Monday, April 10, 2017
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.
Published by Harper Paperbacks