Saturday, April 15, 2017
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.
Published by Harper Paperbacks