books

Sergei Lukyanenko

Books

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

Anthologies: By Blood We Live (2009)

 

Night Watch (1998/2006) translated by Andrew Bromfield

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.)

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.

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.

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.

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

This is the first or even second time I’ve re-read this book (series, really).

The book Night Watch is split into three separate story arcs, Destiny, Among His Own Kind, and All for My Own Kind, each building upon the previous.

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.”

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.

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.

(Note: misericorde. A long narrow knife used to deliver a mercy stroke to a gravely wounded knight. from the Latin misericordia, “mercy”)

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.
Rating: 9/10

Re-Read: January 2016

I really love this series, so it was time to re-read!

He enjoyed life for its own sake, not for material possessions. Life was the exact opposite of money, which in itself meant nothing.

I really do love this series.
Rating: 10/10

Re-Read: April 2017

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’ve got the final two Night Watch books just waiting to be read, so I decided to go back and restart the series, because, well, I can.

The books is divided into three parts: Destiny, Among His Own Kind, All for My Own Kind

“Destiny” is our introduction to Anton, the Others, and the Watches. We also meet several characters who will recur throughout the series, including Egor, Svetlana, and Maxim.

And of course the Twilight.

“Profits on Loans Are Down,” said the headline.

In the real world the phrase was different: “Tension Mounts in the Caucasus.”

I could pick up the newspaper now and read the truth. The real truth. What the journalist was thinking when he wrote about the subject he was covering. Those crumbs of information that he’d received from unofficial sources. The truth about life and the truth about death.

Anton is sent out to catch a vampire couple who are acting outside the bounds of The Treaty. Except that Anton has a complicated relationship with vampires.

How did it feel to be an outcast? To be punished, not for committing a crime, but for the potential ability to commit it?

There is so much I love about this series, from the bands I’ve never heard of, the the Russian jokes and the Russian humor, and of course the outlook on life.

In a war the most dangerous thing is to understand the enemy. To understand is to forgive.

“Among His Own Kind” is the second story, and it opens with Maxim, a Light Other who believes he is the only one of his kind, and that his personal battle is to fight the evil and darkness that he occasionally sees.

One of the quirks of people who’ve managed to find their place in life is that they believe that’s the way things ought to be. Everything simply works out the way it ought to. And if someone feels shortchanged by life, then he has only himself to blame. He must be either lazy and stupid.

(F)or some reason that evening he’d got drunk and killed a woman he’d been trying to track down for two weeks, a woman whose Dark power forced men to leave the women they loved and go back to their lawful wives.

Of course we also have Anton, who is under suspicion of killing Dark Others, which leads to a complicated plot where Anton and Olga switch bodies.

The young man standing beside me reached out his hand and helped me up.

If not for that, I’d probably have fallen over. My center of balance had completely changed.

Her movements were as uncertain as mine. Maybe she was even less steady. “Light and Darkness, how do you men walk?” she suddenly exclaimed.

I actually like the thought he put into what it would be like for Anton.

Apparently the way we looked and the car we were in drew attention. Windows were wound down; heads with crew cuts were stuck out, sometimes with a hand clutching a cell phone, as a universal badge of status. At first I just found it annoying. Then it started to seem funny. By the end I wasn’t reacting to any of it any longer, just like Svetlana.

This story, more than the previous, shows precisely how devious the Watches are, and how grey the difference between the dark and the light are.

“All for My Own Kind” sees Anton spiraling out of control as he realizes that no matter how much Svetlana loves him, she is quickly surpassing him and will leave him behind. Which makes it hard for him to actually admit how he feels.

What was my truth worth, if I was prepared to defend the entire world, but not those who were close to me? If I subdued hate, but wouldn’t give love a chance?

I also enjoy the glimpses into the lives of the other characters, from the saved weather contest to Yulia, the thirteen-year-old sorceress.

“What magical powers?” Yulia asked, genuinely surprised. “I told my friend Sveta I was going off for a party with some guys and asked her to cover for me. She was staggered, but of course she agreed.”

Ilya giggled in the driving seat.

“What would I want with a party like that?” Yulia asked indignantly.

That cracks me up.

I really do love this series–how even the odd bits that place it in a specific time don’t make it feel dated. And I love the bits that I don’t understand because I’m not Russian, because it’s all fascinating.
Rating: 9.5/10

Published by Harper Paperbacks

Audible 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

Published by Audible Frontiers  

Day Watch (1999/2007) translated by Andrew Bromfield

The sequel to Night Watch, Day Watch contains another trio of stories about the Day and Night Watches in Moscow. 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.

However, the best part was the story-telling. Despite the fact that I didn't like Alysa at the start of the story, I still ended up very interested in what happened to her.

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.

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.

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

This sequel to Night Watch picks up after the events of the previous book, but while the first book was written from the perspective of Anton Gorodetsky, Night Watch agent, this story is told from the perspective of three different Dark Ones, all three Day Watch agents.

Like Night Watch, the book is broken into three stories: Unauthorized Personnel Permitted, A Stranger Among Others, and Another Power.

The first story is my least favorite, and to be honest, I skipped most of it. It is very good, 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.

Regardless of how I feel about Alisa, you cannot skip this story when reading the book for the first time. It’s really very good, but, as I said, I just don’t like spending time with the main character.

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.

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.

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.

So, despite skipping most of the first story, this really is another very good, and very enjoyable story.
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: January 2016

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!

Experience is primarily the ability to restrain our fleeting impulses.

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.

Rating: 9/10

Re-Read: April 2017

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

As with the first book, there are three stories within the book, these concerning the Day Watch: Unauthorized Personnel Permitted, A Stranger Among Others, Another Power.

“Unauthorized Personnel Permitted” is my least favorite of the entire series. Anton doesn’t make an appearance in this story, and things are told from the POV of my least favorite character, Alisa Donnikova, a dark witch. This is not to say the story isn’t good, because it is very good–you can see how Alisa was manipulated to become a dark other as a child, you can see that she’s not an evil being–she saves a mouse from being tormented, and you can even see how she has been manipulated by Zabulon. But I just don’t enjoy the story.

It is, however, important to the rest of the book.

And there are some fascinating things here, such as the dark witch operating outside of the watches. I am struck by her attitude towards morality and ethics every time I read this story.

“Do you take the sin on yourself?” the seer asked insistently.

“What sin is there in that?” Natasha retorted, her irritation suddenly breaking through. “Every woman’s committed that sin at least once! Perhaps there isn’t anything there anyway!”

The seer pondered, as if she were listening to something. She nodded her head. “There is . . . And I think it’s definitely a daughter.”

“I’ll take it,” said Natasha, still in an irritated voice. “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.”

Lest you think it odd that someone be able to divvy up sins, don’t forget that in the past there were men who were “sin eaters”–they would go and take on the sins of the dead.

The second story, “A Stranger Among Others”, is the story of a stranger coming to Moscow. I actually like this story a lot. Probably because 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.

“Another Power” is the trail resulting from the events of the first story. 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.
Rating: 8.5/10

Published by Harper Paperbacks

Audible Version (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

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.

As with the previous two books, Twilight Watch contains three separate and interwoven stories: Nobody's Time, Nobody's Space, and Nobody's Power. Each story is complete and and of itself, but all three are tied together, and with the previous two books.

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.

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.

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

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

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.)

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.

As I said of the previous books, I love the glimpses into Russian life and culture.

I followed the old woman into the “large room”… The walls were covered in black-and-white photographs… I realized that the blindingly beautiful young woman with the 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.

A vague recall of this was what caused me to buy Call Sign White Lily. Anton’s elderly woman is never named, but if not Lilia Litvyak, she may well be based upon her.

All of which makes me all the more curious about other references that would be familiar to a Russian, but as an American, I would completely miss.

And then there’s one of my favorite things about this story–we’re introduced to Las, the man who lives upstairs from Anton. I really like Las.

And of course, there is the painfully complicated scheme Anton uncovers…

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.

This may be one of my favorite stories. I really like the witch Arina, especially her interactions with the two children.

“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 is into little goats and eat us up.”

He clearly did not trust the mysterious rescuer completely yet.

And then there is Uncle Kolya, one of the local alcoholics. He asks Anton if his has any jobs for him, and Anton says maybe he could look at his car. The same fancy BMW he was loaned when he went “under cover” as a human.

I particularly enjoyed how that turned out.

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.

As I said, I think this may be my favorite book of the series. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s unlike anything else that I’ve come across.
Rating: 10/10

Re-Read: January 2016

This may be my favorite book as a whole, although other books have stronger single stories.

“We’re the ones who corrupt people,” the boss said bitterly. “Do you understand? We do it ourselves! Offer someone money once, twice . . . and the third time he asks you for it. And we complain— what is all this, and where did it come from?

Apparently, the roads outside Moscow and WV roads have a fair amount in common.

The road surface was brand-new— the road here used to be all potholes, with a few connecting stretches of highway. Now it was stretches of highway, occasionally interrupted by potholes.

There was a detailed analysis of the story of Gilles de Rais, Joan of Arc’s sword-bearer. Joan was a very weak Dark Other, “a witch of the seventh rank,” which, by the way, did not prevent her from performing deeds that were, for the most part, noble.

“Pace” is a simple spell, but it has to be used with great caution. Catch the cardiac muscle as well as the legs, and you’ll give yourself a heart attack.

Witezslav’s death still remains a mystery. 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.

Rating: 9/10

Re-Read: April 2017

The third book in the Night Watch series is one of my favorites.

There are, of course, three stories: Nobody’s Time, Nobody’s Space, Nobody’s Power.

“Nobody’s Time” is the first story, and finds Anton searching for an other who has promised to turn a human being into an other–something that cannot be done. Anton is given this assignment, because someone has sent letters to the Night Watch, Day Watch, and Inquisition warning them what is going on, and since Kostya is the vampire assigned by the Day Watch to look into things, Anton is the representative of the Night Watch.

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.

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.”

Nobody’s Power, the third story, is a continuation of the second story. The Inquisition is looking through the witch’s hut when they stumble across the Fuaran. Things go badly from there.

There is a lot that happens in this story, and it’s all extremely important to the rest of the series. But I find the first two stories stronger, just because I love the extraneous bits in those two tales.

Not that there aren’t some very good bits here, because there are.

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?

I really do love this book, it may be my favorite of the series, but then I still have two books I haven’t read waiting for me, so we’ll see.
Rating: 10/10

Published by Harper Paperbacks

Last Watch (2009) translated by Andrew Bromfield

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.

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

At least I come to Last Watch. Theoretically, there is a fifth book, called New Watch available, but it’s listed as unavailable.

Boo.

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 was an interesting story, but it wasn’t one of my favorites. I’m not quite sure what it was about Scotland, but it just felt strange for Anton to be there. I realized that he had traveled to Prague in an earlier story, but for the most part, it felt strange for him to not be in Moscow, or at least Russia and it’s former Soviet satellites.

Of course, being in Scotland did let him pull out Merlin and Thomas the Rhymer. And maybe that’s what felt so off to me. I know about Thomas the Rhymer and Merlin, but get to read far less about people and creatures from Russian folklore.

Selfish of me, I suppose.

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.

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.

This isn’t my favorite book in the series, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. And we learn much more about the Twilight than we did in the previous books.

As I mentioned previously, one of the things I love most about this series is the look at Russian culture and, to some extent, folklore. Little things that are different from American/British books, that I find fascinating. And it’s unlike other fantasy books, which is both fascinating and enjoyable.
Rating: 8/10 

Re-Read: January 2016

The fourth book in the Night Watch series means I’m now ready to read the fifth book–finally!

“A car’s not the right place for showing off to a girl— the bed’s for that. The consequences of a mistake there are more upsetting, but less tragic… Ah.

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.

How long are you going to be there?”

“I don’t know.”

“Then how much underwear and how many pairs of socks shall I put in?” Svetlana asked reasonably. “I can’t imagine you washing anything while you’re away.”

“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!”

I didn’t go on arguing. What could I oppose to their faith? Nothing. Faith can only be opposed by another faith, not by facts, let alone hypotheses.

Rating: 8.5/10

Published by Hachette Books

Re-Read: April 2017

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

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

This is the 4th book in the Night Watch series. As with the previous books, it is broken up into three parts: Common Cause, A Common Enemy, A Common Destiny.

“Common Cause” opens with a young Russian and his girlfriend visiting a haunted house in Edinburgh, where the young man is killed in the Castle of Vampires.

Meanwhile, Gesar is attempting to teach Anton to learn how to use his unexpected powers.

One of the things I particularly like about this series is how well the children are portrayed–kid logic and all.

We drank, then looked at each other grimly. The vodka tasted like water.

Then we looked at Nadya. Our daughter was sitting on the floor, fiddling with her building set. Sensing our eyes on her, she started trilling, “La la-la la la-la.”

It was the kind of singsong that grown-ups often use to represent little girls in jokes. Horrid little girls who are just about to blow something up, break something, or say something really nasty.

“Nadezhda!” Svetlana said in an icy voice.

“La-la-la…” Nadya sang in a slightly louder voice. “What have I done now? You said Daddy shouldn’t drink before he flies away. Drinking vodka’s bad for you, you said so! Masha’s daddy drank, he drank and he left home…” There was a subtle weepy note in her voice.

“Nadezhda Antonovna!” Svetlana said in a genuinely stern tone. “Grown-up people have the right… sometimes… to drink a glass of vodka. Have you ever seen Daddy drunk?”

“At Uncle Tolya’s birthday,” Nadya replied instantly.

Svetlana gave me a very expressive look. I shrugged guiltily.

One of the things I enjoy in this series is how technology appears in the Twilight, when that technology is used by an Other.

There was a little dragon with bristling red scales standing in the stone archway and blocking my way. The dragon came up to my shoulder. He was supporting himself on his back legs and a long tail, twisted into a corkscrew. His webbed wings were flickering nervously behind his back. The glowing, faceted eyes glared at me, the mouth opened and spat out a gobbet of flame. So that’s what you look like in the Twilight, Shooter I!

I’m not quite sure what it is, but I do enjoy this story very much. It’s not necessarily any single thing, but rather all the bits put together, the amusing and the horrible,

“A Common Enemy”, the second story, opens with Las giving a tour to a safety inspector.

“Well, now, what have we got here?” the newcomer asked. “One item left in the accounts office, one in the toilet, one in the fire safety board on the second floor,” the duty pointsman replied eagerly. “Everything’s in order, Boris Ignatievich.”

The inspector turned pale.

“Las, we haven’t got a fire safety board on the second floor,” Boris Ignatievich observed.

“I created an illusion,” Las replied boastfully. “It was very realistic.”

That scene makes me giggle every single time.

Involve Tolik from the computer service. And Las from the operations side.”

“But he’s a weak magician.” Olga snorted.

“But he has a nonstandard way of thinking,” said Gesar.

A non-standard way of thinking indeed!

This story sees Anton and Alisher off to Samarkand, which is an especially fascinating story to me.

“Give me as much as you think you can spare. I can see you’re a good man, so why haggle? A good man is ashamed not to pay a poor taxi driver enough. He pays more than my conscience will allow me to ask.”

“You’re a good psychologist,” I laughed.

“Good? Yes… probably. I did a PhD in Moscow.”

In Russia a café like this would have been closed down in a moment. In Europe they would have put the owner in prison. In the USA the proprietor would have been hit with an absolutely massive fine. And in Japan the boss of an establishment like this would have committed seppuku out of a sense of shame.

Wash the sidewalk with soap in Europe, and it will stay clean for three days. But in Russia you can lick it clean with your tongue, and the dust will settle again in an hour. In Asia, there’s even more dust, so the Europeans and the Russians think, ‘Dirt, ignorance, savagery!’ But that’s not true! It’s just the way the land is. But when you find good smells in Asia, that’s not the dirt. In Asia you have to trust your nose, not your eyes!”

I also like the story, as Anton searches out Rustam, the magician who knew Merlin, but I especially love the bits in Samarkand.

“A Common Destiny” is the third and final story of the book, and although it finishes up the arc begun in the first story, and 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.”

So although the third tale isn’t my favorite, the book still has a strong finish, and there are so many bits in the first two stories that I absolutely love, I can’t not love this book.
Rating: 8.5/10

Published by Hachette Books

Audible Version (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.

During Anton’s dialog with Thomas and other Scots, the Russian accent becomes muddled, and often sounds as much Scottish as Russian. Which was mildly disconcerting.

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

Published by Audible Studios

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

 

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

 

 

Sergei Lukyanenko's website