Saturday, January 30, 2010

Something from the Nightside

A coworker of mine, who happens to share very similar interests in books and entertainment, recommended that I read Simon R. Green's Nightside series. He even loaned me the first book: Something from the Nightside. Before I was halfway through that book, I had bought the first four books from

The book is told in the first person by John Taylor, a private investigator in London. Taylor has an interesting background: he was born and raised in "the Nightside". As described on the back cover, the Nightside is a "square mile of Hell in the middle of the city, where it's always three AM. Where you can walk beside myths and drink with monsters. Where nothing is what it seems and everything is possible. A region that, although supposedly in the middle of London, actually appears to be larger than London itself." The description is not metaphorical. The Nightside, and other realms like it, are meeting points for people and beings of all time periods, worlds, and realities. It's visited by gods, demons, and everything in between. A person visiting the Nightside may find genuine miracles, or he may meet a grisly fate. Taylor left the Nightside several years ago and swore never to return. But now he has bills to pay and a wealthy woman in distress wants to hire him to find her runaway daughter.

Once in the Nightside, we find out several things about John Taylor. First, Taylor was effectively orphaned after his mother left and his father drank himself to death. Second, his father drank himself to death after finding out that his wife (Taylor's mother) wasn't actually human. Third, like many born in the Nightside, Taylor has a supernatural gift; he is able to find almost anything. Fourth, despite his kindness and loyalty, most Nightside residents are absolutely terrified of John Taylor. This last aspect remains a mystery throughout the book. I can only assume the author further elaborates the reasons for this in the sequels (the 10th book in the series was released just this year).

The book moves quickly and introduces a number of interesting secondary characters. By far, my favorite secondary character is Razor Eddie. Eddie was a high-priced assassin for hire until he had a strange experience. As described in the book:
"Something happened to him on the Street of the Gods, something he still won't talk about, and when he came back it was as something both more and less than human. Now he sleeps in doorways, lives on handouts and eats leftovers, and wanders where he will, living a life of violent penance for his earlier sins. His chosen victims tend to be the bad guys no-one else can touch. The ones who think they're protected from the consequences of their actions by money or power. They tend to end up being found dead in mysterious, upsetting ways. And that's Razor Eddie; an extremely disturbing agent for the good. The good didn't get a say in the matter."
John Taylor himself is an appealing protagonist: mysterious (despite the fact that he's the narrator), resourceful, and loyal to the point of ignoring his instincts of self preservation. The Nightside itself even takes on a character of its own, albeit a schizophrenic one. Now that I think about it, the nominal plot of the book (i.e., the search for the runaway) seems more like a reason to introduce the Nightside and its odd roster of characters. However, Green's Nightside is such a fascinating place that I look forward to reading the sequels.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Crazy Drivers

Because of a doctor's appointment later in the day, this past Thursday morning saw me driving to work rather than taking the bus. The road, which is a two lane highway through the Idaho High Desert, was slightly icy that morning while snow affected visibility. Of course, this slowed traffic down from the usual 65 mph to about 50 mph. Well, the more rational people slowed down to about 50 mph. Every few minutes some idiot who thought everyone else was going too slow would pull into the oncoming lane and zip by at almost 70 mph, leapfrogging in and out of spaces between cars. Of course this would happen after the driver had gotten tired of tailgating some slower driver for several minutes. Since us slower drivers were stretched out in lines about 1/2 of a mile long, these maniacs could travel for a couple miles before they could find a space to merge into. I hope that most of us recognize that this behavior isn't appropriate in the best of driving conditions, let alone on a dark, icy, snowy morning.

In the daylight you can often see the little white crosses that appear by the side of that highway, marking the place where a traffic accident had killed someone. Unfortunately, the ones who would most benefit from the lesson those crosses are intended to teach are too busy trying to pass someone who is driving at something approaching a safe speed. Most of these drivers are trying to get to work; why getting there a few minutes earlier is worth risking their lives and the lives of others is a mystery to me.


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