books

Sergei Lukyanenko

Books

Night Watch: Night Watch (1998/2006), Day Watch (1999/2007), Twilight Watch (2003/2007), Last Watch (2009), New Watch (2012/2013), Sixth Watch (2015/2016)

Anthologies: By Blood We Live (2009)

All reviews for Sergei Lukyanenko

 

Night Watch (1998/2006) translated by Andrew Bromfield

This text has been approved for distribution as conducive to the cause of Light. —THE NIGHT WATCH

This text has been approved for distribution as conducive to the cause of Darkness. —THE DAY WATCH

I picked up this book a month or two ago, even though I didn’t have time to read it, because I was afraid it would be one of those books that I never saw again if I didn’t get it then. Having read it, I am hoping that Night Watch will be around for awhile, because this is a really excellent book.

Anton is a member of the Night Watch in Moscow--a group of Others--magicians--dedicated to the cause of the Light. Their opposite is the Day Watch--another group of Others dedicated to the Dark. There is a treaty between these two groups that has maintained a balance between the Light and the Dark for centuries, to maintain peace and order, and to keep the human population safe from those Others that prey on humans.

Night Watch contains three separate stories, Destiny, Among His Own Kind, and All for My Own Kind. Each story is a complete arc, and tells a portion of Anton's life, and his movement through the Night Watch and his progression as a magician. I liked the three separate story arcs, since they made good places to put the book down and get other things done. (Or, read Wolves before Michael did.)

Anton Gorodetsky works for the Night Watch–the group of Light Others who help maintain the treaty between the Light and the Dark. Others are the creatures of myth and folklore: magicians, shape shifters, vampires, witches, and the Night Watch and the Day Watch make sure the other side keeps to the Treaty.

“We’re not supermen in red and blue cloaks who work alone. We’re just employees. The police of the Twilight world.”

I very much liked Anton. He's a member of the Night Watch, and fights for the light, yet he has doubts about what he is doing, and is conflicted as to his place in the Watch, and what he should be doing. Although he works for the Light, and is opposed to the Dark, he still worries that their path may not be the correct one. He also wonders why he--an analyst--has been pulled into field work, when his skill is working with computers.

In the first story, Destiny, Anton is ordered to leave his server room and go out into the field. He is suppose to both gain experience as a field operative and find a rogue vampire. What he discovers is a young woman with a black vortex looming over her–a vortex powerful enough to possibly destroy Moscow.

In the second story, Among His Own Kind, a Light Other who has gone undiscovered by the Night Watch is killing Dark Others–deaths that are unsanctioned by either Watch, and go against the Treaty.

In the third story, All for My Own Kind, the entire Night Watch is given a long weekend to escape the heat of Moscow in summer. But instead of relaxing, Anton because more and more worried about his future, and how past Night Watch attempts to improve humanity have all be abysmal failures (creating both the Russian Revolution and WWII) and the idea that the Night Watch wants to take the reins of the future again, cause him to doubt the justice of their cause.

The story was also enjoyable. I never knew precisely what Anton was going to do, yet his actions made sense within what he says and believes. There are also bits about free will, which I always find interesting. The forces of Light are analogous to--but not the same as--the forces of good, while the forces of Dark are analogous--but again not the same as--the forces of the evil. And the treaty between the two forces reminds me a bit of the treaty between Aziraphale and Crowley in Good Omens--they have to get along with their counterparts to keep the peace.

One of the things I love about this series that despite the designation of Light others and Dark others, it’s not simplistic, and Anton (who worked as a computer programmer before he was discovered to be an Other, and then as a network administrator for the Night Watch after becoming an Other) isn’t able to see things in black and white, as much as he wants to.

“The common good and the individual good rarely coincide…”

Sure, I know. It’s true.

But some truths are probably worse than lies.

But of course, despite not being a human, being an other, Anton still has human impulses.

I wanted to do something. I wanted to do something as badly as a genie who’d been let out of his bottle for the first time in a thousand years. Anything at all: Raise up castles, lay waste cities, program in Basic, or embroider in cross-stitch.

But mostly, I love the story, and the characters.

Additionally, the pace was fast and things moved along quickly, which I always like. There is detail of Moscow, which was interesting, and there are bits that probably would have made more sense to someone how knows Moscow. Kinda like how American books are always describing landmarks in New York City. As I have never been to Moscow, I have no idea whether knowing those details adds anything to the story or not, but the explanations and details were enough that I didn't really feel like I was missing anything.

I also remain surprised at how well the story has aged. It was originally written in 1998, and technology has changed tremendously since then, but with the exception of flip phones and a mini-disc player instead of an mp3 player, there aren’t really that many things that date the story. Which is nice.

If you like urban fantasy, then I highly recommend Night Watch. The characters are good, and the story is quite excellent, especially when it went in ways I wasn't expecting at all.
Rating: 9/10

Published by Miramax Books / Hyperion

Re-Read: August 2013
Rating: 9/10

Re-Read: January 2016
Rating: 10/10

Re-Read: April 2017
Rating: 9.5/10

Audio Version (1998/2006/2010) narrated by Paul Michael

I actually recently re-read Night Watch, which is a good thing, because if I hadn’t, then I would have ended up picking it up to re-read towards the end of the first section of the audio book.

That’s the problem I have with listening to audio books–they move too slowly, and I become impatient to learn (or in this case, remember) what happens. But that same impatience is why they’re prefect to listen to while I walk. “Just one more lap and then I’ll stop…”

You can click on the link about to read my review of the story, this is my review of the audio recording.

There was one specific issue I had with this recording, and one thing that I was never quite sure how I felt about it.

For the thing that bothered me, Sergei Lukyanenko has excerpts from many songs in the book. Anton listens to music frequently, on his mini-disc player, and as an Other tends to subtly influence the music choices. So these excerpts are an integral part of the story.

In the book, the excerpts are italicized and set off from the rest of the text. But in the audio version, there’s not even a pause before the lyrics are read, which makes it somewhat confusing, because it sounds like we’re hearing Anton’s thoughts rather than song lyrics. I caught on quickly, because I’ve read the book multiple times, but it seems like this would be extremely confusing to someone who was just listening to the book.

The second thing was something that sort of bothered me: the dialog was read with Russian accents, but Anton’s thoughts and the rest of the text were read with a normal, American English accent. This… makes no logical sense. Why would Anton speak with a different accent than with which he thought?

It wasn’t a deal-breaker or anything for the story, but it nagged at me. Technically, the dialogue should be without an accent, because all the characters are speaking in their native tongue, Russian (with, perhaps, the exception of Gesar, but that’s something else entirely). So why the Russian accent?

Of course, movies do the same thing if foreign characters are speaking their own language and they don’t want to use subtitles–they speak in an accent. It just seems silly to me.

Aside from those two issues, I really enjoyed listening to this as an audio book. Because I tend to tear through stories when I read get into them, listening to audio books forces me to slow down and actually hear everything that’s going on. Needless to say, I pick up on things I’d missed during a speed read.

But if you haven’t read Night Watch, my recommendation would be to read the book first, primarily because of the song lyrics. It’s being re-released this December, so you won’t have long to wait. (I’m very curious as to whether the story is being revised and updated for this re-release.)
Rating: 7/10

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Re-Listen: February 2018
Rating: 9/10

Day Watch (1999/2007) translated by Andrew Bromfield

This text has been banned for distribution as injurious to the cause of Light. —THE NIGHT WATCH

This text has been banned for distribution as injurious to the cause of Darkness. —THE DAY WATCH

The sequel to Night Watch, Day Watch is broken into three stories: Unauthorized Personnel Permitted, A Stranger Among Others, and Another Power.

The first story, Unauthorized Personnel Permitted is the story of Alisa Donnikova, a witch, and Other member of the Day watch we first came across in Night Watch. Although no longer the favorite of Zabulon, she remains proud of her work in the Day Watch. She’s also pretty unlikable, which made this a difficult story to start the book. In the first several chapters, I found Alisa so unlikable I had a hard time continuing the book. However, I also really wanted to know why the events in the story had taken place, so I kept reading. And it was interesting to learn how the members of the Day Watch see life. The story starts with a young woman going to visit a woman who has a reputation as a witch–someone who can really solve problems for you. But there is a cost.

“I’ll take all the sins on myself, any you like. Do we have a deal?”

The seer looked at her sternly, disapprovingly.

“That’s not right, my daughter… About all the sins. Who knows what sins I might hang on you? My own, or somebody else’s… then afterward you would have to answer to God.”

That’s not as far fetched an idea as you might think. Consider the occupation of sin-eater–someone who would take upon themselves the sins and transgressions of the deceased. If someone could ritually take the sins of the dead by eating bread, then it stands to reason sins could be transferable in other ways.

This isn’t, of course, the point of this story, but I really do love these details that appear throughout the story.

I just don’t like the main character, Alisa Donnikova.

My palm was aching slightly from the recoil. The “gremlin” isn’t a very complicated spell, but I’d cast it in too much of a hurry. I’d left the Volvo with an incorporeal creature fiddling about under its hood–not even a creature really, but a bundle energy with an obsessive passion for destroying technology.

I think I believe gremlins exist.

The second story, A Stranger Among Others, is told from the point of view a Dark Other who is headed to Moscow–but he doesn’t know why, or even who he is. His memory starts with the beginning of the story. Like this first, this is a very good story. Unlike the first, I don’t hate spending time with Vitaly Rogoza. He’s fascinating, and more than Alisa, gives us a good look at the complexity of Dark Ones.

“Do the Dark Ones really need a pointless fight? Do they need pointless casualties?” I said, answering a question with a question, like some joker from Odessa.

Of course, the glimpses into the Twilight are also fascinating.

In the Twilight the mini-motorbike looked a bit like the little hump-backed horse in the fairy tale. A small animal with handlebars for horns and one big headlight-eye.

I quite like Vitaly Sergeevich Rogoza (Dark Other).

Well, then, Vitaly, I’ll do the talking, and you correct me if I get something wrong. Agreed?”

“Certainly,” I said readily. Because I had almost no idea what weird stories would surface out of my subconscious for me to tell to these intent agents of the Day Watch.

If people ask no questions and help a stranger who comes wandering up to their campfire out of the forest, you shouldn’t take anything from them if you can avoid it.

This is also my favorite story from this book.

The third and final story deal with the repercussions of both the first and the second stories. This story shares time equally between Anton and Edgar–a Dark Magician. Both have been sent to Prague to present the cases of their respective Watches to the Inquisition.

We also learn a bit more about the Reign Brothers, who want to bring back Fafnir. Again, I love how mythology and folklore are brought in as with Fafnir and Sigurd.

But, the story is complex and fascinating without that mythical grounding. Take this conversation between Gesar and Anton:

“Is love really a weakness?”

“If you have love in you, it’s a strength. But if you are in love, it’s a weakness.”

Did I mention how much I love the little cultural glimpses?

Igor poured vodka into two glasses without speaking. He covered two with slices of bread, set one in front of Anton, and took the last one for himself.

That comes from the Russian (Russian Orthodox) tradition for mourning the dead.

The second story, A Stranger Among Others was even more interesting, because I didn't find Vitaly Rogoza unlikable. He was a Dark Other, but he was also fascinating, and he actions and justifications for his actions made more sense to me than Alisa's actions in the first story. We also return in at least small part to the story of Anton Gorodetsky, who was the main character or Night Watch. But the heart of the story was Vitaly Rogoza, and his discovery of who he was and what he was supposed to be doing. An excellent story.

Although the first story in this book is probably my least favorite in the series (even though it’s good, I don’t like it) the second story might be one of my favorites.

It seemed that the accepted thing among members of the Watches was for the most important member of a team to keep quiet…

You know what they say? A Siberian isn’t someone who doesn’t feel the cold, he’s someone who’s warmly dressed!

The third story in the trilogy is Another Power. The events of "A Stranger Among Others" and Unauthorized Personnel Permitted," must be resolved by the Inquisition. Anton and Edgar are sent by the Night Watch and the Day Watch (respectively) to represent their Watches before the Inquisition. In the course of their preparations, both attempt to discover what Zabulon and Gesar have been up to, with their scheming and plotting and planning.

One of the things I particularly like about this story is the backstory on the Regin brothers.

It wasn’t at all easy for the magicians of the small Finnish sect. They had to scout around the world, searching for Other children they could adopt, educate, and introduce to the great cause of service to Fafnir. As a rule, these children were found in the more underdeveloped and exotic countries.

“Remain vigilant, brother!” Yari reminded him. “Fafnir is saddened and alarmed by carelessness.”

I also like Edgar, the dark magician who first appeared in the second story.

Edgar, the Dark magician, was late for a daily operational briefing for the first time since he had moved to the Russian capital from Estonia. The reason was trivial, but any self-respecting magician would have been ashamed to admit it. Edgar had been feeding the ducks at the pond on Chistoprudny Boulevard.

After Vitaly, Edgar is probably my favorite Dark Other.

I think what I enjoyed most about these stories is that every time I thought I had a handle on what was happening, the story took a twist in an unexpected direction. There are so many different plans within schemes within plans, almost anything becomes possible. The stories aren't quite mysteries, although there are deaths as well as misunderstandings about the true causes of those deaths.

And as an added bonus, the story arc is completed within the three stories, and each story is complete within itself, although there are threads tying all three stories together, as well as to the first book.

Although both Night Watch and Day Watch seem to be at least loosely classified as horror, they don't fall into my classification of horror, which means that I may have a messed up understanding of the horror genre, because I didn't fund them at all horrifying. (However, Joyce Carol Oates' book Blonde gave me chills, so go figure.)

If you read Night Watch then you will definitely want to read Day Watch. If you haven't read Night Watch, but enjoy stories of the supernatural world that is supposed to exist parallel to ours, then you will definitely want to read Night Watch, and then Day Watch. And then you can wait impatiently with me for the third book, Dusk Watch, to come out.
Rating: 9/10

Published by Miramax

Re-Read: August 2013
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: January 2016
Rating: 9/10

Re-Read: April 2017
Rating: 8.5/10

Audio Edition (1999/2006/2010) narrated by Paul Michael

This is a review of the audio version of Day Watch, you can read my review of the story here.

I’ve gotten used to the narration, where the read speaks in a regular American accent when he reads the descriptions and thoughts of the characters, but speaks in a Russian accent for the dialog. I still think it’s a little odd, but I’m better with it now.

What was very interesting is that although I don’t care to read the first of the three stories in Day Watch, “Unauthorized Personnel Permitted”, I found that I enjoyed listening to it. The narration somehow humanized Alisa Donnikova more than my reading of the story did.

The other issue I had with the narration, the segments of musical lyrics, wasn’t as bad either this time. I think there was a slightly longer pause before lyrics. But then, there also might have been fewer lyrics in this book than the first.

I really enjoyed listening to this story–possibly more than reading it, because I actually didn’t mind the first story. You could most likely listen to this story if you skipped the first, but really, I don’t know why you would want to.
Rating: 8.5/10

Published by Audible Frontiers

Re-Listen: February 2018
Rating: 9/10

Twilight Watch (2003/2007) translated by Andrew Bromfield

I tend to hoard books–when I buy a book I expect to be good, I’ll often wait several weeks before reading it, because it’s nice to have something I expected to be good in the line-up. But sometimes I’m looking forward to a book so much that I’ll read it almost immediately upon receiving it. Twilight Watch ended up being one of those books. I received my copy Friday, and finished reading it Monday night.

Of course I had to move fairly quickly, otherwise Michael might have grabbed it and read it first--and I couldn't have that.

The third book in the Night Watch series, Twilight Watch takes place approximately three years after the events in Day Watch. Svetlana and Anton are married and have a daughter, Nadya. Svetlana has resigned from the Night Watch and has become a non-aligned power, resigning also her use of power and title and title as Great Enchantress. Anton remains in the Night Watch, although he continues to have serious doubts.

The third book in the Night Watch series may be my favorite. Like the previous two books, there are three stories, Nobody’s Time, Nobody’s Space, Nobody’s Power. Like the first book, Night Watch, all three stories center on Anton Gorodetsky and are told from his perspective. (This is great, as far as I’m concerned, since I really like Anton and his way of looking at the world.)

In the first story, someone has warned both the Night Watch and the Day Watch, as well as the Inquisition, that someone is attempting to turn a human being into an other. Anton joins representatives of the Day Watch and the Inquisition to search for the Other who has let out the secret, and the human who wants to become Other. His partners in this search are all people he has dealt with previously: Anton and Witezslav the Vampire for the Inquisition, and Kostya the Vampire (the boy who was his neighbor when he joined the Night Watch) for the Day Watch.

The first story, Nobody’s Time, sees Anton returning early from vacation, and being pulled into an unpleasant mess: The Night Watch, the Day Watch, and the Inquisition have received variations of the same letter:

The NIGHT WATCH should BE INTERESTED to know that a CERTAIN Other has REVEALed to a CERTAIN human being the entire truth about oTHErs and now inTENDs to turn this human beING into an OTHER. A wellWISHer.

That’s bad.

So Anton is sent under cover, to find both the human who has been promised this change, and the Other who has made this promise. In this search, Anton is to work with members of both the Day Watch and the Inquisition–people who has worked with or known previously. The Inquisitors Witezslav and Edgar, and the vampire Konstantin, who had been his neighbor when he first joined the Night Watch.

It’s not all bad for Anton. He gets to drive a BMW and live in an expensive apartment complex and get a new suit.

The suit was already waiting for me. And the tailor too, muttering discontentedly that sewing a suit without a second fitting was like getting married on impulse.

Unfortunately, the apartment isn’t quite the lap of luxury.

One of the more fascinating things is the apartment into which Anton is placed undercover.

The previous owner of the apartment . . . okay, okay, according to the cover story, that was me. Anyway, when I started the finishing work, I’d obviously been full of truly Napoleonic plans. How else could I explain the custom-made patterned parquet, the oak window frames, the Daikin air conditioners and other distinctive features of a truly sumptuous residence?

But after that I must have run out of money. Because the immense studio apartment— no internal dividing walls— was absolute untouched, virginal. In the corner where the kitchen was supposed to be there was a lopsided old Brest gas cooker, which could well have been used for cooking semolina in the days of my infancy. Nestling on its burners, as if to say “Do not use!” was a basic microwave oven. But then there was a luxurious extractor hood hanging above the appalling cooker. Huddling pitifully alongside it were two stools and a low serving table.

Also, his apartment has a luxurious shower–but no toilet. But best of all is Las, another resident of the Assol complex.

“I was in this hospital, and while I was waiting to be seen, I read all the price lists,” Las went on, not suspecting a trap. “And what they do there is serious stuff, they make artificial body parts out of titanium to replace what people have lost. Shinbones, knee joints and hip joints, jawbones . . . Patches for the skull, teeth, and other small bits and pieces . . . I got my calculator out and figured out how much it would cost to have all your bones totally replaced. It came out at about one million seven hundred thousand bucks. But I reckon on a bulk order like that you could get a good discount. Twenty-thirty percent. And if you could convince the doctors it was good publicity, you could probably get away with half a million!”

“What for?” I asked. Thanks to my hairdresser, my hair hadn’t stood up on end— there was nothing left to stand up.

“It’s just a fascinating idea!” Las explained.

And THAT is Las.

But just as lovely is the old woman who lives in (a luckily furnished apartment) in the complex.

The walls were covered with black-and-white photographs— at first I even took them for elements of the design. But then I realized that the blindingly beautiful young woman with white teeth, wearing a flying helmet, was my elderly lady.

“I bombed the Fritzes,” the lady said modestly as she sat down at a round table covered with a maroon velvet tablecloth with tassels. “Look, Kalinin himself presented me with that medal . . .”

Absolutely dumbfounded, I took a seat facing the former flyer.

That is such a lovely bit of the story–possibly one of my favorite scenes in the whole series.

As with the previous three books, the stories continually went in unexpected directions, the past was fast and almost non-stop for the second and third stories, and the characters were all strong and well-developed. Although I occasionally had trouble keeping track of individuals when they were referred to by multiple names, individual characters stood out in my mind, and once I remembered that most characters had several names, I usually could sort them out relatively quickly.

The second story, Nobody’s Space, sees Anton back on vacation with Svetlana and Nadyenka, except, of course, something happens.

This time, however, it’s Anton bringing a problem to Gesar and not the other way around. Two young children return from the woods, and tell a story of a woman–a botanist–scaring off wolves or dogs, feeding them tea, and then bringing them home. A perfectly ordinary story, except that when the boy went into the woods, he had a stutter. But when he came out, his stutter was gone.

The second story, Nobody’s Space, finds Anton with some extra vacation, spending time with Sveta, Nadia their daughter, and Sveta’s mother, at a summer cottage in a small village.

Ludmila Ivanovna stood there for a second, apparently wondering whether a blockhead like me could be trusted with his own daughter. She evidently decided to risk it, and went into the house.

A brother and sister get lost in the local woods, and are rescued from werewolves by a local witch. She’s also another character I especially like.

In 1931, Arina . . .

I looked up at the witch and asked, “Seriously?”

“I went into hibernation,” Arina said calmly.

I love the interaction between Ariana and the two children. That is DEFINITELY a young boy, who says what he thinks, to the mortification of his older sister.

“Have you got a b-bathhouse here?” Romka asked, turning his head this way and that.

“Why do you want a bathhouse?” the woman laughed. “Do you want to get washed?”

“F-first of all you have to heat up the b-bathhouse really hot, then f-feed us, before you can eat us,” Romka said seriously.

Ksyusha tugged on his hand, but the woman didn’t take offense— she laughed.

“I think you’re confusing me with Baba Yaga, aren’t you? Do you mind if I don’t heat up the bathhouse? I haven’t got one anyway. And I’m not going to eat you.”

“No, I don’t mind,” Romka said, relieved.

This story also has Uncle Kolya, an unemployed drunk who searches as best he can for work. He doesn’t play any part in the story of the witch and the werewolves and their involvement with the Inquisition, but his brief appearance says a great deal about the situation the members of the little town find themselves in. And I like that although he may be a drunk, he’s still a complex character.

Not that the story itself isn’t good, because it is, but the trappings of the story, and the characters involved, are what makes this story one of my favorites.

This is also the story where we are introduced to the Fuaran, the mythical book with the recipe for turning humans into Others.

“The Inquisition tries to locate all artifacts,” Edgar replied calmly. “Including those that are classed as mythological.”

ALSO, we get to learn why Gilles de Rais turned out the way he did. And also, Joan of Arc was a week Dark Other.

The third story, Nobody’s Power, takes place immediately following Nobody’s Space. Anton has once again returned to the office, and once again is almost immediately set off, this time with Gesar. The witch Arina’s bookshelf has been found, and it looks like Ksyusha was correct: Arina did have a copy of the Furan. Only, now it’s missing.

I quite enjoyed seeing Gesar and Zabulon working together.

“No James Bond could have crept up on him without being noticed.”

“Who’s James Bond?” Zabulon inquired.

“That’s another myth,” Gesar laughed. “Contemporary mythology.”

But even better, Las is back.

“It’s there again…the bat!”

“Catching mosquitoes,” I reminded him.

“What mosquitoes? It swerved around a lamppost like it wasn’t even there! The size of a sheepdog, I tell you!”

Las stood up and resolutely pulled the blind down. He said in a determined voice:

“To hell with it…I know I shouldn’t read Stephen King just before bed… The size of that bat! Like a pterodactyl. It could catch owls and eagles, not mosquitoes!”

And of course this:

“How can I help?” Las asked. “Maybe I could look for some aspen stakes? By the way, they make matches out of genuine aspen, did you know that? I always wondered why it had to be aspen–does it really burn better than anything else? But now I realized it’s for fighting vampires. Sharpen a dozen matches…”

I looked at Las.

That just makes me giggle. ‘Sharpen a dozen matches’ indeed!

And of course, there are still the occasional tech comments that crack me up.

The buttons on the keypad lit up helpfully when I reached my hand out towards them. Four, three, two, one. A very cunning code…

And that doesn’t even cover the story–how they search for the thief, what the thief really wanted with the Furan, how the solved the problem.

We also learn more about the power of the others--where it comes from, how different magicians have different levels of powers, and that there are more levels of Twilight than Anton first thought.

We’re all condemned to death from the moment we’re born.

But at least we can live until we die.

“Are you afraid of vampires?”

Las took a flask of whisky out of his bag, tore the top off it, and took a long swig. Then he said cheerfully, “Not a bit!”

Getting drunk is a good way to give yourself partial protection against a vampire. They find the blood of someone who’s drunk unpleasant— and if he’s really drunk it’s toxic to them. Maybe that was why vampires had always preferred Europe to Russia?

Another bonus was that despite the fact that the book has lots of vampires, there is no sex.

The only issue I had with the book is that although it repeatedly went in unexpected directions, there were a couple of times where I knew generally what was going to happen, even if I wasn't sure specifically how the action would happen, or who would be involved. But as there were so many things I didn't guess, it didn't bother me too much that I guessed one of the plot resolutions relatively early.

But for me one of the greatest strengths of this series is that not only is the story arc concluded within the book, but each of the three stories contains a complete story arc--you could pick up the book, read a single story, and then put the book back down. Not that you'll want to however, but you could, and I appreciate authors who can do that.

If you've read Night Watch and Day Watch, the you don't want to miss reading Twilight Watch. If you haven't read any of the Night Watch books and you like fantasy set in the modern world, then I highly recommend the Night Watch series. It's quite different from the rest of the supernatural fantasy out there right now, it's well-written, and I find it highly enjoyable. Although you should be able to pick up Twilight Watch and read it without having read the previous two books in the series, you'll probably find it more enjoyable to read the previous books first--especially since both are easily available through Amazon.
Rating: 9/10

Published by Miramax

Re-Read: August 2013
Rating: 10/10

Re-Read: January 2016
Rating: 9/10

Re-Read: April 2017
Rating: 10/10

Audible Version (2006/2007/2010) narrated by Paul Michael

This might well be my favorite book of the series, partially because Anton and Svetka are happily married and that relationship is a strength, and partially because the events are so unexpected.

Plus, of course, it’s a delight.

“Svetka,” I said, sitting back down again. And suddenly I tensed up— Svetlana’s voice sounded uneasy, anxious. “Svetka, has something happened to Nadya?”

“Everything’s fine,” she replied quickly. “Don’t worry. Why don’t you tell me how you’ve been getting on?”

I thought for a few seconds. I hadn’t held any drinking parties, I hadn’t brought any women back home, I wasn’t drowning in garbage, I’d even been washing the dishes.

And there is the bit with the WWII flyer, that delights me every time I read it.

And the bit of the two kids and the witch.

“Are we going to turn into little goats when we’ve drunk our tea?” Romka suddenly asked.

“Why?” the witch asked in surprise.

“Because you’ll put a spell on us,” Romka explained. “You’ll turn us into little goats and eat us up.” He clearly did not trust the mysterious rescuer completely yet.

I do so love this book–and this series.
Rating:10/10

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Last Watch (2009) translated by Andrew Bromfield

This text is acceptable to the forces of Light.
THE NIGHT WATCH

This text is acceptable to the forces of Darkness.
THE DAY WATCH

I’d been thinking recently about rereading Sergei Lukyanenko’s Night Watch series, so when I stumbled upon Last Watch, my first thought was, “Why the hell didn’t I know this was out?!” my second thought was that this was the excuse I needed to reread the Night Watch series.

Anton Gorodetsky is a member of the Moscow Night Watch. He is a light Other–a magician–who helps maintain order and make sure the Dark Others (the Day Watch) do not violate the treaty between the watches, the treaty that maintains the balance between light and dark. Though the course of the series Anton has increased his magical powers, has gotten married, and had a child.

He has also been central to multiple fights between the Light and the Dark, between the Night Watch and the Day Watch.

Now he is being send to Edinburgh to investigate the murder of a Russian citizen–a death that looks to have been caused by a vampire. Because the father of the murdered man has assisted both the Night Watch and the Day Watch, Gesar and Zabulon both want Anton to discover the murderer, and Zabulon even provides Anton with offers of assistance–a situation that makes Anton uncomfortable to say the least.

I loved Last Watch as much as I loved the previous three books in the series. Characters from the previous three books appeared, and incidents from previous books now appear in a slightly different light.

The book was divided into three different stories, just like the previous three books. Again, all three of these books have Anton as the narrator, and we see not just the events from his point of view, but spend time in his mind, seeing quite clearly how he has changed over the years.

Although Last Watch is broken into three parts, Common Cause, A Common Enemy, and A Common Destiny, they are–far more so than the first three books–simply parts of the same story. In the first three books, all three stories are related, but separate and complete story arcs. In Last Watch, it’s more like Part I, Part II, and Part III of the same story arc.

The first story, Common Cause, sees Anton sent to Edinburgh to look into the death of a young Russian who was killed by being drained of all blood.

Of course, we get to see how Svetlana and little Nadya are doing.

It has been a struggle to teach her not to mention … in a loud voice in the metro or on the bus. “Mommy, Daddy, look, that man there’s a vampire!” It wasn’t a big deal about the other passengers–they would just put it down to childish foolishness–but I felt awkward for the vampires somehow.

I want to note one particular passage:

The little balls came from nowhere and disappeared into nowhere. There were more and more of them all the time, as if (he) didn’t have enough time to take back out of the air everything he had thrown up. The colored parabola kept growing brighter and brighter, denser and denser, turning into a gleaming, glittering rope of color. It was dazzling.

There’s a children’s story called The Clown of God that is based upon a French Legend. I’m rather fond of that story, and have gotten the book for multiple small people in my life. I wonder if this bit was a reference to that story, or if he came up with it all on his own.

This may be one of my favorite quote from the series:

“Haggis is a brand of diapers,” I said. “They’re good, we used them for our daughter.”

“Haggis is a kind of food, too,” said Semyon, shaking his head. “Although, as far as taste goes, there’s probably not much difference.”

“Don’t kill me, I didn’t do anything!” the young guy babbled. His skin was whiter than his makeup now. “Comrade! Sputnik, vodka, perestroika! Gorbachev!”

“That last word could certainly get you killed in Russia,” I muttered.

The second story, A Common Enemy, finds Anton back in Moscow, but only very briefly before he’s sent to Uzbekistan, in search of a powerful magician who was a contemporary of Gesar’s, before he withdrew from the world.

We also got an oh-so-brief visit with Las.

“Las,” Boris Ignatievich said in an icy voice. “I am constantly amazed at how you ever became a Light One.”

“I was in a good mood that day,” Las declared. “I dreamed I was still a little boy, riding a pony….”

“Las!” Boris Ignatievich repeated ominously.

Alas, not nearly long enough.

But Anton gets to meet some very interesting people in Uzbekistan, including his taxi driver.

“Are you free, Father?” I asked, rather formally, in deference to his age.

“A man’s free as long as he believes in his own freedom,” the taxi driver replied philosophically.

I almost wish Anton had gotten to spend more time with him.

And Anton also meets Afandi.

“Hello, respected guest. May your power increase like the fervor of a man undressing a woman! May it rise to the second level and even the first!”

“Afandi, our guest is a Higher Magician,” Valentina Ilinichna said. “Why do you wish him the second level?”

“Quiet, woman!” said Afandi, letting go of my hand and taking a seat at the table. “Do you not see how quickly my wish has come true and even been exceeded?”

But, it’s not all other people. Anton still continues to question everything, including the Watches.

Alisher wouldn’t understand me. He was a true watchman. A genuine Light One. But I tried to understand even the Dark Ones. Even vampires. To understand and forgive… or at least understand. Forgiving was the hardest thing. Sometimes forgiving was the hardest thing in the whole world.

“If it weren’t for my wisdom, the powers of Darkness— may they wither in agony and burn in hell— would long ago have drunk their sweet little brains and chewed up their big stringy livers!”

Nodir and Timur chortled.

“I understand why our livers are stringy,” said Nodir, pouring the cognac. “But why are our brains sweet?”

“Because wisdom is bitter, but foolishness and ignorance are sweet!”

The final story, A Common Destiny, finds Anton heading back to Scotland. He knows who one of the Last Watch is, but the other two are a problem. One is a Light Healer and the other is a Higher Vampire. The higher vampire who best fits the bill is dead, and one of the strongest Light Healers is Svetlana.

Although the story itself is good, the story is all resolution of the arc, and less the bits that fascinate me. Although I do love this bit, which is something I believe.

What does all this mean? That a medieval world in which magic exists is the one most attractive to people!”

“Well, yes,” I said. “Of course. Because no one thinks about how delightful it is to relieve yourself into a cesspit when it’s twenty degrees below freezing, or the stench those pits give out when it’s ninety degrees in the shade. Because the heroes in the books don’t get head colds, indigestion, appendicitis, or malaria.”

Anton is still a young magician, so despite his increased powers, he still makes mistakes and errors and assumptions that are incorrect, but he has learned and matured over the course of the series, and although I don’t see him ever replacing Gesar in the Moscow Night Watch, I do see him surviving for a long time.

Which is good, because he’ll need all his wisdom to raise his daughter.

Although each of the previous books in the series contained a complete story arc, Last Watch actually had the feel of the final book in the series (as if the name wasn’t a giveaway). Although I wouldn’t mind spending more time with Anton, I think I’d like more to read a new series by Sergei Lukyanenko. Of course not only does that series have to be written, but it will then have to be translated into English, so I don’t see anything coming any time soon. Too bad.

I just hope Amazon actually notifies me when a new book by Sergei Lukyanenko comes out.

If you like urban/supernatural fantasy, then you will definitely want to check out Sergei Lukyanenko’s Night Watch series. The fact that the books are set (primarily) in Moscow, in an area in which I am unfamiliar, is just icing on the cake.
Rating: 9/10

Published by Mirimax Books

Re-Read: August 2013
Rating: 8/10 

Re-Read: January 2016
Rating: 8.5/10

Re-Read: April 2017
Rating: 8.5/10

Audible Edition (2009/2010) narrated by Paul Michael

This is the last book I have read in the Night Watch series, although there is a fifth book, New Watch, which I can pre-order. It looks like it had been released once in the US, but it must have been a very limited release, as I never saw it.

This was the same narrator as the previous three books, and as in the first three, the text was spoken in American English, but dialog was in an appropriate accent. For this book, it finally made sense why the different characters would have such different accents–Anton travels to Scotland, and the Scots have an appropriate Scottish accent.

However.

And a quick note about the audio version. I really enjoy the reader, and he does a good job with the character and accents EXCEPT that occasionally when Anton has a lot of quick dialog with Foma, the Russian and Scottish accents get muddied and are a bit off. It’s not a huge deal, because it doesn’t happen often, but I did notice it.

But, despite these flaws, I really enjoyed listening to this series.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Audible Studios

Re-Listen: February 2018
Rating: 9/10

New Watch (2012/2013) translated by Andrew Bromfield

The fifth book of the Night Watch series! I finally got around to reading it!

This is a dubious text for the cause of Light.
—THE NIGHT WATCH

This is a dubious text for the cause of Darkness.
—THE DAY WATCH

As with the rest of the series, the book is divided into three parts: Dubious Intenet, Dubious Times, Dubious Doings.

First things first, Anton’s daughter Nadia–the zero point Light Enchantress–is ten and going to school at the Night Watch.

“Daddy, do you really think I don’t know anything about sex life?” asked Nadya.

I looked at her. “Nadya, you’re ten years old. Yes, I think you don’t know anything about it.”

Nadya blushed slightly and murmured: “But I watch television. I know that grown-ups like to kiss and hug . . .”

“Stop!” I exclaimed in panic. “Stop. Let’s agree that you’ll talk about this with Mummy, okay?”

“Dubious Intenet” is the first story, and opens with Anton sitting at a bar at the airport, after having just dropped off a visitor.

“Pardon me, Boris Ignatievich,” I said, “but Mr. Warnes drinks like a fish. And he prefers decent single malts, not White Horse. My bar’s completely empty. Tomorrow some other guest will arrive and you’ll assign me to look after him. But I can’t buy alcohol in the fancy ‘A-Z of Taste’ supermarkets on my salary.”

“Go on,” Gesar said in an icy voice.

“After that I sat down in the bar to drink a mug of beer.”

“How long have you been drinking beer in the mornings, Gorodetsky?”

“Four days now. Since Warnes arrived.”

Anton witnesses a young boy–the same age as Nadia–throwing a fit as he insists that the plane his mother wants them to board is going to crash, and sees that the boy is a Clairvoyant, so he interferes to keep the boy from boarding the plane and so the boy can become a Light Other.

Unfortunately, it turns out that the boy is also a Prophet, and the Twilight is coming to kill him.

One of the things I particularly liked about this story is that the policeman Anton influenced in the very first story comes back into the picture. He’s now a policeman at the airport, and his brief interaction with Anton changed his life in many ways, including the ability to recognize others.

Interestingly, this language changes a bit in this book, not through translation, but in that this is the first time I remember “fuck” appearing. It doesn’t appear a lot, and for emphasis, in which case it worked particularly well.

In a moment of genuine terror only the Russian language could convey the true depths of his feelings. It made me feel proud of our great Russian culture!

There is an interesting twist in this book–Las (who is far more chaotic good than any other Other) starts searching for God and faith.

Las gestured dismissively. “A slight intoxication helps a man to cast off the chains of convention and frees his mind.”

“That’s no condition of divine revelation, far from it,” Semyon chuckled. “I like going into churches, it’s calm, the smell’s good and the aura’s benign. But I don’t sense God.”

“Your moment will come too!” Las declared solemnly. “You’ll sense God within you. You’re a good man, after all.”

“I’m an Other,” Semyon replied. “A good one, I hope. But an Other. And for us, I’m afraid, there is no God . . .”

“Dubious Times” is the second story, and finds Anton traveling to try and find Erasmus Darwin.

THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY WAS NOT AN AGE WELL EQUIPPED to ensure a happy childhood. But then, it wasn’t all that great for an active prime of life and a peaceful old age either. It was easy to die; in fact it was very easy. Life was merely the prelude to death and the life after death— the existence of which only very few doubted.

I quite liked seeing Erasmus Darwin and the glimpses into the past. And also how Erasmus dealt both with living centuries longer than he was supposed to and being a Dark Other. (In previous books I loved that Joan of Ark was a weak Dark Other, but that Gilles de Montmorency-Laval was a Light Other.

This is far more a continuation of the first story than a second story, like the previous books. That’s neither good nor bad, but it was different.

The funny thing was that the spell which made it possible to pack a whole heap of junk into a small volume had only appeared fairly recently. It had simply never occurred to a single Other that it could be done— until people started describing magical bags and suitcases in books of fantasy and fairy tales.

I do love how popular culture filters into these stories–not just Russian SFF, but Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings.

In this story, we also get the return of Ariana, who is possibly one of the most complicated characters in the series. The starts as a dark witch, then changes to a Higher Light other, and throughout her actions and justifications are never quite clear.

“I’m simply choosing the lesser evil,” I added.

“Even when choosing the lesser evil, never forget that you’re still choosing evil,” Arina said seriously.

“But in choosing nothing, we choose both the greater and the lesser evil at once,” I replied.

“Then we understand each other,” she said, nodding.

“Dubious Doings”, the third story, is also an immediate continuation of the previous stories. Anton returns to Russia and tries to decide whether he wants to hear the Prophecies or not, and whether Nadia must fight the Tiger (the expression of the Twilight in a human form).

There are still the pop culture references that amuse me.

“Show me your invitation, citizen,” said a rosy-cheeked young man in uniform, blocking my way.

“You’re not concerned about my invitation,” I said morosely, waving my hand in the style of the Jedi knights.

The vampire behind me giggled audibly.

“I’m not concerned about your invitation,” the policeman agreed, stepping back. His comrade, who had also been affected by the mild spell, backed away to allow me through.

I feel like I need to go back and re-read the story again, to pick up on things I missed the first time, to see passages in a different light. But first I need to read the final book.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Harper Paperbacks

Audible Version (2012/2014) narrated by Paul Michael

I don’t love this book as much as the previous, but I still love this series and spending time in this world. Nadia is now ten, and in training at the Night Watch. Sveta is still out of the Watch, while Anton has remained, despite everything.

Not that he doesn’t occasionally snipe at Gaesar.

“Pardon me, Boris Ignatievich,” I said, “but Mr. Warnes drinks like a fish. And he prefers decent single malts, not White Horse. My bar’s completely empty. Tomorrow some other guest will arrive and you’ll assign me to look after him. But I can’t buy alcohol in the fancy ‘A-Z of Taste’ supermarkets on my salary.”

“Go on,” Gesar said in an icy voice.

“After that I sat down in the bar to drink a mug of beer.”

“How long have you been drinking beer in the mornings, Gorodetsky?”

“Four days now. Since Warnes arrived.”

That first bit actually comes back later, to make a fascinating point.

Unfortunately, Anton stumbles across a prophet. And the Twilight doesn’t want the prophecy to be heard. Which gives us the tiger on some covers of this book. It’s actually a pretty fascinating idea, that the magical entity that is the Twilight could have a native intelligence and manifest creatures to do its will.

As always, Anton amuses me.

I noticed that Gesar had been sitting with his eyes closed for about half a minute. And slowly turning crimson. Then he opened his eyes and stood up.

“Right. I can’t hear Semyon. And I can’t contact him. Someone else try!”

Olga closed her eyes too.

Glyba applied his palm to his forehead picturesquely.

Jermenson chewed on his lips.

Svetlana frowned intensely. But I took out my mobile and pressed one of the “hot keys.”

“Yes, Antokha?” Semyon answered cheerfully.

And now I’m ready to read the sixth and final book.

Maybe.
Rating: 8/10

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Sixth Watch (2015/2016) translated by Andrew Bromfield

This text is mandatory reading for the forces of Light. —THE NIGHT WATCH

This text is mandatory reading for the forces of Darkness. —THE DAY WATCH

This is the final book of the Night Watch series. Definitely and irrevocably the final book of the series.

It’s been 24 hours, and I still have not completely digested my feelings for this book.

I enjoyed it. I definitely enjoyed it. After all, it has all the things I love about a Night Watch book.

Arkady, who had only recently started working in the Watch, used to be a schoolteacher. And, exactly as his new colleagues expected, he claimed that hunting vampires was far easier than teaching physics in tenth grade.

If you think that a six-year-old child is nothing compared to an adult, then you’ve never been assaulted by thirty preschool children.

I really like that Nadya has come into her own here. It sometimes felt like the author never quite new what to do with Sveta, but now that Nadia is a teenager, she’s quite feisty.

Zabulon got up and stretched. As the girl he’d been sitting beside started slipping over sideways, he held her up and said, “Quite a pretty little girl, really . . . take off the glasses and style her hair properly, and she’ll be a beauty. What’s her name . . . Nadya?”

“Her name is you-go-to-hell!” Nadya exclaimed indignantly.

“We’ve decided not to have sex for the time being,” Nadya said reassuringly. “Kesha thinks it will retard the development of our magical potential.”

I downed my cognac in one gulp.

“But I think he’s wrong,” Nadya continued pensively. “I think he’s being a bit of a coward!”

I took the glass of milk out of Svetlana’s hands and chased the cognac down with it.

I really did enjoy Nadya giving Anton a hard time.

So the series is done, and I’m glad I finally built up the courage to read the last book. But I also think I’ll need to think about things a little longer before I am sure how I feel about the ending.

It was a good story, and worthy of the series, and I’m still highly recommend it.
Rating: 8/10

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks

 

Anthologies

 

By Blood We Live (2009) edited by John Joseph Adams

Snow, Glass, Apples - Neil Gaiman
The Master of Rampling Gate - Anne Rice
Under St. Peter’s - Harry Turtledove
Child of an Ancient City - Tad Williams
Lifeblood - Michael A. Burstein
Endless Night - Barbara Roden
Infestation - Garth Nix
Life is the Teacher - Carrie Vaughn
The Vechi Barbat - Nancy Kilpatrick
The Beautiful, The Damned - Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Pinecones - David Wellington
Do Not Hasten to Bid Me Adieu - Norman Partridge
Foxtrot at High Noon - Sergei Lukyanenko
This is Now - Michael Marshall Smith
Blood Gothic - Nancy Holder
Mama Gone - Jane Yolen
Abraham’s Boys - Joe Hill
Nunc Dimittis - Tanith Lee
Hunger - Gabriela Lee
Ode to Edvard Munch - Caitlín R. Kiernan
Finders Keepers - L.A. Banks
After the Stone Age - Brian Stableford
Much at Stake - Kevin J. Anderson
House of the Rising Sun - Elizabeth Bear
A Standup Dame - Lilith Saintcrow
Twilight - Kelley Armstrong
In Darkness, Angels - Eric Van Lustbader
Sunrise on Running Water - Barbara Hambly
Hit - Bruce McAllister
Undead Again - Ken MacLeod
Peking Man - Robert J. Sawyer
Necros - Brian Lumley
Exsanguinations - Catherynne M. Valente
Lucy in Her Splendor - Charles Coleman Finlay
The Wide, Carnivorous Sky - John Langan
One for the Road - Stephen King