the afterword on Simon R. Green’s Nightfall. A few years ago or so, Simon was diagnosed with diabetes (or so I heard), which raised some concerns for him about not being able to finish his outstanding series (at the time: Ghost Finders, the Secret Histories and The nightside). This latest book, Nightfall, wraps up both the Secret Histories and the Nightside into one glorious riot of snark. WARNING: Here be spoilers!

The Nightside is necessary. The only place in the world where you truly have freedom of choice. Want to sell your soul? There’s people for that. Can’t fit in with polite society? The Nightside is the place for you. It’s always 3am, the hour of the wolf, and the Authorities only nominally have control of the place.

For as long as anyone could remember, it has always occupied the same space. It’s borders have never changed, not since Lilith – John Taylor’s biblical myth mother – set them down before the age of man began. And no one wants it to expand, not even those in the Nightside. They like where they are and it doesn’t need to change. So when the Street of the Gods suddenly empties of every god (or wannabe god), John Taylor knows something big is on the way. So of course, he’s the one saddled with finding out what and how to stop it.

The Droods have always run things in the regular world, if you believe them. And there’s really no reason not to. They’ve saved the world several times over and keep in line those who would destroy it and those they just don’t like. Run by the Matriarch, the Droods stand for humanity, whether Humanity wants them to or not. When the Nightside’s borders expand without warning, the Droods decide it’s time to take care of the place, just like they’ve always wanted.

Trouble is, no one wants them to do it. Every group they reach out to (the London Knights, the Soulhunters, the Carnacki Institute) tells them to shove off. The Nightside can handle this issue themselves and you really don’t want to invade the place. The Nightside has fought a lot of wars in their time, including against heaven and hell and a biblical myth. They’ve always come out on top.

So what happens when two groups who believe they’re in the right and have never lost a fight go up against each other? Invasion. War. Death. Kind of the usual for both the Droods and the Nightside. The only people who can stop the Droods from tearing down the Nightside are John Taylor and Suzie Shooter, now very pregnant and armed with strange matter bullets. They’re not alone this time though. The Authorities, the Oblivion brothers, Ms. Fate, Alex Morrisey and all your usual Nightside favorites are in the fight to protect their home.

On the other side, Eddie Drood and Molly Metcalf are trying to knock sense into people. Sometimes quite literally. There are pacts laid down by ancient Drood family members and Nightside representatives that shouldn’t be violated, but the Matriarch and the Sergeant at Arms aren’t listening. They’re determined to wipe the Nightside off the map. The problem is, as much as Eddie dislikes the place, he realizes that it serves a purpose. And Molly has spent a lot of time there, has many friends there. She can’t stand by and let the Droods ruin the one truly Drood free place on the planet.

Together, the four of them have to stop the fighting and figure out a fix before everyone dies. But in order to do that, they have to figure out why the borders expanded in the first place and who is behind it. If they figure that out, they might just have a chance to stop the slaughter of not only Eddie’s family, but what passes for innocents in the Nightside.

This book did a beautiful job of wrapping up both the Secret Histories novels and the Nightside novels. I’ve absolutely adored reading both of these series. And while both of them have had quite a few novels each, I’m still saddened to see them come to an end. I still have a few questions I would love to see answered some day, but realize that likely won’t happen. Who are the new New Authorities, now that the New Authorities were whittled down to just Julien Advent? What is the name of John and Susie’s daughter? Do Cathy Barrett (the new Ms. Fate) and Alex stay together? How does Eddie like being the new Walker? Does he actually listen to the New New Authorities?

Simon R. Green is one of my all time favorite writers and I haven’t read a book of his that I haven’t devoured. I hope he has many more years of writing left in him and suggest that if you need a fix, pick up his Ishmael Jones books. And if you haven’t read them yet, the Twilight of the Empire, Deathstalker and Forest Kingdom books are absolute musts. Rating: A+


Sharper Than A Serpent’s Tooth

Next up on the hit parade is Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth. After the events of Paths Not Taken, the Nightside is at war with Lilith. John just knows that he has to be the one to defeat his mother. No one else really stands a chance but first, he has to rescue his secretary Cathy from the tender clutches of Walker. Its here that we find out, to no one’s surprise, that he thinks of Cathy as a daughter more than a secretary.

John discovers that Walker is keeping her in the Necropolis with protections that means he can’t see what sort of trap he (and Suzie) will be walking into. Still, he goes anyway. He can’t not. Alex helps him leave Strangefellows without being seen, an old family secret for a rainy night. From there, John goes to the Doormouse, a life-size bipedal mouse that deals in transportational doors. After some haggling and a bit of growling by Suzie, the Doormouse transports them right to the outside of the Necropolis (never inside any establishment, its too dangerous), where they run into Razor Eddie.

Razor Eddie had heard of Cathy’s plight and came to help, if only to stick it to Walker. Eddie uses his newly enhanced pearl handled straight razor and opens up the dimensional wall between the Nightside and the Necropolis’ graveyard. There they find necromancer Sandra Chance (formerly involved with the Lamentation) and Tommy Oblivion. Tommy thinks he’s doing the right thing. Sandra just wants revenge. With nothing for it, Tommy wakes up the sleeping Cathy, who promptly kicks him in the balls because he doesn’t want to kill John, just keep him busy.

And Sandra does a stupid. She tries to take her revenge by raising the dead but they are seriously protected. Which is of course just when Walker double crosses them all and locks them in the Necropolis. The group fights together to keep the guardian of the dead from killing them all until John points out to Eddie right where his previous opening had been. That area is weak and Walker didn’t know Eddie would be there. Luckily, they escape but the hardship isn’t over yet.

John sends Tommy to escort Cathy to Strangefellows while the rest of them go to the Street of the Gods. When they get there, they find it utterly destroyed. Lilith had already been there, making a grand entrance and killing quite a lot of things, almost including Walker himself. Walker survives and he and John finally get on the same side. John sends them off to Strangefellows to heal Walker while he goes to find Dead Boy and Julian Advent.

He finds Dead Boy working as a bouncer and cajoles/threatens him to joining John. They find Julian Advent being Julian Advent and help him rescue a bunch of fairies in a sweat shop for magic items. After that’s finished, John tells Julian and Dead Boy that he needs to be sent into the future to talk to his Enemies, the ones who had haunted him throughout his life with the Harrowing. And to do that, he needs to summon an angel. There is a lot of argument about how this is very stupid but John is insistent, besides he knows this angel-the former succubus Pretty Poison.

She is more than a little mad at his presumption but she helps him anyway. She sends him into the future. He has to dodge monstrous, hate-filled creatures to get to his enemies but he does it. And he talks his way out of immediate death, so there’s that. He gets information from them and promises to change this future because he really doesn’t want it either. In the end, they agree to send him back but they’re a little off with their timing. They send him back a week after he left and a lot of people think he’s done a runner. Idiots. When has John ever done a runner?

John goes to a magic crystal type shop and uses up pretty much every crystal ball and scrying pool to catch up on what he’s missed. And it isn’t pretty, not at all. Luckily though, most of the people he considers friends are still alive. Lilith has done some awful things including destroying the Time Tower and raising all the dead of the Necropolis to us as an army. Once he’s done catching up, John uses one last pool to contact Walker. They need to get in touch with the Authorities now.

The twosome meet up at the Londinium Club, naturally. Unfortunately, the Authorities turn out to be the cowardly, nasty jerks we all took them for. So its kinda nice that Lilith kills them all, even if it does shock the hell out of Walker. Now they’re really on their own. John pulls Tommy Oblivion out of Strangefellows via his membership card and forces Tommy to existential them to St Jude’s to find the Lord of Thorns, who unfortunately turns out to be no help at all.

Before John could come up with his next move, he’s ambushed by Sandra Chance and a bunch of fellow ruthless bounty hunters (and no Suzie is not among them). It seems the Reasonable Men, whom he killed two books ago, have parents who put out a major bounty on his head. Stupid people. John and Suzie kill them (Tommy was severely injured) and the three of them hobble back to Strangefellows.

John’s next idea: Retrieve the Speaking Gun from Old Father Time. Unfortunately with the Time Tower destroyed, John has to get to Shadows Fall the hard way, through the Tube. John leads Suzie, Dead Boy and Tommy Oblivion (newly healed and a bit of an idiot) out to the night once more. One by one, they all fall behind but John makes the train, gets to Old Father Time and retrieves the Speaking Gun. Time immediately sends him catapulting back to the Nightside…and right to Lilith.

No, Time is not conspiring with Lilith, she’s just that good. And it turns out that the Speaking Gun was a bad idea. If you recall, it was made of a person, all meat and gristle and bits of skin. Well, that person? You guessed it, Lilith. The gun gets incorporated back into her and she’s just about to get a hold of John and start her Master Plan when in swings the Collector with a weird ass timey-wimey device. He blinks in, grabs John and blinks out before Lilith can move. She is not a happy kitty.

Back in Strangefellows, all seems lost until Walker says something that give John the ultimate idea. You see, Lilith had been banished to Limbo a very long time ago. Only Walker, the Collector and John’s father Charles opening the Babalon Working back in the sixties let her back into the world. Only they were so shaken by it not working out correctly, they didn’t bother closing the working.

John realizes the way to fix this is to shove Lilith back through that propped open door to Limbo. And that the three people who are needed to do it are actually available, thanks to Lilith. John’s father drank himself to death when he was a kid and all dead people in the Nightside get buried in the Necropolis. The Necropolis that Lilith emptied by bringing the dead back to (some semblance) of life. John finds his father holed up in the Library (his sanctuary when he was alive) and Merlin (newly arisen without Alex’s help for once), retrieves him.

John has just moments to explain his plan and the threesome (reluctantly I must say) agree to close the Babalon Working. Of course, while they’re doing this, Lilith finally breaks down Strangefellows defenses and kills Merlin. John distracts her by demanding she explain her master plans (which she does in Bondian fashion). The door to Limbo springs back open and sucks her right to the edge but someone has to close the door from inside Limbo. John gets ready to do it but his father tackles Lilith, gives him the I’m-proud-of-you-son and the working shuts down. Crisis averted.

This book has its moments. Dead Boy, John and Julian Advent tearing apart a sweat shop was great…but kind of out of place in the grand scheme of this book. The Doormouse is lovely and introduces a character that comes back a couple times. Still, I think that perhaps he could have gone with a slightly longer book, just to drag things out a bit. This is supposed to be the dramatic bit. Still, very good book. Rating: B+.

Nightingale’s Lament

The third book in the Nightside series is Nightingale’s Lament. This one starts out true to Simon R. Green’s usual form of an easy or near wrapped up case to whet our appetites.  This case is one of sabotage at one of the Nightside’s power providers, Prometheus, Inc. Prometheus is run by one of John Taylor’s old aquaintences, a man referred to as the Mechanic because he could build anything.

Prometheus was experiencing all sorts of physical sabotage. Someone was literally tearing it apart and since Prometheus was a major player in the energy business, Walker sent John to figure out what was going on. What was going on was apparently the Mechanic had turned one of his friends, a man called the Sunslinger (powers of the sun, so a lot of energy right there). He’d murdered the Sunslinger on his wedding day (to another mutual friend) and stuck him in a spirit bottle to harness his sun energy. Well John will not stand for this. He releases the Sunslinger’s body and he finally gets peace with his (also dead) wife. The Mechanic dies quite violently at the hands of his energy harnessing machine, courtesy of John. This, of course, has the nasty consequence of causing power loss and rolling brownouts across the Nightside as Prometheus provided a solid chunk of power.

Knowing that this will come down hard on him, John skulks down to Strangefellows, hoping to hide from Walker and consequences. Only that doesn’t happen because he immediately comes upon a case. A father hires John to make sure that his daughter, an up and coming singer named Rossignol (French for nightingale) is okay. He doesn’t want John to drag the girl home, just to make sure that the daughter is happy and healthy since apparently the family hasn’t heard from her in a very long time and there are disturbing rumors surrounding her. It seems that Ross’s fans are starting to kill themselves, like a lot of them.

John reluctantly takes the case, though it doesn’t sound like his usual do. He soon finds out that he’s really quite wrong. There is something going on, he just can’t figure out what. There is no doubt in his mind that something is very wrong with Rossignol. He speaks to her face to face and she’s very vague and not quite focused. Concerned, he goes to see her representatives, the Cavendishes.

The Cavendishes just straight up have John beat down, no warnings. John manages to get away with the help of an old enemy, a blind vicar named Pew. Pew is convinced that John is an abomination and will bring about the end of the Nightside (the usual tale for John it seems). But as much as he wants John dead, he just can’t bring himself to kill him in cold blood. It isn’t honorable. So he helps John out with a healing spell and sends him on his way, not before trying to pull a fast one on John by taking John’s blood soaked coat. John lets him, as the coat self destructs when John gets too far away from it. I love the idea of John’s coat. It defends itself, self destructs when needed and hides all sorts of useful things. I want a coat like that. Well, maybe not the self destruction thing…

At any rate, John goes back to the place where Ross is performing, Caliban’s Cavern (a suitably monstrous name) in time to catch Ross’s latest performance. And he knows then that whatever happened to Ross is definitely causing people to kill themselves because of her singing. How does he know? Because an audience member kills himself at the club while she’s performing. But just what the hell is going on?

To help get answers, John goes to visit the Nightside newspaper the Night Times, run by Victorian adventurer and all around massively good guy Julian Advent. Julian fell through a timeslip long ago, having been pushed in there by his enemies the Murder Masques. Since then, Julian became an investigative reporter for the Night Times before becoming its owner/editor. He was still doing good and righting wrongs, just with the power of the news. So he always had an eye and ear on things.

After giving Julian the dish on the suicide-turned-riot at Caliban’s Cavern, the Night Times offices are beset by a tulpa of Ross. A tulpa is some sort of psychic sending. It looks like a person but isn’t one. It’s very fast, very strong and will only do what it’s programmed to do. In this case, attack John. It rampages through the reporter’s bullpen which startles a lot of people because the Night Times is seriously, seriously protected. Eventually, they find a single strand of the real Ross’s hair on John’s jacket and burn it. The tulpa gets destroyed and a somewhat aggravated Julian Advent sends John in search of the infamous Dead Boy, who knows more about death than everybody.

John finds Dead Boy outside the Nightside’s Necropolis, home to all funerals (and related rites) in the Nightside. Dead Boy has a job to do here. Since the power to the Necropolis was knocked out earlier (naughty John), some of those in the Necropolis who were cryofrozen started to thaw. And the thawed dead bodies got possessed by…something. Dead Boy was there to kick some arse on the basis that no one else really wanted to. John helps Dead Boy sort out the Necropolis mess, partly because it is his fault and partly because he wants Dead Boy in a cooperative mood.

After handling the situation (messily), Dead Boy agrees to help John with Ross. They sneak a message to Ross via one of her band members and meet her at a transvestite lounge called Divas!  Divas! is a place where transvestites dress as famous women (mostly singers) and perform. A great place to surreptitiously meet up with a famous singer, don’t you think? Dead Boy thought so too.

Once Ross shows up, we find out that she is, in fact, dead. Or at least mostly dead. Only there’s no Miracle Max here to make a miracle pill. They figure out that the Cavendishes murdered Ross to make her more pliable. This information doesn’t help John figure out how to help Ross. And it seems like that won’t happen as the Harrowing show up suddenly. John has used his gift one too many times and the Harrowing have found him.

With time running out for him, John tries to get Dead Boy to run with Ross, but she’s not having any of it. John is her only chance to fix what happened. Luckily for John, the Cavendishes’ hired gun, the new Count Entropy (formerly The Jonah), really wants John to suffer at his hands before he dies. He gets rid of the Harrowing using his awful magicks and proceeds to James Bond Villain the whole how-to. Trope-y for certain but I’ve watched enough “true crime” shows to know that some people actually do like to brag about their crimes, so we can suspend disbelief for this bit.

Finally, unable to take the bragging over her death any longer, Ross deliberately sings a sad song knowing that the full concentrated force of her accidental ability will lead to Count Entropy’s death. Spoilers: It does. Count Entropy pops out of existence and with that, the only thing holding Ross to the world. Some wishy-washy, time-wimey magic between John and Dead Boy brings Ross back.  The Cavendishes try to finish the job themselves only to be stopped by Julian Advent (who was literally waiting in the wings at Divas!) and walker.

Its a good book but not one of my favorite Nightsides. It sort of felt to me like a filler story between Agents of Light and Darkness and the next book Hex and the City (Simon R Green has pun-y titles). The best part of the story, I think, is the introduction of Dead Boy who is one of my all time favorite Simon R Green characters. He is completely irreverent and just a bit crazy. At any rate, its a decent book and I’d rate it a solid B-/B. Again, it felt like a filler novel.