The New Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko
|The horror... wait, have we done this before?|
Back story first - there are two worlds occupying the streets of Moscow, and indeed the world, wherein live us norms, the regular humans, and the Others, the meta-humans, beings of power loosely organised into two warring but controlled factions, Light and Dark. Then there is the Twilight, another stratified world below or inside or on top of the tactile through which all Others can move - a mystery without solution. The factions are patrolled by teams of peace keepers; The Night Watch watch the Dark Ones, and the Day Watch watch the Light Ones. Ah! I hear you expostulate, but 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?'
Fucking smart arse. Don't be so Juvinal.
Well, it just so happens that there is another force who judge and punish Others who step out of line, and they're all real badasses. All of this is covered in volumes 1 through 4, throughout which Anton Gorodetsky emerges as an unlikely hero and, frankly, a terrible role model to the children. He is very 'young' in Other terms, but has risen to great heights in a very short time without putting in the years of graft. Instant power. He's also had a child who is a zero level (i.e. beyond measure) enchantress with his also incredibly powerful wife Svetlana. I know, who could believe this preposterousness?** Anyway, now it seems there's a powerful entity killing prophets, and it all seems to be part of something ancient and sinister which it is Anton's destiny to unravel. Did I spoil any plots? No? Good.
Secondly, the readerly reaction - well, you might consider the fact that I bought this for the e-reader rather than invest in a physical book as an indicator of my expectations vis a vis quality. As with all modern Russian literature I've read of late, I felt the translation must be lacking something, some latent Russian hook, which doesn't survive into English. It really didn't grab me. It reads all across the page but I could find no depth to the writing, no peaks and troughs and not even paragraphs and punctuation could lift it up so I could peak underneath. It seems to have sold quadrillions of copies in its native land, so it can't be badly written***, surely. The story is interesting, up to a point, but predictable - after the first book the surprise had gone somewhat - and all our favourite characters are there. Lukyanenko tries and fails to bring back some of Anton's seemingly limitless supply of astonishment at the world - he's mostly cynical and depressing - and the only interesting and complex character, the leader of the Day Watch, takes barely two lines of dialogue the whole book. I think I may have reached fatigue level with this series.
Thirdly, lastly, the final, razor sharp and witty thought. Meh. If this is the end of the series, it was the evacuated bowel of the stiffening corpse, unwelcome and unpleasant. I'm not sure what he was trying to achieve in writing a fifth novel, but it's quite possible I don't care enough to think it through.
*In that way which is, on reflection, not very funny.
**A symptom of selective suspension of disbelief, as a friend recently pointed out whilst watching The Valley of Gwangi; I was complaining vociferously that the leading lady had impeccably coiffured hair in every scene, but chose to ignore the fact that there was a horse barely three inches tall.
***I can't imagine it's written as badly as the Tetralogy Which Should Not Be Named but stars vampire twits and werewolf twits and so forth, but then, that shit sold quadrillions too.