It’s always night in the Nightside. It’s always three o’clock in the morning, and the dawn never comes. People are always coming and going, drawn by need, searching for pleasures and services unforgivable in the sane, daylight world. You can buy or sell anything in the Nightside, and no-one asks questions. No-one cares.
John Taylor is a private eye working the mean streets of this shady netherworld, selling his talent at finding things - anything - to the highest bidder. From hunting for teenage runaways, to questing for the Unholy Grail…
Earlier this year I picked up "A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin" based on Joshua’s review and since then I have been scouring for books that also feature urban sorcerers, because in my eyes this is for me the best urban fantasy setting. One of my first findings were the books of Simon R Green and his Nightside series, and now I finally I had a chance to catch up with the first book in the series, and well, the setting is just spot on, producing a dark, netherworld London in the Nightside. The first book in the omnibus series “Into the Nightside” combines the first two volumes in the series: “Something from the Nightside” and “Agents of Light and Darkness”. I will write the reviews of the omnibus editions per book.
Something from the Nightside
The Nightside series starts with "Something from the Nightside", where you are introduced to the main protagonist John Taylor, private eye, who is asked to search for a specific person in the ever-dark and eerie Nightside, London’s evil twin and how John puts it so ever nicely, “where the really wild things are”. When I first read about the Nightside, it directly felt rich, magical, rough and allowing a lot of opportunities to be explored in the series. In the dark twin of London there is a lot going on, many weird characters; take alone the example of the Strangefellow’s bar, it’s just wonderfully put together giving you both a broad grin on your face but also producing quite a spooky feeling at the same time where not everything seems as it is on a first take.
Even as you continue reading about John Taylor’s search in the Nightside there is a lot happening; John is also the main protagonist and has a job as private eye. The feeling I got from the bar is just further broadened as you venture deeper and deeper into the Nightside, learning more about several characters and their pasts and how certain things came to pass. There is still one sentence that clings in the back of my mind the reference towards John Taylor and “King”. John Taylor left the Nightside a few years ago but now for the search in “Something from the Nightside” he is pulled back in. I really liked how John Taylor was shown in this first book, being quite resolute in choosing his jobs but once he get started on a case he perseveres even when the going gets though, also this steadfastness is shown in that he is not someone who is easily persuaded into taking a higher payer. On top of this is his somewhat light-hearted and kind-hearted personality that really turn him into a likable main protagonist that did grow on me in the end. And to top everything off the special ability that John possesses is just amazing and what I could glimpse of it in this first book was just awesome. John has a gift of finding things, the first time he opened his third eye was so cool; the lively descriptions and what he could do with it… amazing.
In his search John Taylor comes upon several of his old friends from the Nightside: Suzie Shooter, or Shotgun Suzie, and Razor Eddie. These character were just cool to read about, especially Shotgun Suzie, who is quite the explosive character... with a shotgun… These characters all contributed to a great liveliness in the storyline.
There was however one element that I felt a bit moving towards the background of the story and that was mainly the search that John was carrying out. Now the events that were in the search for Cathy were all rich, in terms of the described surroundings, but it felt that due to the rich atmosphere of the Nightside that the attention was drawn away from the search for Cathy.
Now coming back to the storyline, where John is in search for a missing young girl. As the story progressed it felt that it was turning towards a more private eye investigation with a eerie touch to it, but then all of sudden there was nice introduction of a new element into what actually set into motion: the events of John Taylor’s reintroduction into the Nightside. And looking back on this twist in the end, this can produce a great depth to what will happen around John’s character and I have high expectations for this series.
Agents of Light and Darkness
The second story in “Into the Nightside” is Agents of Light and Darkness. As I finished “Something from the Nightside” I said to myself that Simon R. Green’s Nightside series was just a magnificent place to visit. So with more than full pleasure I started this second volume in the series. And Simon R. Green once again proves that his Nightside is definitely worth your time.
Agents of Light and Darkness picks up after the events of Something from the Nightside and again you get to follow John Taylor. This time there is no missing person but a missing object, “The Unholy Grail”. And there is more than one party involved in wanting to get his hand on it. John first accepts this search from Jude at the Vatican, and later finds out that both the Angels from Above and Below also want to get their hands on it. Even being offered more money, he remains to his steadfastness of his character and in turn to his employer. I really liked this because this gave a nice ring to John character that he is truly a rock you can build on.
Similarly, like "Something from the Nightside", the Nightside remains pretty dark and grim and only turns grimmer still with the introduction of the Angels from Above and Below. Added to this is the introduction of a intricate plot further deepening John Taylor’s character. Through several revisiting characters John finds out more about his mother, who “created” him and abandoned him. In the first book there was a reference that he got his powers through his mother and his mothers existence was woven neatly into the plot of the first book. It was therefore a great pleasure to discover more about John's past.
Agents of Light and Darkness takes off pretty easily and reads away even better. But as the story goes along you are thrown into a rapid that greatly accelerates the story. As you see John getting along with his investigation he is all off a sudden being chased by several others who all want to get their hands on The Unholy Grail, this particular items holds a lot of power, being able to bring on the Armageddon earlier for the better of either the Above or Below forces. In this chase across The Nightside and other dimensions, yes Merlin, The Merlin from the Arthurian legends pays him a visit as well. You see a lot of cool stuff and you get to know more people who turn out quite different. Take for example Walker of the Authorities, the Authorities are supposed to be a neutral party but he is siding with the Angels for the Unholy Grail. Another cool character was the Collector, a friend from John’s father, he collects artefacts through time and space and has a base on the Moon - can it get even better? In "Something from the Nightside" you got introduced to Shotgun Suzie her second nickname “Oh God it’s her run!” is even better and put a huge smirk on my face, and her revisiting in the second volume was just utterly cool. Her personality combined with John make up for a perfect combination of action combined with a healthy dose of wit.
The ending of "Agents of Light and Darkness" is like its predecessor, neatly constructed and not something that I would have expected from the start. Just like mentioning the King reference to John, there is reference towards the purpose of the Nightside lying with John’s mother grows on you and at least produces in my mind a great urge to finish of this grim but unique Nightside series.
In short, this first omnibus of the Nightside series is pretty cool, providing lively and eerie action but also a rapidly growing plot-line centring around John Taylor. Being away from the Nightside for a few years, he is now back in business finding the lost things but also his urge to find out who his mother is and what he is is a nice broadening of The Nightside series. For everyone who likes urban fantasy, this is a winning series.
Jasper de Joode, 8.3/10
This omnibus contains the first two Nightside Novels by Simon R Green ( www.simonrgreen.co.uk ). They are published by Solaris Books ( www.solarisbooks.co.uk ). The first 10 novels about John Taylor’s adventures in the Nightside have been published in 5 omnibus novels.
The blurb on the back cover:- It’s always night in the Nightside. It’s always three o’clock in the morning, and the dawn never comes. People are always coming and going, drawn by needs that dare not speak their names, searching for pleasures and services unforgivable in the sane, daylight world. You can buy or sell anything in the Nightside, and no one asks questions. No one cares. John Taylor is a private eye working the mean streets of this shady netherworld, selling his talent at finding things – anything – to the highest bidder. From hunting for teenaged runaways, to questing for the Unholy Grail, to finding out the true identity of his own mother, follow Taylor’s exploits in this fascinating series.
It does feel a bit as if you are entering Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, or similar stories when you enter the Nightside, but once you are there its great fun.
In these two novels are where we are introduced to mysterious PI John Taylor, who at the beginning is avoiding “The Nightside” an old special area hidden within London. We also meet up with some of his friends, and enemies. This is classed on the cover as Dark Fantasy. I personally would describe it as Dark Urban Fantasy. There are a few scenes of quite graphic violence within these books, which are actually quite fun. It’s nowhere near high fantasy. You won’t meet many dwarfs and elves wandering around the Nightside, but you will meet quite a few humans, demons, angels and just about everything in-between.
We come across some of John’s friends, who at times are worse than his enemies. There is the rather scary Suzie Shooter, she’s quite cute underneath her grimy exterior, but god help you if you get on the wrong side of her, I guess you can sum her up by another couple of the names that he’s known by Shotgun Suzie, and “Oh Christ it’s her, RUN”. The first man she ever killed was her brother who raped her and made her pregnant. Whatever you do… Do NOT annoy Suzie is about the best piece of advice I can give you about her. Don’t even think about asking about Razor Eddie, who has changed a lot since he went to the Street of Gods. Then we get onto Walker the very scary man who seems to be the pleasant face of “the authorities”. These books are fast backed fun reads. It’s not the most serious book I’ve read but it’s a lot of fun.
In the first of the two Novels; “Something from the Darkside” is about John coming back into the Nightside for the first time in 5 years, to help find the teenage daughter of a rich woman from the “normal” London. As you can imagine this doesn’t go quite as easy as he hopes, and it has a nice twist at the end.
In the second Novel “Angels of Light and Darkness” all heaven and hell breaks loose in the Nightside as Angels and Demons all gather to find the Judas Grail (the anti-grail) which has turned up in the Nightside, and they will stop at nothing to find the Grail. In steps John Taylor who has been employed by the Vatican to find and remove the Grail.
I really enjoyed these stories. There are some dark elements to the stories but generally they are fun. Each book is a quick read that you can get through in one evening if you want. I really enjoyed these, and would recommend these to anyone that likes Urban Fantasy, there is a hard edge to these books, which I think enhances the chaos and mayhem in these novels.
Stephanie Gelder, 8/10
Rick from USA
I'm considering reading the Nightside series, so I've been reading some reviews. I especially noted your comment about "scouring for books featuring urban sorcerers" I would recommend the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. The main character, Harry Dresden is a modern day wizard operating in contemporary Chicago & an alternate fantasy realm he calls the "Never, Never" (check your fictional Yellow Pages under Wizards) The "mythos" (over arching story line) doesn't take shape till the 4th book in the series. Harry works as a freelance private eye & a consultant to the Chicago PD. It all sounds very similar to Simon Green's John Taylor character in the Nightside series. The Nightside could easily be the next on my reading list.
9.1/10 from 2 reviews